Far more robust than Microsoft Paint, but nowhere near as loaded with features as Photoshop, Paint.NET occupies a niche perfect for users who want a free image editor that has more than resizing and inverting. Version 3.5 includes an enormous number of stability tweaks and menu adjustments, as well as a couple of new minor features and some Windows 7 love, too.

Paint.NET 3.5 includes better Aero-theme integration and a new Utilities menu. (Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

One of the biggest changes makes the program's installation far less obvious. The new version automatically downloads and installs the program's prerequisites, including the latest Microsoft .Net version and Windows Installer. It will update in the background now, too, so that you can continue to use the program until it's ready to restart. Longtime users should notice that the program starts up about 20 percent faster, according to the publisher.

The program has been visually tweaked to look better on Aero for both Vista and Windows 7. Mostly, this means that the menu bar appears offset from the Aero pane border, and it looks good. The Selection tool will no longer use the "dancing ants" that most other image editors use. Instead, a context-sensitive gray overlay appears as you make your selection. This works fine when using the lasso tool, but was hard to discern when used with the magic wand. According to the publisher, this change was made to reduce CPU consumption. There are three new effects, as well, for Surface blurs, Dents, and Crystalize.

The new Utilities option on the menu bar now hosts the Language submenu, Manage Fonts, which loads the Windows font control panel, and the manual Check for Updates tool. The full list of program changes can be found here.