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A picture in MacPaint 1.0 drawn by Susan Kare.
Developer(s) Apple Computer, Claris
Initial release 1984 (1984)
Stable release 2.0 / 1988 (1988)
Development status Discontinued
Operating system System 1,2,3,4,5
System 6
System 7
Type Bitmap-based image editing
License Proprietary

MacPaint is a bitmap-based graphics painting software program developed by Apple Computer and released with the original Macintosh personal computer on January 24, 1984. It was sold separately for US$195 with its word processor counterpart, MacWrite.[1] MacPaint was notable because it could generate graphics that could be used by other applications. Using the mouse, and the clipboard and QuickDraw picture language, pictures could be cut from MacPaint and pasted into MacWrite documents.[2] Pictures could also be cut from MacPaint and pasted into the resource fork of any application via ResEdit, allowing application internationalization.

The original MacPaint was developed by Bill Atkinson, a member of Apple's original Macintosh development team.[3] Early development versions of MacPaint were called MacSketch, still retaining part of the name of its roots, LisaSketch.[4] It was later developed by Claris, the software subsidiary of Apple which was formed in 1987. The last version of MacPaint was version 2.0, released in 1988. It was discontinued by Claris in 1998 because of diminishing sales.[5]


  • Development 1
  • Release and version history 2
  • Version history 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


MacPaint was written by Bill Atkinson, a member of Apple's original Macintosh development team.[3] The original MacPaint consisted of 5,804 lines of Pascal computer code, augmented by another 2,738 lines of 68000 assembly language.[6] MacPaint's user interface was designed by Susan Kare, also a member of the Macintosh team.[7] Kare also beta tested MacPaint before release.[7]

MacPaint uses two offscreen memory buffers to avoid flicker when dragging shapes or images across the screen.[8] One of these buffers contained the existing pixels of a document, and the other contained the pixels of its previous state.[8] The second buffer was used as the basis of the software's undo feature.[8] In April 1983, the software's name was changed from MacSketch to MacPaint.[9] The original MacPaint was programmed as a single-document interface. The palette positions and sizes were unalterable, as was the document window. This was different from other Macintosh software at the time, which allowed the users to move windows and resize them.

The original MacPaint did not incorporate a zoom function. Instead of a zoom function, a special magnification mode called FatBits was used. FatBits showed each pixel as a clickable rectangle with a white border. The FatBits editing mode set the standard for many future editors.[10] MacPaint included a "Goodies" menu which included the FatBits tool. This menu was named the "Aids" menu in prerelease versions, but was renamed "Goodies" as public awareness of the AIDS epidemic grew in the summer of 1983.[11]

Release and version history

MacPaint was first advertised in an 18-page brochure in December 1983, following the earlier announcement of the Macintosh 128k.[12] The Macintosh was released on January 24, 1984 with two applications, MacPaint and MacWrite. For a special post-election edition of Newsweek in November 1984, Apple spent more than US$2.5 million to buy all 39 of the advertising pages in the issue. The Newsweek advertisement included many pages dedicated to explaining how MacWrite and MacPaint worked together.[13] After launch, a New York Times reviewer noted how MacPaint unfolded numerous graphic possibilities for the personal computer; he went further to say "it is better than anything else of its kind offered on personal computers by a factor of 10."[2]

MacPaint 2.0

MacPaint 2.0 was released on January 11, 1988 by Claris.[14] It added many improvements to the software, including the capability to open and use nine documents simultaneously.[15] The original MacPaint operated as a single document application with a non-movable window. MacPaint 2.0 eliminated this limitation, introducing a fully functioning document window, which could be sized up to 8 x 10".[15] Several other features were introduced, such as a Zoom tool, MagicEraser tool for undo actions and stationary documents.[15] MacPaint 2.0 was developed by David Ramsey, a developer at Claris.[16] MacPaint 2.0 was sold for US$125, with a US$25 upgrade available for existing users of MacPaint.[15] Claris discontinued technical support for the original MacPaint in 1989.[15] Claris stopped selling MacPaint in early 1998 because of diminishing sales.[5] There has been an unofficial update called MacPaint X which is 3.0 beta, mainly for people who wished to be able to use the program.

Since 2010 MacPaint 1.3's source code (written in a combination of Assembly and Pascal) is available through the Computer History Museum,[17] along with the QuickDraw source code, a library to draw bitmapped graphics.[18]

MacPaint inspired other companies to release similar products for other platforms;[19] within a year a half-dozen clones existed for the Apple II and IBM PC.[20] Some of these included Broderbund's Dazzle Draw for the Apple II, Mouse Systems' PC Paint for the PC, and IBM's Color Paint for the IBM PCjr.[21]

Version history

Version Release date Release information
1.0 January 24, 1984 Initial release with System Software 1.0[22]
1.3 May 1984[23] Released with System Software 1.1[24]
1.4 September 1984 Released with Macintosh 512k
1.5 April 1985 Released with System Software 2.0
2.0 January 1988[25] Last release


  1. ^ Young, J.S (1984). "MacPaint: The Electronic Easel".  
  2. ^ a b .Sandberg-Diment, Erik (January 31, 1984). "Software for the Macintosh: Plenty on the way".  
  3. ^ a b Elmer-DeWitt, Philip (December 3, 1984). "Let us now praise famous hackers: a new view of some much maligned electronic pioneers".  
  4. ^ Hertzfeld, Andy (2005). Revolution in the Valley.  
  5. ^ a b Walsh, Jeff (November 24, 1997). "Claris puts old Mac applications out to pasture".  
  6. ^ Hertzfeld (2005), p. 174
  7. ^ a b McGeever, C (September 10, 1984). "Q&A: Susan Kare: 'I Never Planned to Be a Guiding Force in the Macintosh Design'". InfoWorld. p. 64. 
  8. ^ a b c Hertzfeld (2005), p. 171
  9. ^ Hertzfeld (2005), p. 172
  10. ^ Hertzfeld (2005), p. 147
  11. ^ Hertzfeld (2005), pp. 155-156
  12. ^ "Apple Macintosh 18 Page Brochure". DigiBarn Computer Museum. Retrieved April 24, 2006. 
  13. ^ Macintosh ads"Newsweek"1984 . GUIdebook,  
  14. ^ "Apple Computer unit introduces enhanced versions of MacDraw, MacProject, MacWrite and MacPaint".  
  15. ^ a b c d e Martinez, Carlos Domingo (July 1988). "MacPaint (Software Review)".  
  16. ^ "Apple fires key programmer". Newsbytes. July 4, 1989. 
  17. ^ "MacPaint and QuickDraw Source Code".  
  18. ^ Hesseldahl, Erik (2010-07-20). "Apple Donates MacPaint Source Code To Computer History Museum". Archived from the original on 2012-02-09. 
  19. ^ Bartimo, J (October 8, 1984). "Programs Paint a Rosy Picture". InfoWorld. pp. 38–39. 
  20. ^ Bartimo, Jim (1985-02-25). "Macintosh: Success And Disappointment". InfoWorld. p. 30. Retrieved 27 January 2015. 
  21. ^ Elmer-Dewitt, Philip (March 18, 1985). "The New Breeds of Software". Time. Retrieved April 26, 2008. 
  22. ^ Apple's new MacIntosh: specs
  23. ^ "Macintosh MacPaint: Fill".  
  24. ^ Mac Finder..etc.. upgrade available FREE
  25. ^ MacExpo: Bursting at the seams

External links

  • MacPaint Evolution from
  • Source code of MacPaint in the Computer History Museum
  •, a historical collection of Macpaint images
  • Unofficial remake of MacPaint
  • HTML5 remake of MacPaint
  • Alternatives to MacPaint
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