We all work with image files, all the time; be they graphics for the Web, corporate images for work, or just holiday snaps. These days there are more digital images than ever before. Windows comes with its own built-in image viewer, and if you have Google’s Picasa, it comes with its own fancy viewer.
But neither of these options surpasses a true classic – IrfanView, a free, tiny, and powerful image viewer for Windows.
You May Already Know It
IrfanView isn’t news; it’s been around for so long, it has its own Wikipedia entry. In fact, we’ve written about different aspects of IrfanView many times before – but as it happens, the last time we’ve done a full review of IrfanView as an application was way back in 2008, so I figured it might be time for a bit of a refresh.
The basics hadn’t changed since 2008, which is part of what makes IrfanView so great – it’s not a pretentious piece of software. It’s here to show your images, let you manipulate them, and stay out of your way. No Ribbon interface; no animations; no fancy Modern version; and most importantly, no nags or banners. It looks like simplicity itself:
Above you see IrfanView in its default configuration, which is as fancy as it gets. A few quick keystrokes later, you can pare it down to something like this:
That’s right: No toolbar, no menu bar, no title bar, no status bar. Of course, you don’t have to make them all go away at once – the View menu contains entries for toggling each element in itself, and there are easy-to-remember shortcuts, too (Alt+Shift+C for toggling the caption, and so on).
It Lets You Get Stuff Done
Unless you’re a graphics professional, chances are most of your photo manipulation work boils down to a few simple functions – resizing, rotating, and cropping. IrfanView lets you do any of these very easily. Rotating is a single keystroke away (R or L – rotate right, or left). To crop, just select any area of the image and hit Ctrl+Y; and to resize, hit Ctrl+R.
This simplicity doesn’t mean IrfanView lacks raw power: take, for example, the Resize dialog:
You can pick one of a few standard dimensions (desktop sizes), and even fit the wallpaper to your desktop. You can also set the size as a percentage, and if you want to get really picky about it, you can specify the resampling algorithm when enlarging photos.
But Not Just The Basic Stuff
If I emphasized IrfanView’s basic qualities so far, it’s because I believe the very best applications get the basics right. Once the UI is simple and the application is very fast and stable, you can start carefully adding on some bells and whistles, such as this built-in image effects browser:
It’s no Photoshop, but it does come with 38 different effects letting you get a bit more artsy with your images. Or, here’s another powerful capability – converting, renaming, and resizing images in bulk.
In fact, IrfanView’s powerful batch processing capabilities are reason alone to have it on your system, even if you opt for a different image viewer for your daily needs. In fact, Ryan wrote an entire piece about how to convert and resize images in bulk with IrfanView – take a look at it if you want to see a bit more of this humble utility’s power.
Some Things Are Best Kept Simple
In the spirit of IrfanView itself, I’ve chosen to keep this post simple. Sure – I could have overwhelmed you with a bunch of advanced IrfanView tricks, but this really isn’t the point of this app. It’s not an app for tricks – it’s an app for getting work done. Do you know any other straightforward utilities you couldn’t live without? Let me know below!
Note: IrfanView is indeed free, but the author accepts donations. If you find it useful, don’t hesitate to donate 10 Euro.