While you’re busy editing your images with Photoshop, Gimp, or a photo-manager like Picasa, what kind of image viewer are you using? Most of the time when you are viewing an image you aren’t using an editor, especially bulky ones like those listed above. You’re using a lightweight program that primarily lets you view, zoom, flip, and save. Microsoft pre-installs Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, but like most pre-installed Windows apps, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Enter IrFanView, the Swiss army knife of image viewers. It’s free, packed with features, and very lightweight. I won’t go into every little thing that it can do, but I hope by the end of this article you’ll be convinced to drop the wimpy Microsoft viewer.
IrFanView has every feature that the built-in viewer has. Beyond that, it can be used to view files in almost any file format you would normally come across, batch convert or rename files, tweak color settings, and reduce red eye. It can even capture screenshots. Some jobs might be best done with a full-on image editor, but for quick and dirty fixes it’s definitely good to have around.
The paint program is basic but just about as functional as MS Paint. It does not normally show when viewing, but hitting F12 or selecting it in the Edit menu will bring it up. It is good for drawing circles, making boxes, and other simple notations. I wouldn’t suggest it for much more than that as the options for each tool are fairly limited and there is only one level of Undo.
One of the things I like most about IrFanView is the way the hotkeys are laid out. Almost every major action you might need is mapped to a hotkey. I was once given the task of resizing and cropping over 100 headshots for a group’s membership directory. If it wasn’t for IrFanView’s logical hotkeys and fast response time, I’d probably still be working on that seemingly endless task.
While it is not open source, the project is freeware and is under continuous development. IrFanView has a large number of plug-ins and toolbar skins available on the website. The plug-ins (and extensions seen above) can control anything from new features to new file format support. There are quite a number of skins too, so you should be able to find one that fits your desired look.
I am not particularly skilled in graphic design and have no formal training in graphic editing software. Even so I have been able to navigate the vast number of actions and options this viewer offers. IrFanView is not over-simplified either. Any time I find I need a new tool to take the rough edges off of an image, I rarely need to jump all the way up to Gimp in order to fix it. If you are working on a more complicated project, a true graphics editor is probably the right tool, but for day to day fixes, IrFanView will serve you well.
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