The Paint.NET install experience — Part 1, version 3.xx

Note #1: This blog post is fairly long because it is image intensive. The point is to illustrate what a massive task this is 🙂 Don’t worry though, I ran the images through PNGOUT.

Note #2: If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend that you go and install .NET 3.5 SP1 immediately!

Ok. I’ll admit it: getting Paint.NET v3.xx installed for many users is a massive chore. If you take a normal user, they almost certainly don’t have the .NET Framework installed. If it’s a newly formatted or purchased computer, it might even be a "fresh" XP SP2 installation that doesn’t even have Windows Installer 3.1 installed (which the .NET Framework requires).

One of the most educational things I ever saw was on Google Video called, "Paint.NET Install Part 1" (there’s also a part 2!). First, why should a tutorial be necessary? I should make my installer so easy as to make that completely unnecessary. Second, it was very enlightening to watch where the guy fumbled or was confused by things. I highly recommend watching that tutorial video if you want insight into just how unfriendly installing a .NET client application can be. (Note that I’m not trying to disparage the author of that video at all!)

Anyway, back to the blog post. Let’s journal a normal user’s adventure toward installing Paint.NET v3.xx. This user will excitedly download the 1.6MB Paint.NET v3.35 installer only to be bombarded with ridiculousness:

"Hi, I’m the Paint.NET installer. Hey, you need to install .NET — go here to download it!"

Ok, so the user goes to the website, fumbles around, clicks "Download" …

Then they click Open, and then … "Hi, I’m the .NET installer. You don’t have Windows Installer 3.1, come back when you do!"

(Why can’t it just download it for them?) When the user clicks "Exit Setup," they are left at a blank desktop. I think the next thought they have will be, "Huh? Now what?" But hey, let’s see what happens if the user gains psychic abilities and manages to find this mystical "Windows Installer 3.1" :

Forget for a moment that nobody other than people like myself and Scott Hanselman even know what "redistributable" even means (yes, I’ve had friends/family ask me if they are downloading the "right" thing as they were confused by what-in-the-world a "redistributable" was). So they managed to download it from the very unintuitive download page…

The user clicks next and continue a few times … and they got it installed! But what’s this?

They have to restart. Boo. Let’s assume the user manages to restart now and remember to come back to installing Paint.NET.

"Please wait forever."

The user is once again at a blank desktop. Is Paint.NET installed? Where is it? Well, hmm, it isn’t installed. Let’s assume the user once again harnesses their psychic power and double-clicks the Paint.NET download again (or, just as likely, they re-download it from the website).

Argh! I thought I already did that! Ok. The user channels their psychic powers to once again run the .NET installer …

Not that the stuff on this dialog box makes any sense to a normal user … but most people have gotten used to clicking "Accept" and then "Next". Although the download time estimate of 2 hours is quite a turn-off.

"Please wait forever."

Yes, please wait forever. Hope you aren’t on dial-up! Next, .NET is done installing:

If the user is really unlucky at this point, then another reboot will be required.

So … is Paint.NET installed? Hmm, where is it … I can’t find it. I’ll tap into those psychic powers and double click the Paint.NET installer again (this is the 3rd time!).

Oh thank goodness! Although then they get this fun part, which with a fresh .NET installation can actually take quite awhile (it actually times out after 4 minutes):

"Please wait forever."

Other than that installation generally goes smoothly, and then the user has Paint.NET installed.

Updating it at this point is fairly painless and easy. It only took like 6 downloads*, 3 setup wizards, a reboot, and about 1 hour of time… I’m almost amazed that any Windows XP users have managed to install Paint.NET at all. Or any .NET client software for that matter.

This whole process is no big deal for someone like myself, as I already know what needs to be installed and exactly where to click on things (relative to the normal user, I am "psychic"). But when’s the last time you met someone outside of Redmond who really knows and cares what "Windows Installer" is?

Anyway, in the next post I’ll detail how much better Paint.NET v4 is for this important deployment scenario. It’s a combination of a much smarter installation package and the new .NET 3.5 SP1 Client Profile.

* Assume that the user is not perfectly organized and just re-downloads the Paint.NET and .NET Framework installers whenever prompted to, as opposed to keeping them in a "Downloads" folder and remembering their names and which ones to click on at the right moments. This is actually quite normal! 🙂


16 thoughts on “The Paint.NET install experience — Part 1, version 3.xx

  1. miechu says:

    wow… never thought that installing can be so challenging… (i’m a “psychic” too)

    I assume that you want to adress this installing process and make it better – did you thought about making that kind of installer public or something? Every open-source/freeware .net application would benefit from it…


  2. Andrew D says:

    Heh, a pretty good insight, but you’ve revealed that 3.36 is coming out soon by the installer you used :p

  3. Christophe says:

    Yes, it’s a shame.

    Dotnet is a great tool for developpers (and I love it) but it is unbelievable how painfull the installation is for the user.

    I can’t understand why Microsoft doesn’t include windows installer and the frameworks with windows update.

    Because of this, I stick with the FW2.0 which is simple enough to deploy (with XP/vista anyway, because with W2000 you have to update windows installer !!)

    If microsoft wanted to slow down the adoption of Dotnet, they’ve made a great job !!

    I look forward for your next post.

  4. Indy says:

    Well I think .NET(3.5 or 3.0) is installed with Windows Update and everyone I know has Automatic Update turned on, that was why many XP Users had to restore their systems back in july(haha).
    .NET is also needed for the CCC(ATI) and thats also a reason why many people I know have .NET installed.

    The Installer is also needed for Windows Update, so I really know nobody who doesn´t have it insalled.

    I actually run version 4.5 of the Installer, but I there´s no diffrence for me.

  5. Christophe says:

    My bad, the framework is indeed installed with windows update.

    But there are a LOT of people who don’t have windows update turn on. For instance, non genium Windows are not updated (but I can’t blame microsoft for that ;).

    The point is that offline installation should be easier (I’m not happy the actual bootstrapper solution).

  6. Tom says:

    The moral of this story is … run Windows Vista? Let’s not forget, XP is around SEVEN years old.

  7. Cody says:

    I had no problem installing Paint.NET. I was able to install it on my grandma’s computer.

  8. Rick Brewster says:

    Cody – Yes, but imagine if your grandma tried to install it herself on a brand new computer with Windows XP SP2 on it.

    What’s preferable … that she is able to install it herself, or that she has to call someone to have them do it for her? The latter takes hours or days longer than the first option!

  9. scott says:

    i had this experience just today, installing on a fresh copy of XP SP2. it was annoying to search for and download all that other software.

    also, i should add, i am using on my mac using parallels. i have not found a decent graphic editor program for the mac, i have even paid for a few. they all have annoying hang-ups or missing features. yours is the best!

  10. Harold says:

    Oh lol
    Now I get it

    I was always very surprised to find that people “did not know how to install” a program of mine. None of my programs ever require installation – they just work. Or not, as it turns out.. Microsoft should really push out .NET more actively, make it a mandatory update or something..

  11. Trixie says:

    It only took like, 3 downloads for me!
    This is my third system recovery this year, so its my third time getting Paint.Net (Bummer, the downloads are about 6 in all.). It never appeared on my desktop. Also, I tried getting it from, BUT, it took about 3,000 installers (Winzip, Setup, ect.) to get to the program, so I quit and got it at getpaint.

    Please tell those people to make it easier! DAMMIT! It took AGES for me to get the best program in the world back on my PC.

    In my opinion: Paint.Net is better then photoshop, plus, its free, and you can have transparent colors, which makes it better, in my opinion.

  12. Nate says:

    .NET is installed through Windows Update but its an Optional install. Therefore, even if you have Automatic Updates turned on, you won’t get .NET.

  13. Rick Brewster says:

    Cheryl – I’m sure they have their disk space requirements listed somewhere. Disk space is basically free nowadays, so I can’t see it mattering at all.

  14. Mike B says:

    I installed dotnet thru 3.5 on both computers in the house (P-D 3.4/1G RAM and P3/.5G RAM) a long time ago. PDN therefore installed and updates without a hitch on both. Of course it’s a tad slow on the P3 but it works.

    For that matter, when I rebuilt my daughter’s old eMachine to give my parents, I included PDN2 (Windows 98SE). Since I already had dotnet2 the install was pretty much painless. PDN2 on that machine (Celeron 466) is subjectively as quick as PDN3.31 on the Pentium D.

    Key point, as you have identified, is to guide people through what’s needed if the support isn’t already there. Lots of payware doesn’t do that well (i.e. ATI driver/utility install). Thanks for the efforts! Not everybody has been hacking (in the non-pejorative sense) since punch cards and understands how computers work as opposed to how they are supposed to work.

  15. Clay Nichols says:

    “Key point, as you have identified, is to guide people through what’s needed if the support isn’t already there. ”

    I once explained the problem to our sw engineer thusly:

    Now, lets say you are support 1,000 grandmothers (yes, many of our customers are the elderly: we make speech therapy software).
    Do you want to explain (or answer the tech support line) this to all 1,000 of them or do you want to make it zero effort.

    Easy choice for me.

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