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Bloat Comes to Kids Software

I remember the first version of KidPix. It was a small, fun drawing program for kids. It featured stamps, sound, and a protected environment. It fit on one floppy disk, or maybe two.

Yesterday, I installed KidPix Deluxe 3; it was very cheap when bought with my tax software, so what the hey. It came on a CD-ROM, and managed to eat 300 megabytes of my hard drive. According the Finder, the Microsoft Office v.X folder takes up 199 megabytes, and there are things I can do with that other than draw, like run a small business. And I can't even figure out how to use the damned thing ! KidPix has grown a zillion buttons and arrows that would intimidate a seasoned user of PageMaker. The other weird thing is that the new, vivid, detail artwork generation tools live side by side with old, quaint, every-pixel-counts style of artwork tools, so it's like two programs are trying to vie for your attention. I think I'm going to start Sebastian off with the older version, cause Daddy can't help him with the newer one.

Aren't there are free/cheap simple drawing programs for kids on the Mac ? Maybe I'll just have to write one. The irony is that even a simple program marketed by a small company (Broderbund) succumbs to a meaningless features race, when the whole idea is to keep it simple. So in this case if it were shareware or freeware, it would be less likely to mutate into The Program That Ate Pittsburgh.

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
ex_snej373
Feb. 21st, 2002 08:01 pm (UTC)
Wow, my kids would vehemently disagree with you. KidPix 3 is their favorite program ever; J. uses it every day. They both love the bells'n'whistles like the paper textures and electric mixer and slideshow.

I think you could probably prune out a lot of the canned artwork/animations/sounds and trim the disk space quite a bit.
rpkrajewski
Feb. 21st, 2002 08:21 pm (UTC)
To be fair...
I didn't see if "small kids mode" would help, although it was basically just a way to avoid misclicks into the Finder in version 1. I also know that a lot of the disk space is not holding code, but templates and media for the animations and pattern pens.

But still, for very small children (< four years), it is way too much, whereas version 1 was tractable for younger folks. Your kids are probably older than that. There are similar programs under Windows that our day care uses which keep the bells whistles to a minimum. Maybe not because they are better designed on purpose but at least the color support is a lot better than Kid Pix 1, so they just happen to provide a reasonable level of color support along with a simple interface.

And the ironic thing is that Kid Pix 3 forces the screen to 800x600 in spite of all the new geegaws that were added around the drawing area. Somehow somebody, maybe a more child-minded version of the guy who designed the Kai Power Tools interfaces, could have used the extra resolution to make the metaphors more explicit and perhaps moved certain tools out of the way when they were unusable. Animations and multi-image pens that were waiting in the wells could actually dynamically show themselves before they were being used. After all, a vintage 2000 Mac program is probably going to run on an iMac that is normally displaying 1024x768, so why not use the real estate to make things more like real life ?
ex_snej373
Feb. 21st, 2002 08:24 pm (UTC)
Re: To be fair...
You make some good points.

Still, all we really hanker for here is a bunch of bug fixes and a version that's either Carbonized or at least doesn't misbehave in Classic.
rpkrajewski
Feb. 21st, 2002 08:40 pm (UTC)
Re: To be fair...
Thanks. A Carbonized version of KidPix would be very welcome.

If somebody else was doing this kind of thing, the problem with a new program of this type isn't the coding (ha !) but assembling a mass of prebuilt artwork and such to help along budding artistes.

Still, you could have fun with making a kid's draw program into a showcase of Mac OS X technologies: the compositor and graphic engine of Quartz, OpenGL (it's not just for 3D), QuickTime sprites and media, and so on. And somehow the program should be able to assist in getting images from the family iPhoto album or other places: imagine a protected front-end to a Google image search tha was content-restricted, since this is, after all, the Internet age.
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