What was QuickDraw on the Apple Mac?

In the early days of home computing, there was no efficient graphics output. If images and other graphics could be calculated, then only in complex detours. Only with 2D image description languages ​​and corresponding graphic libraries was it possible not only to display existing image files in operating systems and their graphically displayed programs, but also to draw some yourself. And that's where QuickDraw comes in. The first QuickDraw library was created on the Apple II and was used on the Apple, Apple Lisa and Macintosh in the 1980s to quickly and easily create raster graphics. It was part of the operating system until Mac OS 9.2.2 from 2001.

QuickDraw not only enabled a graphical user interface on Apple computers, but also smooth operation and editing of graphics – for example in MacPaint. Here you will find the most important information about QuickDraw and its successor, Quartz.
QuickDraw not only enabled a graphical user interface on Apple computers, but also smooth operation and editing of graphics – for example in MacPaint. Here you will find the most important information about QuickDraw and its successor, Quartz.

The history of QuickDraw

QuickDraw is said to be based on Jef Raskin's doctoral thesis, which the computer scientist wrote in 1967 under the title "A Hardware-Independent Computer Drawing System Using List-Structured Modeling: The Quick-Draw Graphics System' submitted to Pennsylvania State University. He and one of his students, the programmer Bill Atkinson, ended up at Apple in the late 1970s, where they were able to implement their ideas about graphical interfaces and their ease of use. In addition to the "Quick-Draw Graphics System" from the doctoral thesis, the drag & drop mechanism for moving files, folders and drives was created.

The first commercial version of the graphics library, dubbed QuickDraw, was created by Bill Atkinson on the Apple II in 1979. It was written for UCSD Pascal, a Pascal implementation adopted by Apple for the Apple II as "Apple Pascal". After the computers named Apple, QuickDraw was eventually used on the Lisa computer and on the Macintosh. For the latter, it was expanded by software developer Andy Hertzfeld, who was also one of Apple's first employees. Eventually, QuickDraw became a core element of Mac systems and Mac OS to enable the graphical interface, usage and editing. 

QuickDraw and MacPaint source codes are available

The source code of MacPaint 1.3 from 1984 was donated by Apple to the Computer History Museum in 2010. As part of this, the source code for the QuickDraw version used at the time was published. you can do both auf dieser seite download and use for non-commercial purposes. In addition, there are a few more insights into the development of technologies and mechanisms on the linked page. 

So e.g. B. explains that in early graphics editing, the content had to be cleared from the screen before the edited shape could be displayed. To avoid the flickering caused by this transition, the editing steps were carried out in the background and only the finished result was displayed as the next frame after the initial state. This resulted in a smooth processing of pixels, lines, shapes and entire graphics.

MacPaint as a drawing program on the Macintosh

On Windows PCs there is still the paint program "Paint" (also Microsoft Paint or MS Paint) integrated in the operating system. MacPaint used to exist on the Macintosh, which looked very similar and also brought with it the same tools as early versions of MS Paint. Various paint, fill, selection, shape and other tools could be used in MacPaint. 

In addition, the strength of tools could be adjusted, for example to change the brush width. Instead of colors, only black, white and patterns were available in the early versions. With the resulting shading, however, impressive drawings could still be created. You can try it out via the Apple system and Mac OS emulations Infinite Mac.

Image Credit: Apple/Computer History Museum
Image Credit: Apple/Computer History Museum

Mac OS X - QuickDraw is replaced by Quartz

With the new millennium, Apple wanted to be able to get even more out of its own computers than it had before System 1.0 to Mac OS 9.2.2 was possible. And so, in 2001, the new operating system Mac OS X 10.0 released, soon known under the name "Cheetah". The new Mac operating system got off to a rocky start, but it took Mac graphics to a new level. Because instead of the 2D image description language QuickDraw, Quartz was used, a 2D and 3D graphics layer that consists of several individual technologies. These were continually updated with subsequent versions of Mac OS X, OS X, and macOS.

Quartz built and builds on these ingredients:

  • Quartz 2D: Display 2D content such as raster graphics, vector graphics, and text
  • OpenGL: Interface for 3D content
  • QuickTime: Multimedia interface for decoding and playback of audio / video
  • Quartz Compositor: GUI substructure for program window management
  • PDF implementation: For anti-aliasing of graphics and texts and the integration of OpenType, PostScript and TrueType fonts

You can find more information and insights into the innovations and changes in the individual Mac operating systems from Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah to macOS 14 Sonoma in this article: Mac Operating Systems - Everything from Mac OS X 10.0 (2001) to macOS 14 Sonoma (2023). There is a link to an individual article for each system, which contains detailed information, a video of the presentation, download and purchase options for the system and the download of the original wallpaper. A comprehensive lexicon that is well worth a look.

Don't get confused: Quick, Draw! from Google

If you are looking for information on Apple technology "QuickDraw", you will quickly stumble across the Google game "Quick, Draw!". This browser game is an AI experiment in which users draw objects in a few seconds, which are then to be identified by a neural network. With Quick Draw! should the "world's largest database for drawings" be created. It is intended to serve as publicly accessible research material. You can find more information and the game itself here with this link.

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