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Saved from obsolescence, Microsoft is now making Paint better

A picture apparently constructed in Paint using the keyboard exclusively.

Enlarge / A picture apparently constructed in Paint using the keyboard exclusively.

The news for mspaint.exe aficionados is just getting better and better. Microsoft’s original plan was to deprecate Paint and end its development. It would still be installable from the Store but would no longer be included with Windows or receive any updates.

Last month, the company relented and said that the app would continue to be included in Windows. And now things have gone a step further: the program has been updated to include some surprising new features.

Paint has been updated to include keyboard support. More explicitly, Paint can now be controlled through the keyboard exclusively. The cursor can be moved with the cursor keys while the space bar is used to activate tools. There are keyboard bindings to control selections, switch between resize handles/control points, and generally do all the things that currently use the mouse.

The keyboard work isn’t the only change; Microsoft says that it has made Paint work better with screen readers.

Surprisingly, the one thing the company hasn’t done yet is to release the source. Microsoft’s engagement with the open source community is continuing to expand; some core Windows components have now been open sourced, and Paint’s sibling application, Calculator, has also had its source published.

But who knows—perhaps the Paint updates are a precursor to making such a change, using Paint as a kind of showcase for how to use the Windows accessibility APIs, even in an application that isn’t an obvious candidate for accessible keyboard control.

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