The first two apps of consequence on the Mac back in 1984 were MacWrite and MacPaint, neither of which made it to the end of the last century, yet Mac users have more writing, painting and drawing apps to choose from today than ever before. Just this week I came across two such apps which, decades after the Mac went to color, haven’t done much to advance the state of the art.
First on my list is PaintPlus Pro, a nominally priced entry level drawing app with familiar tools, shapes, color and image enhancement options, and perhaps more than came with the original MacPaint, but not much more.
Yes, there more than 100 basic annotation shapes which can be added to a drawing, including a feature which adds or changes text within the shape. We live in the emoji era, and PaintPlus Pro has more than 1,200 colorful emoji objects. Differentiation is a key to a product’s success, but I’m at a loss as to the value here.
PaintPlus Pro does have the standard image effects and filters (which actually are built-in to OS X, therefore easily implemented within an app) to adjust color, apply texture masks, distort and blur, change to grayscale, and many others– much the same as the half dozen less expensive apps on the Mac App Store which do more.
MacPaint was the inspiration for many drawing apps which followed in later years, but it seems altogether puzzling that such entry level apps today have done so little to move basic capabilities into the 21st century.
PaintPlus Pro is decent, but not noteworthy. A quick search of ‘paint’ or ‘drawing’ apps on the Mac App Store will turn up many worthy competitors.
On the writing side of the MacWrite and MacPaint fence are dozens of notes and mini-word processor apps; some good, many not, often devoid of basic word processor features, or described as minimalist (a euphemism for ‘not too many features’ but with a price tag anyway).
Breaking that mold entirely is WordTime, a free mini-word processor which is more like a MacWrite offspring. There’s much to like here and it’s free. For example, WordTime has word count, zoom-slider, page layout mode, inspector panel, Get-Info panel with statistics, multiple color options, and more.
WordTime is instantly familiar to Mac owners who have used Word or Pages or nearly any word processor. The toolbar across the top is a bit Fisher-Price-esque, but immediately usable. Plus, it comes with all the standard OS X Cocoa functions, including word completion, autosave, dictionary, and even date-stamped backups.
Writers will love using this app because it offers more than TextEdit (is that Apple’s really successor to MacWrite?) for the same price.
What’s interesting about today’s rash of entry level paint and drawing apps is that, beyond color and the tools Apple builds into OS X, they haven’t done much beyond the originals from decades ago. Writing tools have improved incrementally as well with so many features in word processors that the trend toward such apps these days is unadulterated minimalism.