Best Free Digital Image Viewer

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Image viewers belong to a software category where the quantity and quality of free programs makes it difficult to select just one product as a top pick. So, personal convenience will unavoidably appear as the ultimate factor for this review of free applications. And there's also the question of what exactly we mean by an image viewer.

Digital photography has become so widely available that most pictures these days will linger in a memory drive and will never be printed, because we can visualize them on screens. As a consequence, hundreds of tools are developed for the task, ranging from the ones that offer just the most basic handling to others with loads of features nobody will ever use. However, nowadays' average users are likely to demand some additional capabilities apart from the simple viewing and browsing functions.

Thus, many imaging applications overlap categories and we have a perfect example in photo organizers, where a viewer is obviously needed to manage picture collections. Therefore, the key points for this review should be based mainly on the aspects of loading speed, image quality, zooming capabilities, sorting options and other operations not directly related to image editing, tagging or organizing, although this is a definite advantage in most cases like the current Editors' Choice and a few competitors. But no program is perfect and if you need to make certain changes to your photos, you might find yourself using more than one app at the same time to meet specific requirements.

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Rated Products

Zoner Photo Studio Free  

A powerful and excellent program with lots of possibilities for you to take advantage of its many features.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)
Nice interface, very customizable, very fast, lots of features, good editor, full Unicode support.
Limited batch processing options, takes over 315MB on disk, interface may seem somewhat bloated.
Read full review...


The most versatile of all viewers to read over 500 types of graphic files and convert any of these to over 70 formats.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Private/Educational use)
Fast, lots of features, very manageable, many plug-ins.
The batch processing options could be better implemented.
Read full review...


A fast and compact image viewer with lots of features and plugins.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Private/Educational use)
Fast, lots of features, many plug-ins, less than 2MB on disk.
Simplistic and a bit less manageable than main competitors.
Read full review...

FastStone Image Viewer  

A fast and user-friendly image browser with its superb interface and some useful editing features.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Private/Educational use)
Very good fullscreen interface, very user-friendly, good functionality, excellent batch processing options, GPS location in Google Earth.
Slower than competitors with larger files.
Read full review...

WildBit Viewer  

A competent image viewer with a full array of editing tools and a super powerful search function.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Private/Educational use)
Very manageable, excellent editor, geotagging capabilities, full Unicode support.
Slower than the competition in some cases.
Read full review...

Nomacs - Image Lounge  

An open-source and cross-platform image viewer opens very large images easier than competitors.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Open source)
Fast, opens very large images easier than competitors, frameless view option, several instances can be synched locally or over a LAN, cross-platform.
Quirky zoom, some common functions are assigned to unexpected menus.
Read full review...

Related Products

I've tested a large number of other viewing applications (too many to be mentioned), but none of them made it to the top. Our readers have suggested many of those. When this is the case, I usually post a reply in the comments section with my reasons. Maybe your favorite program has already been discarded here, but feel free to submit any product you think might deserve a try. But please, try it yourself before and tell me what you like about it, instead of just posting a link. We have a lot of good apps here already, maybe too many for a readable article. Sometimes letting ones in and others out feels like splitting hairs. There are many decent ones out there and even Windows' built-in viewer performs acceptably when browsing through average images, although it is so limited. Now that everybody has lots of photos to deal with, one would expect some improvements in Microsoft's viewing app over the old W98 and XP in the successive OS's, but it's been very disappointing to find out neither Vista nor Windows 7, 8 or 10 were significantly better for the task so many years later, and such a bleak background is another spur for software developers. This article is going to be lengthy but it wouldn't be fair to end the review without mentioning some other freebies that offer quite remarkable features. (Thanks to everyone who let me know about them.)


  Users who just want a very simple replacement for the default Windows photo viewer have a good alternative with Pictus (thanks to mrin for the suggestion), kind of what could be called a "pure viewer". I used to recommend ACDSee Free for this position, mainly because of its impressive speed, but it has been discontinued, although it can still be found at several download sites. Anyway, Pictus has a few better features than ACDS, apart from being practically just as fast, and that's a lot to say! It displays pictures nearly instantaneously, no matter the image size, without needing lots of processing power, which makes it perfect for use in low-end computers. Even hard files like those huge PSDs or LZW-compressed TIFs are shown in a breeze, when they are usually a pain for other viewers to open. The interface is clean and the backdrop color can be customized in the settings menu, along with mouse behavior, rendering algorithm and a few other options. Since the program has no menu bar nor icons, it's operated mainly by right clicking and selecting the functions from the context menu, but it's quite user-friendly because there aren't many of them and they're clearly understandable. These include (very) basic sorting, picture orientation, renaming, wallpaper, and adjustments for brightness, contrast or gamma. You can use a few shortcuts, too. It supports 11 common formats, including animated GIF and PSD (no RAW), and adds the interesting ability to show their respective thumbnails in Windows Explorer, which is a very nice plus that might make some people (myself included) install the program even if they won't be using it. Besides, it can be made portable by placing a .ini file in the same folder as the main executable.

Pictus has a few drawbacks, however. It's just a sequential viewer like many others and it relies on Windows Explorer to access folders and files. No thumbnails or image lists are provided within the program and that means a limited navigation experience. I miss some more customization and an inexplicably lacking option to sort images by file type, apart from being able to use the arrows on the keyboard to browse through pictures without having to press the Alt key. Being a "pure viewer", no changes or adjustments such as orientation or brightness can be made permanent because the program does not allow to save the modified files as any format whatsoever. On the contrary, those adjustments are always kept from one image to another and to the rest of them when browsing and they have to be reset manually; this may be convenient or not, but there should be an option to control that behavior. Another personal inconvenience is that the Esc key always closes the program. Apart from that, it seems the program hasn't been updated in a long time. Nevertheless, many users will consider these drawbacks as minor because what they really want is simplicity and good speed. Pictus is a champion at both.


  Simplicity and speed are also key features in a very nice program called Nexus Image. This one was suggested by one of our readers (choifamilyipad) and it has turned out to be probably the most appealing of all the "simple" viewers to me because of its outstanding image quality and beautiful interface. Its opacity and color can be changed and a vertical thumbnail strip on the right makes browsing easier than in most other simple apps, where a linear previous/next file navigation must be followed. Folders are quickly accessed by double clicking the viewing window, selecting one from the tree and opening an image. Then you can use the functions either by right clicking and selecting them from the context menu or by means of conventional shortcuts, although mouse wheel zooming requires pressing Ctrl. Captions can be added to pictures, it can show EXIF information, supports common formats (not RAW, but does PSD and animated GIF), is available in many languages, has a light footprint on your system and is fully portable, with just a 2MB download.

On the downside, being so simple means there aren't many features to talk about ("Nothing to say. It's just a simple image viewer!", in its dev's words). I miss some of them in particular, namely some kind of sorting options for the thumbnails, basic cropping, and permanent rotation applied to pics, as it is just temporary with this software. Again, if you're used to pressing Escape to close a fullscreen view of an image in other viewers, then you'll find it a personal annoyance in Nexus, because doing so here closes the program with no prompt and you just can't help pushing the damn key... Well, anyway, that's something you can live with, I guess. And this program is worth the trouble.


  Honeyview, suggested by our reader Pliskin, is also one of those simple viewers sparing in features and focused on the basic viewing experience. It has a pleasant interface and a small set of intuitive controls for navigation. Most functions are accessed via right-click menu or keyboard shortcuts, and you can configure up to seven hotkeys to your liking. There are a few basic sorting options available and a slideshow mode. You will love its great speed even with big files and formats such as PSD or LZW-compressed TIF, which the majority of viewing programs take longer to open. Its image quality is also wonderful and RAW files are beautifully rendered if you choose not to display the embedded JPG, although this method is obviously slower. What is not slow at all is the rendering of images using the ICC color profile they may have attached; this is a remarkable aspect where nearly all the competitors are extremely weak, even the top ranking ones. Quite a lot of settings can be tweaked to fit your preferences, including background colors, mouse buttons' behavior, etc. The wheel can apply zoom in 10 or 1 percent steps. It supports 15 common file types (including animated GIF, which you can visualize frame by frame) as well as the main RAW formats, and is able to view images directly from compressed files without extracting them. It works on Win XP through W10 (32- and 64-bit) and a portable version is available.

The drawbacks are very few, assuming that the program is sparing in features. There's a thumbnail strip that shows a small preview but it's inside a menu and the design is awkward, as it won't let you click on a thumbnail to open the image. There are just two editing functions: rotate and resize, both sharing the same panel under the 'Convert' heading. The output conversion can only be saved as JPG or PNG. There's no cropping whatsoever nor a desirable TIF output that would be really handy to save the program's nice rendition of RAW files. When you are browsing, any eventual rotation is just temporary, but if you use the rotation commands, whatever pics you display after that will appear rotated, a peculiar all-or-nothing approach. Anyway, you can always set the preferences to autorotate based on EXIF info.


  Xlideit is the fancy name of another product that can be included in that somewhat blurry category of "simple" viewers (thanks to Bhat59 for the suggestion). I guess such a name is a pun for its ability to go to the next or previous file in the folder when you click on a picture and slide it left or right. It's fast enough and very user-friendly. The first time you open the program it presents you with the settings, which are quite a lot and let you customize such aspects as window transparency, background color, mouse behavior, zoom options, thumbnail size and position, toolbars, slideshow, etc., although the default ones are perfectly good to go. If you've read this article so far, it should be evident by now that having thumbnails available is one of my favorite features for a good browsing experience. Xlideit has a thumbnail strip at the bottom of the window by default, though it can be placed on either side or set to auto mode, when it will just pop up with a touch of the mouse. Likewise, a built-in folder tree is another useful item to have and there's one here, saving us unnecesary clicks to find a desired folder. Right-click menus are very complete too and most functions can be accessed this way or by means of icons. I also like that resizable detached zoom window, a very interesting concept that could be considered as the reverse of the navigator that is found in many imaging programs, where a little rectangle moving over a reduced version encloses the portion of the picture that you've zoomed into in the main window. Xlideit does the opposite: you have the whole image in the main window and the zoomed version in the detached view, and moving the mouse around shows the corresponding section blown up. Of course, you can also use the zoom in the main window, and even with animated GIFs and videos! The most common image formats are supported, along with video, audio and several document formats with text and pictures, and they can be sorted in many different ways. Image files can also be rotated, resized and cropped, and this can be done in a batch. In addition, it's very lightweight and portable.

Although I haven't found many inconveniences in Xlideit, as a power user the main drawback for me is what it can't do, but this is something not applicable to unpretentious average users who just want a simple way to browse through their photos. Some of the few flaws include the following: no RAW or PSD formats are supported, zooming out won't go further than the 'fit to window' size until you write the exact percentage inside the zoom widget (this one is not the same as the zoom window mentioned earlier), the delete button erases files with no prompt (they are sent to the recycle bin, fortunately), the Esc key always exits the program, and I miss a quick way to access a previously visited folder. As you can see, these are very minor drawbacks and then whether you like the program or not is just a matter of personal taste. Oh yes, and it's only available in English, but if you're reading this, it won't be a problem, I guess.


  One of our former anonymous users suggested cam2pc and, after giving it a try, it has proved to be an excellent program in many aspects. As the name suggests, cam2pc provides a handy way to download pictures and videos from your digicam to your drives, allowing you to use lots of options for renaming, saving, etc., and has specific support for the widely used Canon EOS cameras (separate download). The interface is intuitive and easy to use, with a folder and thumbnail view that resembles FastStone. As with this, I recommend to turn the preview panel off, though thumbnail generation is really fast. Actually, speed is outstanding in almost every aspect of this app. The feature that impressed me most was its ability to quickly display LZW-compressed TIFs, something unusual in its competitors, although these perform better with Photoshop PSDs.

The only reason why I don't include cam2pc along with the top programs is that the freeware version lacks quite a lot of features that can only be found in its commercial sibling and which the others offer for free. But I guess most users could perfectly do without those.


  Imagine is a very fast viewer vaguely resembling Irfan in its simplistic interface, though the number of features is lower. Wheel zooming also needs pressing the Ctrl key. Several instances of the program can be open at the same time, it lets you customize various mouse modes with different configurations and select any of them instantaneously to fit your workflow, allows frame extraction from animations, reads inside zip, rar and 7z archives, has multilanguage support, 64-bit versions, and is portable.

On the downside, it's quite limited in other areas; for instance, the editing and batch processing options. No RAW or video formats are supported. Sometimes a few Photoshop PSD files can't be read and an 'out of memory' message appears when trying to open them, irrespective of their size and my lots of free RAM and processing power. But the app is an AWSOME performer with the PSDs that load properly and displays them nearly instantaneously once the thumbnail has been generated; an outstanding feature that not many viewers, free or commercial, can boast.


  Picture Information Extractor Free (PIE) comes to this article after Panzer's suggestion and because it has nearly everything I think a viewer must have. Anyway, the developers insist mainly on the ability to visualize all the metadata embedded in pictures, which is undoubtedly another way of viewing them. EXIF, IPTC, XMP, keywords and other data are conveniently shown on a pane to the right of the screen when a file is selected. The main interface also displays a folder tree with a preview pane and the files can be sorted in various types of lists or thumbnails. The features include wheel zooming in fullscreen view, custom thumbnail size, powerful search, excellent import options, wonderful renaming capabilities, it reads RAW and PSD formats, deletes RAW+JPG files with one click, supports color management and has good image quality. As an outstanding plus, PIE is one of the very few programs that can rotate RAW files permanently and for some users this feature alone would make it worth the installation.

On the other side, this free version of PIE cannot save any changes to the metadata, which is the only cut compared to the commercial one, but quite significant. There are also a couple of flaws in important areas such as speed or zoom. No problem when you're surfing through average JPGs, TIFs, etc., but it takes some time to even change directories and access a folder full of big RAWs, and then another while to display each file in full screen. The zoom can't reach pixel level and, along with pan, it's a bit sloppy. Moreover, the wheel turn for zooming in or out works in the opposite way to the rest of viewers I've tried so far. I miss animated GIF support as well. But many users won't even notice these drawbacks.


  Although their names look nearly identical, Imagina has nothing to do with Imagine, reviewed above. Actually, that's where similarities end. This application ('a next-generation image viewer and editing tool', the developers claim) is a good representative of newer trends in this category, which pay greater attention to "fancy" interfaces and presentations to improve user experience. The main drawback with this is the usually high resource consumption and graphics card requirements. Imagina is a perfect example of the new concepts based around 3-D simulation, but much lighter on resources than others of this kind. Browsing speed isn't as fast either, even compared to "normal" viewers, and this is especially noticeable with bigger files. For instance, when opening some 18-megapixel JPGs the program clearly stays behind the top performers, though this shouldn't be an issue with most users.

There may be some things I really miss (more customization for certain basic aspects, a built-in folder tree, support for PSDs, more straightforward management of some files like TIFF, etc.) and many other reasons why my workflow as a photographer won't fit what Imagina proposes. But photo pros are only a few among the vast lot of digicam users who just shoot JPG. And these will love it! User experience is excellent and no other viewer I've seen shows that image quality or that zoom and pan smoothness. Both 2-D and 3-D graphics are amazing and even videos can be watched in this environment (with zooming and panning!). It offers state-of-the-art RAW support by using David Coffin's DCRAW along with its own algorithms, top quality editing functions, real color management and other useful tools. So many good things make it at least a must-try. (Requires .NET 3.0 or higher)

But the problem is that Imagina's development has been discontinued. Since it is an outstanding app, I'll keep it here for a while linking to the alternative download from Softpedia.


  After some debate in the comments section, I decided to mention FastPictureViewer, but just because of one single feature. This product claims to be (and it might be) the fastest viewer ever, especially indicated for quick browsing and culling. It uses hardware to speed things up and requires a lot of system resources and graphic capabilities. It has a nice interface as well. Anyway, the program offers very few functions once the initial trial period expires and actually becomes limited to viewing JPGs and not much more than screening and tagging. It does support full color space awareness, though, and the unbeatable speed is a very strong argument in its favor.


   Finally, one of our site users, Mythril, suggested two programs which work with a very different approach, but with a special focus on speed. These are Vjpeg and Osiva. I'll just quote Mythril's comments because they are right on spot (original 06/02/09): "Both work by opening images in a borderless window that you can drag around and zoom in/out at will, practically without any lag, and you can open as many images as you want at the same time. Both programs load very quickly, but don't have any features to speak of. Another drawback is that there doesn't even seem to be a way to cycle through images in a directory... Osiva is slightly better in that you can easily drag and drop a bunch of images and have it open all of them for a superquick overview". I'll add they support very few file formats and feel a bit awkward to use precisely because they're so different.


   Another reader, Bziur, also put forward First Impression, which works in a similar way without an apparent interface, just by using right-click menus and offering pretty much just what the name of the program suggests.


Related Links

This entry in the Wikipedia features a chart comparing a considerable amount of free and commercial image viewers. Most of these products are also given detailed individual entries and include links to their websites.

You might want to check out these articles too:



This software category is maintained by volunteer editor Marc Darkin. Registered site visitors can contact Marc by clicking here.

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Thanks, Bhat. It looks kind of nice at first sight. I'll put Xlideit in my to-do list, but my article is now so long that any new additions need very good reasons to be there. Well, not that different from those we already have - the reasons, I mean :)

I'm asking this under "image viewers," but this is really about importing images from digital cameras into VISTA x64 home premium SP2.

Other than a MS utility, has anyone gotten other apps to import images from digital camera specifically into VISTA? Has anyone gotten XnView to import into VISTA?

Specifically, a Canon Powershot SX100 IS. What works in XP, Win 7 / 8 won't help me.
Windows (Vista) Photo Gallery recognizes the camera by name / imports images OK.

I've tried XnView 2.22 Extended - portable (from their site).
It won't recognize the camera, but otherwise works from images, once loaded into Vista (say, using Photo Gallery).

I worked w/ one of the XnView forum mods for a *long* time, trying to find why it can't recognize the camera, when Photo Gallery does. He says it should be able to import from (most) digital cameras.

Don't see that IrfanView has any function to import from cameras.

I don't want to keep installing programs just to see if they can import from cameras in Vista.
And, if a prgm could import, but *isn't* more full featured than some others with this function, then I already have (Photo Gallery) to import, then several to view, sort, rename, etc.

One of the main goals would be to use only one prgm vs. (now)using two.

Could 64-bit architecture be the problem here? Just guessing.

Irfan may not have IMPORT function named as such, but it sports ACQUIRE under File menu. I use it for scanning purposes only, so would not know about how it works with a particular camera. Once connected to your computer, the camera should show under the TWAIN sources button. See what happens when you specify it as the source.

Otherwise, I find MS (Live) Photo Gallery to be generally so useful that I would not be bothered looking for something else just for the sake of convenience. There are horses for courses, and some of my more involved snaps get worked over on a smattering of editors, not just a couple let alone one only.

For anyone who is interested, Windows Live Photo Gallery is recommended in Best Free Digital Photo Organizer.
"... First of all we want to thank those users who provided feedback for the shiny new 2.0 version of nomacs. at the same time, the feedback kept us busy with fixing known issues. the 2.0.2 release fixes particularly these issues: - portable version always keeps settings (settings are not written to the registry anymore) - plugin download for nomacs portable - AppData is not written to home directory (sorry for that, you can delete this folder without any side effects) - layout fixes in recent folders/files - translation updates fixed - thumbnail saving fixed ...":

If you want speed, definitely check Pictus:

It fast, free, does simple editing and shows even PSD thumbnails in Windows explorer. Also name sorting is similar to Windows explorer, which can't be said for other fast viewers.

Thanks, mrin. I'm pretty sure I reviewed Pictus in late 2010 or early 2011 and it clearly didn't perform well enough for me if I didn't include it in my article. Unfortunately, I can't find my notes about it right now. Anyway, I've seen a new release is out after a long time so I'll probably review it again.
My article has been updated to include Nomacs in the top list (kudos, Nomacs!!). Apart from that, product thumbnails are larger now and show their latest versions (some of them customized by my preferences).
I wonder if they are working on 2000/XP version or they have decided to support only Vista/7/8 from now on ...

Nomacs seems pretty good, it has no problem with non-English characters in filenames which is a bonus and it seems quite fast and light too.

On the downside, the portable version isn't very. It writes a great many entries to the registry and plug ins only seem to work if they're located in a Nomacs folder in AppData which is a shame. I've been looking to see if there's any way around that but no luck so far.

Hi, sicknero. I reported your experience to Markus Diem (head dev). Here is his answer: "I have just checked our settings, and it is possible to pipe all settings to a file. so we will move the settings for the portable version to an *.ini file. the plugins should be placed in a 'plugin' folder in the nomacs.exe path for the portable version - so this is a bug."

Many thanks for doing that Marc, I was just beginning to compose a message to them when a notification of your post popped up.

I did try manually creating the plugins folder inside the Nomacs directory and also putting the plugins in the root directory but the program wouldn't recognise them there. Good to hear that the devs are on the case, I'll keep an eye out for an update as I do like this program.

Thanks again.

I've got a new message from Markus Diem regarding this: Nomacs 2.0.2 portable does now what your reader expected. so the settings are written to a local file in the nomacs folder & plugins are downloaded to the same folder. so you can run nomacs from a USB device with the same settings on different computers. (there is one last issue, that you might need to run the Plugin Manager if the device is mounted with different letters so that nomacs can find them again).
Ask the devs ...
Nomacs 2.0 is out: New features: - nomacs now supports plugins (windows only for now) - Recent Files/Folders on start-up - Threaded file loading/saving - UPnP support that allows for detecting nomacs in WLAN networks - Remote control via WLAN/LAN - Fading for fullscreen/slideshow - Option for syncing all actions - Auto file updating (without locks) - Full exif support on linux (fixes issue #192) - White list to automatically connect with your computers - Gamma correction on down sampling (fixes #322) - New (improved) cacher - Improvements in the Thumbnail Preview:
Thanks, Panzer. I already knew about this update. Actually I tried the beta version and I had already decided to promote Nomacs and include it along with the top products in the article, which I'll probably do next weekend. This is another case of good responsiveness on the devs' side, since they've taken into account several of my suggestions and are working on others that couldn't be implemented at this time. I'm happy to include an open source program at the top finally!

Irfanview (2.38) "ad supported"?

What type of ads & how many are we talking? That's not mentioned in the review, or has the ad supported thing just started in v2.38?

What about Xnview v2.22 - any addons / extra installers in it?

Thanks for the heads-up, Misty. IrfanView has never been ad-supported, or at least no ads are displayed inside the program. Just to make it sure I installed version 2.38 after downloading it from the Softpedia page you provided in your link. A Virustotal scan shows it completely clean. No third party toolbars or other software in the installer, no ads when running it; just the same old program ;-) we're used to. I don't know why Softpedia warns "Offers to download or install software or components (such as browser toolbars)". I wouldn't be surprised that wrapped installers came from Cnet's, which is the first option on Irfan's site, but the rest of the links are most likely safe. As for XnView, no extras are offered with v2.22 in the official installer.

Softpedia's mention of Irfanview being adware isn't the only place I saw it mentioned.
Though, some may have downloaded from sites that install their own wrapper, then users confuse the adware as coming straight from the dev. Which in some cases is true.

I'd guess it's hard to tell whether the ads, addons, etc., came from the devs or from something like CNET (or other download sites).

Marc -

Did you just scan the whole installer / zip file - still packed? If so, how can one be sure the packed files were scanned properly & had the capability to find "malware" in all the packed files?

I just looked at a recent VirusTotal scan results of Irfanview 4.37.
It does show all / most individual file names from inside the installer. Maybe it can accurately scan / detect things such as we're discussing in packed files.

The other question is, how can one be sure that Virus Total will detect something like a toolbar addon as a "PUA" (possibly unwanted application), if it wasn't already in a database of such items?

Yes, I scanned the installer (.exe file) still packed. One can't be sure that a PUA will be detected without being in a database, but common sense dictates that an official installer for this program should be clean. One can't be sure that Irfan Skiljan wouldn't be willing to tarnish his good reputation after so many years of providing so many users with such a great app, but common sense tells he wouldn't. When I installed the program downloaded from Softpedia I wasn't offered to install anything else and I haven't seen any unwanted changes to my system in any way. I found Softonic and a couple of their user reviews mention IrfanView as ad-supported, too. Maybe the ads and add-ons are wrapped in the download from their own site. Irfanviewsetup.exe is also found to be infected by adware in an analysis by herdProtect ( ), but they don't specify where the installer was downloaded from. IrfanView is such a popular program that lots of sites have it available for download. The author himself warns about this on his own site. I wouldn't be worried about the software itself; what concerns me more is its origin. If you're one of IV's users and want to update your old version, just follow the common sense one should put into everything in life.

hi all

Firstly, thanks for another set of reviews Marc. I use your website quite a lot to get a roundup of software on a given theme. Really nice. I also like the community who contribute and enhance your reviews with their own experiences.

I personally use Xnview - my photo requirements are modest and generally just use stuff like resizing, scaling, sharpening, etc.

To view items I stick with the default windows viewer.

My platform is win 7 home premium 64bit.

However, recently, I've been looking for a better way to preview / thumbnail photos, so I hope you or others can help?

I find it awkward and cumbersome to view via the windows app then have to 'search' for the file, in case I want to email it to someone or am simply shortlisting the best of a set of photos.

Therefore, I was looking for some way to very quickly get BIG thumbnails in a photo folder.

I've tried IrfanView thumbnails, which actually works very well - you can 'blow' the images up to a decent viewing size but you can literally drag and drop the source photo by dragging the thumbnail. However, it's a slight annoyance that you have to run the application (oh the burden) :)

Also, it doesn't have a favourites folder and despite having an option for "view most recently used folders", this doesn't appear to work (at least with my version, which came with IrfanView 4.37).

EDIT: I had a wheeze and amended default folder settings in the main Irfan View application and that affects the thumbnails app too... so I can pretty much recommend this to anyone else who's interested in what I'm trying to achieve.

HOWEVER, ideally, I was really searching for some kind of mouseover previewer, which would just pop up a good sized image while browsing photos... almost like the win 7 taskbar item previewer, except for items in a folder. I also don't really want to run aero, although it is very pretty - if nothing else, I've found that despite having an i5 haswell chip, aero slows my system down a bit!

I've just tried FastPreview, which isn't bad at all - it's very simple, neat and you don't need to move into sub-context menus, like, for example, xnshell. Unfortunately, the thumbnail that appears in the windows context menu is limited to 300x300 (as far as I can see) - I can't get it to retain higher resolution settings.

Any ideas?



Wow! That's what I call a demanding user! You've found solutions for nearly everything you needed but you want to go a step beyond. :) Thanks for your comments. I'm sorry if I can't help as much as I'd like to. I remember I used FastPreview a while ago and I quit using it exactly because the maximum thumbnail size was too small for me. I now use another free shell extension called SageThumbs, which is based on XnView's image libraries, so a lot of formats are supported. Although that's not as large as one would like previews to be sometimes (is it fair to call them tumbnails when they're big?), you can resize them up to 512px, which is a very noticeable improvement. You don't need to move into sub-context menus if you make sure to have that option unchecked in the program settings. The "downside" is that, unlike FastPreview, SageThumbs doesn't have its own built-in viewer, but this shouldn't be a real issue since a click launches your default one. Official site: Review: I agree with you that it would be nice to have a pop-up preview just by hovering the mouse over file names in the Explorer. You can find examples of this behavior on many websites, since it's pretty easy to implement it with Javascript. I'm sure some kind of addon for Windows Explorer must exist that may have this capability along with other features, but I don't know about it yet. Not a free one, at least. I found a commercial (30-day trial) program that can do exactly what you're looking for. I wouldn't say this in a normal case as this site is all about freeware, but since no free apps can be proposed as replacements for it yet (AFAIK), perhaps our site mods won't get too upset if I mention its name (just like they don't if I mention Photoshop or ACDSee or MS Office, for instance - Anupam, MC, please forgive me). I won't provide a link but you can google it: Instant ThumbView. I haven't used it and, needless to say, I have no connection with it in any way. Just a little problem in your case: it doesn't seem to have a W7 version, but it might run ok in compatibility mode. Thanks again.

Hi Marc

Great to hear from you. Please see my response to SickNero to address your comments.



Gazzawazza and Marcdarkin -

"I agree with you that it would be nice to have a pop-up preview just by hovering the mouse over file names in the Explorer. You can find examples of this behavior on many websites, since it's pretty easy to implement it with Javascript. I'm sure some kind of addon for Windows Explorer must exist that may have this capability along with other features, but I don't know about it yet. Not a free one, at least."

QTTabBar does exactly that, also with audio and video files as well as pictures, although full multi-media preview does require a fairly decent codec pack. For just pictures though it will work "straight out of the box".

A possible drawback might be that it's an ambitious program that aims to enhance a great many functions in Windows Explorer (tabbed Explorer windows, toolbar buttons for instance) but it's a very small and light installation and could easily be used just for its picture tooltip previews. Preview size is unlimited as far as I know, I've had tooltips at full screen just to try it and it also has a full screen hotkey for the preview.

A nice aspect of it is that it adds tooltip submenus to Explorer folders and the preview tooltip works in those submenus too, so you could in fact browse and preview a whole picture directory full of sub-directories, without ever opening another folder.

There's an old Gizmo's article about it here -

It's actually on version 514 now which was released just this week and if you look at post number 4 in this thread here - - I posted some screenies there a while ago of the tooltip previewer.

Hi SickNero & Marc


Have just installed QTtabbar.


Seems to fully address my immediate requirement. I've configured it to produce pop-up thumbnails upto 800x800.

Think it resamples rather than resizes too (can't find anything regarding this though in the options, so maybe not).

I was a little unsure of how it functioned initially - no system tray presence, etc.

Noob instructions:

- Basically, you activate the main toolbar from within an explorer window.
- ALT should pop up menubar, then "view", "toolbar", "QTTabBar".
- you should now get an additional toolbar appear, which contains your tabbed explorer window experience.
- note this effectively consolidates all new explorer windows into one (i.e. tidies your taskbar). You will almost certainly have to close any existing explorer windows, in order to pick up this new functionality.
- note that once QTTB is active, ALT no longer seems to trigger menubar (in explorer - seems to still work in separate apps e.g. firefox).

Now I just need to see how it co-habits with my other win 7 'enhancements', which I'll list, just to help anyone else trying to patch win 7 shortcomings:

- "listary" - great instant search substitute for windows search, which is shockingly bad (although I did deliberately turn off WS indexing, except for outlook, knowingly embracing a 'slow search', but which also proved literally just to miss stuff, particularly over a network).

- "7+ taskbar tweaker" - basically the only free program I could find for a win 7 64bit platform, which allows you to re-order/DragDrop open taskbar items. Less necessary now, given my million open explorer folder windows are consolidated down to one window! Nice app though. Had to replace the lovely "taskbar shuffle", which although supports 32/64bit, DOESN'T support win 7.

- "folder size" (source forge) - NOT mindgems or "" one. This is a real-time, pop-up explorer window that calculates folder sizes for you (given that win 7 rubbishly doesn't do this for you). Slightly clunky, since it produces an additional folder window but does work and also has 64bit version.

Finally, not explorer/shell related but "freebar" - lovely free substitute for later versions of windows office, which do away with the office shortcut toolbar launcher thingy.

*** Thank you so very much for the heads-up regarding QTTabBar. ***

All the best,


Thanks sicknero and gazzawazza. Curiously enough, I had already seen QTTabBar as the top pick in one of the articles on our own site while searching for the specific pop-up preview function: I thought it might as well have this feature included among the many mentioned in the article, but it wasn't really clear and I didn't try it. Apart from that, the review concludes "nothing works consistently" under W7 and there are several other problems with it. I just didn't realize the article is quite old and in need of an editor. Perhaps one of you guys can take over and update it, at least the QTTabBar part, since you seem to be knowledgeable about the matter ;)

If I can find the time to really check out the program properly (at least on a variety of machines) then yes I'd give some thought to updating the article here. I've actually not used the program in a few months, it was only Gary's post here that prompted me to check Quizo's site where I found that he seems to have been quite busy lately :-)

It has indeed not been a problem-free program but the last few versions have been much improved I think. I've been running it since yesterday here and it appears to be quite solid although the media preview tooltip still seems to be a bit erratic ... a few times I've had to reload the Explorer window to make it work but that might just be me/my system. I've tried a few different codec packs and K-Lite seems to work best so far, also there might be a few more tweaks in Options that could help.

So, yes, it still isn't perfect but I think I'll keep it for a while and see how it goes. Like I say it does add some functions to Explorer which I've really not found anywhere else and so far it seems to be more reliable than not.

I notice that the article you link to covers Paul Accisano's fork of the program. This was developed quite along time ago when it seemed as if Quizo had abandoned the project but he is now actively developing it again and the fork in turn has not been updated in a long time - that one is still 1.5beta and the last word from the dev was in May last year.

I'll keep it here anyway for now and see how I get on with it, certainly for me almost everything in it does work well and I think it does deserve an up-to-date write up.

Cheers Marc.

Hi Sicknero & Marc

Sorry for the delay in replying.

I'm still field-testing and getting to grips with QTTabBar (basically trying out functionality, as I need it), so I'm not really in much of a position to give a good commentary on it.

Also, due to the sparsity of documentation, what I might think is a bug might be there by intention (or as you'll see below, my misunderstanding of the particular functionality of the app).

However, my crude overview is (based on solely using it on win 7 home premium 64bit):

Seems to work most of the time & is genuinely useful :)

Specifically, photo preview doesn't seem to work 100% of the time (might be the case with other kinds of 'previewable' media too but I'm referring specifically to photos here) and I might need to move focus away and back to the explorer window for it to start producing previews again.

I've just discovered groups, as my tabs didn't appear to get properly retained / remembered after reboot. Specifically, the explorer window mostly remains after reboot (has occasionally been known to disappear altogether though). Unfortunately, sometimes, only 1-2 tabs, instead of the 10 or so I have in use most of the time, get retained.

I've found the groups command deals with disappearing tabs. However, weirdly, having had to use the groups command several times after reboots (to return my last used set of tabs), the last couple of times I haven't. I 'think' it might be to do with whether the explorer window is minimised or not at shutdown (but I've not tested this).

Also, I did not find that the "restore tabs in previous window" to work as anticipated (I.e. if I'd lost 7 or 8 tabs, I'd have expected this function to return/restore them).

I do simply love the drag and drop 'browser-esque' tab experience and the consolidation into one window is great. Of course it makes copying between folders easy too, as you can do it via tabs OR just have another tabbed window open.

A quick comment on documentation - Gizmo's page on using the app is handy. I've literally just noticed the in-app tooltips, which seem reasonably comprehensively populated, which helps a lot (as a couple of commands I just looked at, seemed to act in a different manner to how I would have expected, given their titles e.g. "actions to current view" menu - a right click option on a tab header - reveals a command "copy from folder", which I interpreted to mean copying from current folder, when in fact it's copying from another folder.)

Overall though, it's IMO a fantastic, useful enhancement to the windows explorer experience. Think goodness for ambitious, dedicated devs!



Hi, I'm glad to hear you're getting on with it ok.

I must confess I've removed it again myself ... partly because of some of the issues you mention and also because my elderly desktop PC struggles to run it and I like consistency across my different machines. Also I think it prevents external drives being safely removed sometimes ... something in QTTB hooks onto the drive, I've not yet worked out exactly what it is.

I noticed the same issue with the previewer not always "catching" a mouseover ... observing processes shows that dllhost.exe seems to not always be triggered but I don't know enough to know if that helps at all. What I did find is that if you access files via the sub-folders menu (the small blue arrow) then the previewer works 100% reliably, or it does for me at least.

I can't comment on the group/restore tabs functions as it's not something I use but yes, the drag-drop functionality is excellent. Also the filter box is brilliant I think, much better than native Windows Search for my needs.

I don't know if you noticed but on Quizo's Wikidot page there's a help forum. I think the link is "Bug Tracker" or something similar and there's a generic password provided for sign-in.

The dev himself doesn't always respond quickly but it can be a good place to get assistance from other users.

Best of luck with it anyway, I don't doubt for a moment that I'll be trying it again at some point as it really does transform Explorer most usefully.

hi SickNero

How elderly is elderly? Surely time for an upgrade?!

I didn't, for the most part, find QTtabbar to be CPU unfriendly... although there's occasionally a bit of lag when moving between tabs. Also, I've got a pretty current PC, so can throw stuff at it (although I do keep an eye on my CPU cycles too and again haven't really found QTtabbar to be naughty).

Please note that the lag I mention is almost certainly, in part, down to other apps I have running in parallel. As I mentioned in a much earlier post I have found an app that compensates for Win7's absence of realtime foldersize declarations (called folder size - sourceforge) but this additional app needs time to do the analysis and calculations.

Anyway, I've checked the QTtabbar bugtracker (thanks for the tip) and at least found corroboration about tabs not being remembered on reboot.

Not sure about the filter box that you refer to? Could you elaborate?

The version of windows I have already has a filter box, as part of explorer. I use a 3rd party search app anyway ("listary"), because I don't really like windows search (although it seems to work well within Outlook). Ironically, I didn't want the harddrive thrashing associated with the indexing that Windows Search requires, so just removed basically all folders from its indexing list. I accepted that without indexing, windows search would be slow. However, it wasn't slow so much as literally did not work on network folders on other PCs (even ones containing only maybe 30+ files), so gave up with Windows Search and reviewed 3rd party apps.

I chose listary and was/am happy with it. It too creates an index but I found said indexing VERY unobtrusive and listary's FAQ claims that its indexing is typically only a few seconds. Am not quite sure why it should be so quick, when Microsoft say that if you find the native indexing intrusive, you can suspend it for 15 min intervals, which obviously implies how long it could take i.e. measured in mins and hours, not seconds!

Anyway, definitely a thumbs up for listary.