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While you’re busy editing your images with Photoshop, Gimp, or a photo-manager like Picasa 10 Tips to Manage Photos Better using Google Picasa 10 Tips to Manage Photos Better using Google Picasa Read More , 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.

Our Logo in IrFanView

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.

Paint in IrFanView

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.

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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.

Irfanview Properties

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.

  1. Laurence
    August 1, 2008 at 4:12 am

    I like Live Photo Gallery... what it lacks in features it makes up for in design...

  2. Simon SC
    July 12, 2008 at 5:08 am

    Here's a vote for faststone.org/FSMaxViewDetail.htm. I was tempted to use the faststone.org/FSViewerDetail.htm as my main app, but I found I really loved the borderless window and uncluttered, simple viewer. Hit enter to go in and out of full screen, click and drag to zoom and pan, and escape to close.

  3. rajat
    July 11, 2008 at 4:34 am

    i use ACD See... however i use an old version, V2.44. at that time (about 5yrs back) it was free. since i need a image viewer only to VIEW images, ACDSee does its job. And it's the fastest image viewer that I have come across till date. i challenge anyone on that. simply because its an old version running on a latest PC. anyone else uses ACDSee??

  4. WolvenSpectre
    July 11, 2008 at 2:38 am

    I also second Fastone's Max Image or the also free more feature rich Image Viewer which is more functional than irfanview but has a slightly less intuitive interface,

  5. catester
    July 11, 2008 at 1:46 am

    I love IrfanView, and have used and recommended it since Windows98. The only thing I wish it could do in one or two clicks is drop shadow. I have never figured out how to do that in IrfanView, and have to go to another program for that.

  6. crimson
    July 11, 2008 at 1:01 am

    I'm also an IrfanView fan. Although I don't usually edit photos the Photoshop way, sometimes I have to do simple things, like make a square icon (avatar), change the format of a photo an so on. For those purposes, it's perfect. Also, it's portable ^_^

    My mom is an old school computer-geek [she graduated computer science faculty in the 80s] and she always insisted on simple programs like IrfanView and Total Commander... *dreams*

  7. Jimmy Rogers
    July 10, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    I may have to check out XnView. We haven't covered it yet on this site so I'll see if it could make a good article! I think they both sound about the same, one may just be tweaked in a slightly different direction than the other.

  8. Henk
    July 10, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    I absolutely prefer XnView, for the same reasons as RSS above. It supports at least as many file formats as Irfanview, with excellent view and customization and editing options, but it's leaner, cleaner and faster, plus it gives me configurable contextmenu-embedded previews when using other file managers instead of the miserable Win Explorer. For me, XnView is just the best no-nonsense image viewer.

  9. Jimmy Rogers
    July 10, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Thanks to everyone for the great comments! I'm glad so many of you liked the review!

    I have been using IrfanView (sorry about the capitalization originally, thanks Marco) for quite some time and it has always served me well. It's not the prettiest girl at the ball, but...hmm, maybe I shouldn't continue this metaphor. It does a lot of stuff and it does it well.

  10. RRS
    July 10, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    IrfanView is an excellent all around viewer.
    I give the edge to XnView for a cleaner layout and
    better shell integration which includes file conversion,
    a customizable preview, and direct upload to ImageShack.

    The onboard Windows Picture Viewer is not a comparable program to these.
    It was designed as a minimalist viewer and for fast access to view a picture.

    It excels at that and when I need more I can access XnView by
    right clicking the editor icon which brings its shell options
    and access editors like Photoshop using Open With.

  11. Dave P
    July 10, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    I've used IrfanView for the better part of a decade. It was great when I started and it somehow continues to improve.

    I find that I use it most to crop and resize images. It's also great for copying an image off the web and pasting it into IrfanView where you can manipulate it and save it in whatever format you want.

    I have not tried Maxview that alfred mentioned but it should be noted that IrfanView is portable as well. Directions are in the FAQ on the website.

  12. AskTheAdmin | Karl Gechlik
    July 10, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    I am going to have to give this a shot, thanks Jimmy.

  13. Marco
    July 10, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Actually it’s IrfanView and not IrFanView. Developers first name is Irfan. South European name or whatever... I doubt that his name is written IrFan ;-)

    • Aibek
      July 15, 2008 at 4:38 am

      Irfan is a popular name in Turkey so probably he is Turkish.

      • Norm
        July 17, 2008 at 6:50 am

        I wondered the same too when I first stumbled across it some 4-5 years ago. I checked it, he is from Eastern Europe.

  14. disconnect
    July 10, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Nice review Jimmy. i love this app and have been using it for about 10 years now. very quick, small and intuitive app.

  15. Paul Wright
    July 10, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I have used Irfanview for years and love it to death. Fast and easy to use, as you say. Paint.net is what I go to for the next level of complexity. I've got GIMP but have never become comfortable with it.

  16. alfred
    July 10, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I also used this program for a little while but lately I like the portable apps more.

    Lately I use portable version of Faststone Maxview which is really small and really fast.

    See faststone.org/FSMaxViewDownload.htm

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