Apple | MacPaint

Hello. I’m Macintosh. The computer for the rest of us.

Among the 100+ projects that I crafted for the Macintosh launch, the MacPaint user manual holds a special place as one of my personal favorites. Throughout the years, numerous designers have confided in me that they initially learned to navigate a computer through the MacPaint manual. Rather than a verbose document, Susan Kare and I streamlined the MacPaint manual from a daunting 150 pages to a concise 24 pages, employing call-outs and illustrations.

MacPaint was a designer’s first on-ramp to personal computing. Point, click, drag, cut & paste became the new idiom of designing.

Teaching people to draw on a computer required the distillation of each feature into simple visual concepts. Better to show than describe what to do. 

The MacPaint manual was a collaboration between Bill Atkinson (father of Lisa and Macintosh GUI), Susan Kare and me.

This new approach for user instruction in bite-sized format predated and perhaps influenced interaction guidelines for software development in the years to come. Interaction cues like hover-over and pop-up text are descendants if not lessons drawn from the early work by the user documentation group at Apple.

A handful of notable creative people submitted their work using MacPaint. We included them in Apple’s 1984 annual report.