I have been using Paint.NET for months now and it is one of the free programs that I use the most. I have actually received several emails in the last week regarding their Alpha 1 release and now there is actually a newer Alpha 2 available.

After you download and install the program you will quickly realize how much like Photoshop it actually is. It has many of the same tools but Photoshop power users will find that it lacks some of the more advanced features. Honestly, it is so nice (and simple) that anyone who has a hard time understanding Photoshop should find this to be absolutely perfect!

Here are the newest features in this release:

  • New: Gradient Tool supports linear, radial, diamond, and conical gradient modes
  • New: Merge Layer Down command in Layers menu and Layers window
  • Changed: A version of the Unsaved Changes dialog is now also shown when closing just 1 unsaved image, instead of the old fashioned Yes/No/Cancel MessageBox
  • Changed: Alpha Blending and Anti-aliasing buttons are now split-buttons, with different icon and some descriptive text
  • Changed: Shortcut key to open the MDI overflow list is now Ctrl+Q, instead of Ctrl+Space
  • If an important installation file is missing, Paint.NET will try to repair the installation instead of crashing
  • 256×256 icon format is now compressed, dropping EXE size by 150K
  • Fixed: a bunch of crashes that users were reporting
  • Fixed: “Load from toolbar” in Choose Defaults dialog did not pick up the active tool

There is finally a gradient tool! Thank goodness because that was something I use all of the time to add transparency effects to images. Here is a quick clip of what the gradient can do:

One thing that is definitely easier to do in Paint.NET compared to Photoshop is drawing curved lines. In Photoshop you either have to set paths (which is very hard to get used to) or apply the wave filter to a straight line. With Paint.NET, however, a line is given several points that you can grab and drag to add waves or curves to a line.

The one thing that I do miss from Photoshop though is the long list of filters and the right-click menu that I took for granted. The right-click menu is pretty important to me and it speeds up the process of editing images, but Paint.NET is yet to get this feature…hopefully they are working on it.

Note: Paint.NET 3 Alpha 2 expires on November 23, 2006 because there will be a newer version available before then. I assume that they are doing this to ensure that people upgrade.