That’s a good question. Office lets you move the toolbars and even the menubar around (it’s just a differently rendered type of toolbar). Visual Studio lets you, and the “toolstrip” controls in .NET 2.0 supposedly have the capability. So why, then, doesn’t Paint.NET allow you to move them around or do other customization?

As Raymond Chen would say, “Because the alternative is worse.”

It becomes a usability problem, or at least an annoyance, for the people who don’t want to customize their toolbar*, and this is something I was reminded of just now when I looked over at RSS Bandit and saw this:

Why is my menu bar below the toolbar? Because I accidentally dragged something around. I don’t know when or what.

It becomes a usability and support nightmare because people would lose the toolbars, or otherwise be unable to find features they already found. Do not underestimate individuals’ ability for this! And it’s not about stupidity or intelligence, it’s just about usability. I recently had a reasonably intelligent friend ask me, “Where is that new ‘Fixed Size’ functionality for the selection tool that you’ve been talking about?”, and it was right in front of his face.

It also hinders productive troubleshooting or communication between two Paint.NET users.

Bob: “Just click on X in the toolbar.”
John: “I don’t see it.”
Bob: “It’s kinda on the far-right side. Do you have the latest version?”
John: “Yes I have 3.20.”
Bob: “Umm … is part of the window off-screen?”
John: “No the whole thing is only taking up half my monitor.”
Bob: “Yargh. Did you hide or move the toolbar or is the toolbar off-screen or under some other stuff?”
John: “I don’t know?”
Bob: “Click the Reset Toolbars menu item in the Window menu.”
John: “Hmm. We have another problem. I have no menus either.”
Bob: “I will start using four-letter words from now on. Plug your ears.”

Here’s the conversation without customized toolbars:

Bob: “Just click on X in the toolbar.”
John: “I don’t see it.”
Bob: “It’s kinda on the far-right side. Do you have the latest version?”
John: “Oh there it is! And yeah I have 3.20.”

So, because I do not want an inbox full of people asking me how to fix their toolbars or how to find their features, and nor do I want to have to add complicated self-healing code or a “Reset Toolbars” menu item (that people would still lack the psychic powers to find, mind you!), I have disallowed this type of functionality. The toolbars will only ever show up in Paint.NET in one way. Oh, and I also want people to be able to use the software and not have a need to consult documentation or a support line. Because if users have to do that, then you have failed.**

* According to conventional insight, most people do not customize anything about the software they use.

** I think this insight comes from a blog I’ve read elsewhere but for the life of me I can’t find it.

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