Windows 10 Needs a Preview App

The last week the Microsoft world has been dealing with the larger world freaking out at the depreciation of Microsoft Paint. It was a nothing burger in the purest sense of the phrase, but unique to the Internet echo chamber during this period of the web’s development stories tend to go viral without very many people spending the time to check the facts or in a lot of cases even read the article that they are sharing. After listening to Windows Weekly this week and hearing Paul Thurrott talk about how Microsoft Paint is much more like a Microsoft Office application in the sense that it is more feature-dense in both its UI and feature set it got me thinking…what does paint really do for most people? Beyond displaying a blank canvas for kids to draw in, Microsoft Paint possesses a number of useful features, including cropping tools, annotation abilities, image resizing, etc.


Furthermore, the point came up on the podcast that Paint.exe was more well-suited for productivity-based machines running Windows 10 Pro such as a laptop or desktop. Paint 3D from my experience is definitely designed for modern Windows devices that support touch and pen input, but does feel like running an iPad app on a Mac in the sense that the buttons are pretty big and the entire user interface is not very dense and feels “off” on a large screen PC. It’s great for what it does…painting, drawing, sketching, 3D work, but does not feel like the same tool as classic Paint.exe…not something really designed with a mouse as the primary input method. Using a stylus feels a lot more natural in Paint 3D.

3D Paint

On the Mac it has an application called “Preview” for all of these operations and it is one of MacOS’s hidden gems. It handles images, PDFs, multiple files, etc. You can annotate documents, crop images, combine PDFs, convert image sets to PDFs, sign documents, highlight, insert shapes, resize images, and much, much more. Most people just use it as the name implies as a “Preview” application, but it is a truly powerful file manipulation tool. I think what Microsoft needs to do when they redesign Windows Explorer is build a Preview application at the same time. I think that this Microsoft Preview application could could be a better fit for productivity devices by having more granular options and a more information-denser user interface, but allow them to regulate Microsoft Paint.exe to the past. The Paint 3D team could continue to develop Paint 3D towards creative pursuits without having to clutter their application with a bunch of extra features their users really are not using. The Windows Preview app could serve as a quick way to view images, Office documents, PDFs so you could crop, edit, combine, and ink on them. I think this could actually replace the free version of Office Mobile for a lot of people as the view-only option. Let people view, comment, ink, and share Office documents (including Visio) and I think it could be a very useful tool for casual users and productivity-minded individuals whether they are using a modern device with touch or a multi-screen workstation-class desktop.

Mac Preview app in action

Having a Windows Preview app could effectively replace Microsoft Paint for advanced users as a fast, simple, but powerful editing tool while allowing Paint 3D to go off in its own direction. I think that both products are important to Microsoft, but I think that a lot of people are mixing the comfortable multifunction tool that is Paint.exe has developed into over the last 30 years+ with what they are really trying to accomplish. I think that having a new, dedicated tool going forward is needed to replace the gap between Paint.exe and 3D Paint.

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