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Paint, largely unchanged since Windows 3.1, might see major changes soon

It’s official: nothing is sacred. Microsoft is remaking Paint as a Universal Windows App, and a series of screenshots from MS Power User let’s us see just what that looks like.

If the screenshots are to be believed, gone is the Office-style ribbon, which was added to Paint back in Windows 7. In its place is a minimalist top bar, with simple icons and no text, and a colorful sidebar filled with whatever tools the user is currently using. It is, in summary, a Windows Store app.

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Microsoft Paint has been included in every version of Windows, dating back to Windows 1 in 1985. Microsoft hasn’t officially announced the updated New Paint, but it was spotted by Twitter user @h0x0d, a constant Microsoft leaker who we’ve quoted here more than once.

Microsoft announced Centennial during the Microsoft Build Conference earlier this year. The program allows developers to convert any conventional Windows application into a Windows Store compatible. Since then, Microsoft has been uploading Centennial versions of bundled Windows applications like Wordpad and XPS Viewer. But the Paint version @h0x0d found looked different.

It would seem that, instead of converting Paint with Centennial, Microsoft intends to release “New Paint,” a Universal Windows App built from the ground up. We can’t be certain, however, because Microsoft quickly covered its tracks. The app has since been renamed “Newcastle,” the download is not available, and the text has been replaced with what appears to be filler text about an English football club.

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Microsoft has a long history of using its default apps to teach users — and developers — how UI elements should work. Solitaire, for example, was famously bundled with early versions of Windows to teach users how clicking-and-dragging works. The simple card game built a massive following, which prompted Microsoft to stop bundling it with Windows 8 in the hopes that users will instead install a version from the Windows Store.

Is Microsoft going to attempt something similar with Paint? We can’t say, but the Windows Store could use a boost in traffic, and it sure is interesting that a Universal build of Paint exists. We’ll be watching closely.