Best Free Digital Image Viewer

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Introduction

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: 
5
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...

XnView  

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: 
5
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...

IrfanView  

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


Our Rating: 
4.5
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: 
4.5
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: 
4
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: 
4
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:

 

Editor

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

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Comments

A review of an open source program called Nomacs has been included in the related products in my article. Thanks for your suggestion, Panzer!
No problem. From their site: "... We have found a critical bug which – in some cases – prevents nomacs from starting correctly. If you experience this issue, we would recommend to update nomacs to version 1.6.3. The issue applies only to the Windows versions. Users of other OS can safely enjoy version 1.6.2. ..."
I'm in touch with the devs and they've taken my feedback very seriously. I don't know when it will be released publicly but I've already tried a so-called 'nightly version' of Nomacs with most of my suggestions included. Pretty impressive.
Great to see this level of commitment from devs providing stuff for free. MC - Site Manager.

I’ve found Zoner Photo Studio FREE 14 (henceforth “ZPS”) to be the best organizer/viewer for images in the Windows Metafile (WMF) format, as it’s able to treat WMF files as scalable vector graphics and presents them at full quality at any size, even in thumbnails; ZPS also automatically resizes WMF thumbnail images to fit the allocated thumbnail space, making them much easier to browse. FastStone Image Viewer, XnView, and IrfanView all appear to extract a default bitmap image (often a very small, low-quality one) from the WMF file and present that, losing all scalability. You cannot edit WMF images directly in ZPS, but you can convert them to bitmap images of whatever size and file format you want and edit them in that format.

I have a lot of clipart in the WMF format, so ZPS is the best choice for me, but I thought that all of the programs did a good job with photos and other bitmap-based images. I haven’t tried the newer versions of ZPS because rumor has it that they are much larger and slower than version 14, and I have an old, slow Windows XP computer. ZPS takes three or four seconds to launch on my computer but is otherwise fast, smooth, and stable in operation. There is an occasional automatic check for a new version and subsequent pop-up ad urging you to buy the newest full version, but it’s quickly and easily closed.

Thanks for your comment, Dirge. I don't work with WMF files so I didn't know ZPS is so good at presenting them and its superiority in this field over the other programs you've mentioned. I haven't noticed any difference in speed in ZPS's new versions, though, but they certainly are bulkier than v.14, which is already huge.

I just updated ZPSF14 (x86) to ZPSF16 (x64) on my dad’s three-year-old budget laptop computer (Windows 7 x64 w/dual-core processor), and the new program launches and runs significantly faster: cold launch time went from four seconds down to two, and thumbnail creation and other functions also seem to be about twice as fast -- Zoner’s extra tweaking for multi-core processors and native 64-bit programming have paid big speed dividends in this case.

It turns out that the forbidding 53MB download size of ZPSF16 is somewhat misleading, as it includes both 32-bit and 64-bit packages in free and full/trial versions. Curiously, the installer installed both the 32-bit and the 64-bit versions on the laptop, with separate folders within the main Program Folder and separate icons on the Desktop. I suspect that I can simply delete the 32-bit subfolder, but I’m not sure and haven’t done so yet.

Thanks again, Dirge. My review of ZPS is quite long in an already long article; that's why I skipped the details you provide in your useful comment and kind of included them when I specified the program takes over 350MB on disk. As for speed, ZPS is the champion when it comes to thumbnail creation. Older versions were nearly as quick, so improvements in this aspect are hard to be noticed. Anyway, I may reword the review taking your points into account, especially those related to 64-bit and multicore options. Thank you so much!

Hi Everyone,
I have been playing with Zoner, XnView, and FastStone the last few days; my first attempt at using freeware for viewing. I was impressed with all three programs on how easy they are to work with compared to Photoshop Elements and Lightroom. However, when I compared the sharpness of the images in Zoner I was surprised to see that they are not as sharp as Photoshop, although I used the maximum quality settings. XnView had the same problem. But FastStone was as sharp as Photoshop. Has anyone else noticed these differences in sharpness between these viewers before? So, I've opted for FastStone; love that viewer!

The topic is somewhat complex and this explanation won't be short, though you probably know most of it already. For our purpose, the following applies to electronic devices such as monitors, tablets or cellphones; so the viewing experience is obviously related to the quality of their screen. Some concepts are common to printed images as well, but that's a different story. As a general case, a digital photo consists of an array of pixels that must be displayed within the limits of a screen if you want to view it. That limited space (also basically an array of tiny "dots" that emit light) is manufactured to have a certain display resolution, which is measured in number of pixels (usually quoted as width x height) and is referred to as native resolution. Every time you enlarge or reduce a picture on your screen (zooming in or out with your viewing application) a different amount of image pixels will be filling that fixed screen space. This means that your device will have to rearrange those pixels horizontally and vertically to make them fit into its own display resolution. This process is known as interpolation. There are various methods to interpolate pixels, but they rely on the performance of the graphic drivers included in your system plus the viewing program's own algorithms. Let's suppose your screen resolution is 1600x1200 and you want to display a photo that is 1600 pixels wide and 1200px high. If you view it in full screen mode, your device will usually match one photo pixel to one of its own dots (pixels) and you'll be viewing the picture at 100% size. In this example, if you zoom in or out, there will always be some interpolation because the real number of image pixels must be remapped so that each screen dot represents several pixels (zoom out less than 100%) or several dots represent just one pixel (zoom in over 100%). If the picture you're displaying is just 800x600px or any size smaller than the resolution of your screen, then your viewer program will show some blank space around the borders of the photo when viewing it at 100% size. Conversely, if the picture is larger than your screen, the usual default option in viewers is to shrink the pic to display the whole image, a process that needs pixel interpolation. Most digital cameras today produce pictures that are much bigger than the resolution of average screens. But we usually like to view the entire picture and not just a small part, so we reduce it to fit the screen or program window. When reducing the size of an image, most interpolation methods involve the removal of those pixels that are considered unnecessary and keeping or reconstructing the ones that will display the final image. Since this is certainly a "fake" rendering, the best way to assess the REAL sharpness of an image is to view it at 100% size, which is equivalent to 100% zoom on the screen because pixels are correctly matched on both. Other acceptable magnifications for an "unbiased" evaluation of image sharpness are 50% and 25%, otherwise artifacts are likely to appear, such as jagged edges or uneven transitions in gradients that should look smooth. But an APPARENT sharpness exists too, depending on the zoom level, the interpolation filter and the program's own algorithms. Many programs offer some options in their settings to modify the interpolation methods. Usually, the higher the quality settings, the smoother the picture appears because we're trying to avoid pixel artifacts. Photoshop provides five interpolation options, but its sharpness varies with different zoom levels and some of them appear sharper or softer when you use odd magnifications, just like most graphics apps. Zoner does have the option for image quality (settings > general > bitmap display quality), but XnView and FastStone don't. If you use low quality (nearest neighbor interpolation) in Zoner, your pics will look sharper than they do with your current settings. I've made all kinds of comparisons between Xn and FastStone with the same photos on three different monitors. Honestly, I haven't noticed any differences at all in sharpness when they're viewed at equal zoom levels, which means both programs must be currently using the same interpolation method. I don't exactly know which one it is, but I'd say it's probably a bilinear filter. This is a middle-low quality algorithm and that's why images appear very sharp. FS has an option to remove pixel artifacts by checking a box named 'Smooth', which displays pictures using probably a high quality Lanczos algorithm and gives them a more "natural" appearance (it depends on personal taste), but it's slower for loading and zooming. This smoothing function used to be available in XnView as well, but it seems to have been removed in latest versions. And this is it. Sorry for the long explanation; I guess the last paragraph could have been enough to give you an answer, but I hope the rest helps too. Thanks for your comment.

I've not scrutinized as closely but it's also my impression that most viewers are use similar algorithms, seem about as sharp. I once wrote Irfanview's inventor to propose a sharpen on-fly gizmo or module so that one could sharpen any fuzzy screen image! But, he's too conservative to see how many would love such an applet. But i diverge.
Your comments on sharpness made me remember that, if still image viewers are fairly similar, that's not the situation with video viewers.
I quite accidentally found that when some Russians took VLC's source code and wrote "
Torrent Video Player", while making it play torrents while still downloading [an unfulfilled brag by the way] they also gave it the most powerful sharpen filter since KMPlayers. It's the very opposite of Irfanview [wonderful interface, gawdawful fuzzy video]. It's orphanware but you can still find it, and if you're a fussbudget remote-control tweaker, you'll want TVP.

Caution! Torrent Video Player is bundled with unwanted components that will attempt to hijack your system. Care is needed during the install process to avoid these components. MC - Site manager.
The sharpness that a viewer shows when displaying an image depends on more factors than just the settings you choose for image quality. I'll give a more detailed answer in a few hours because it's longer than I can write about just now. Thanks.

I'd highly recommend Faststone ... much better interface to the others and a lot of useful and easy to access features. Its never given me problems, and I'm especially fond of the full screen image preview with the tabs on the sides. The only one I'd use after Faststone is XnView. Much of the same features and has other little programs called XnConvert, XnSketch and XnRetro which are quite nice. Irfanview's interface and logo (specifically) are outdated and disgusting. Usually I don't judge programs by how they look, but I just hate the design of Irfanview in every respect.

A viewer called Nexus Image has been included in the related products here. Special thanks to choifamilyipad, who suggested it several months ago. And sorry for the delay, but it has been impossible for me to review it before.

Great review! It came to my attention because you said "Some of these programs support video viewing" and thats just what i was looking for. I understand that the subject goes beyond the scope of this review, but it would be nice if at least you includded this feature in the quick selection guide.

Nowadays we take dozens of pictures a day mixed with videos in our cameras, and is nice the see them in sequence in the same viewer.

Could you reccomend me one?

Sorry for my mistake. As Marko said, video support for AVI, MPG and WMV is included in WildBit. And it has its own player, too. It can go unnoticed because it's somewhat difficult to find, as you must enable the filter toolbar and then select the right option.
I'm afraid I don't know what to recommend for video viewing from the programs in my review. Zoner, XnView and FastStone rely on your external player to view videos. Though its developer claims the opposite, WildBit doesn't work for me -please, read my answer to Marko below. From the top five, only IrfanView has its own video player and reads quite a lot of formats, including the 3gp from many cellphones. But don't expect many options like those in specific video programs.

Hi,

Although WildBit Viewer review says no video support. Actually its there (but not for all formats, sorry). Viewer includes thumbnail extraction from video files (avi, mpg, mpeg and wmv extensions supported). Also in Editor (avi, mpg, mpeg and wmv extensions supported) you can even open videos as multi-page view and extract frames from there, edit and save them.

- Marko

I must be doing something wrong but I can't get WildBit to even identify any single video in the list of files that should appear if the program had the video support you claim. No AVI, MPG or WMV are recognized by the app in the folders containing them on my system. I've looked for a way in the program settings with no result. Sorry. Could you please explain?

Hi,

In Viewer you need to choose All Known+Video Formats from Filters (with Show/Hide Filter button).
Default filter is All Known Image Formats and that is not showing any video files.
I will send by email to you screen shot what I mean :)

- Marko

Thanks for that, Marko. My review has been corrected accordingly. Perhaps you should make the video support in WildBit more evident to users. Just think that I couldn't find it even after you said it was there! And I suggest to add support for the MOV format as well, as it is quite common in digicams (Canon, for instance).

Hi,

Thanks for the suggestion :) Okay I will put those two (easier to find and mov support) to my ToDo list.

- Marko

In place of the default Windows viewer I now use JPEGView which is fast in my small Dell Netbook (Celeron Processor). As the pictures looked much sharper in this viewer I uninstalled the ACDsee free viewer which I was using until then. JPEGView is a small download and doesn’t need installation, yet, can be set as your default viewer. It has some other features like corrections for contrast, brightness, saturation, color etc., though I have not yet used it. My main Photo organizer is Zoner Photo Studio Free. JPEGView zip file is 835KB http://sourceforge.net/projects/jpegview/

Hi, Bhat. Almost any other viewer's sharpness for JPGs looks better than ACDSee's. This is something that I warn about in my review and it is included there mainly because of its outstanding speed when opening the files it can read. As for JPEGView, the following is a reply I wrote to another reader who also suggested it here a while ago (november 2010). It's slightly edited but unless the program has changed quite a lot in this time, my opinion will remain the same. JPEGView was already in the long list of products I've tried during these years of testing for Gizmo's Freeware. I've found it's a good program in several ways: small build, light footprint, fast with average files, excellent image quality, useful basic editing tools and support for multiple CPU cores to speed up processing. But I've come across a lot of other viewers that offer very similar features in terms of functionality; they are functional enough to satisfy users that just want a simple tool to open a folder and view its pictures in a linear flow. Of course it's a matter of personal taste and need, but I'm used to the more flexible approach that a built-in thumbnail view with a folder tree provides when inspecting multiple folders and selecting images. Batch processing options in this program are limited to rename/copy. The editor has no undo function. It supports just 5 file formats. Some degree of customization is possible via the .INI file, but this isn't very user-friendly. As for speed, I was expecting a higher performance from the multiple-core support in the latest version and downloaded it for a test on a modern 6-core machine, 6GB RAM, 1GB graphics card, running Windows7 Ultimate 64bit. Yes, any changes to an image are processed almost instantaneously, which is excellent, and loading times are outstanding if you work with JPG or the usually small files contained in PNG or GIF (non-animated only). But most of the products reviewed above can handle TIF just as well, if not better, and even show no significant difference when dealing with the other formats under the same conditions. So, I'm afraid I can't include JPEGView in my article. This doesn't mean I don't recommend using it. Judging by the opinions in the Source Forge site, many users find it excellent, especially as a replacement for the built-in Windows viewer (not very difficult to find something better than that), but I'd have to endorse at least a dozen other similar apps that offer something quite as good. None of them play among the best, in my opinion. Thanks for your suggestion anyway!

I have used Irfanview for over a decade now and while dozens of competitors have come along during that time, it still has no equal when it comes to doing the basic tasks most people are looking to get done. I think it has been downloaded about 15 million times from CNet so obviously the statement that it is a bit unmanageable is ridiculous. As for having a dated interface all I can say is have you taken a look at Gizmos own web design lately?

Although I did try to weigh the pros and cons of the programs included here, my article begins with a warning about personal convenience being decisive when using and selecting the best ones. That convenience is exactly what took me to express my opinions about them in the way they're put and what has taken you to write your comments. I didn't say IrfanView is "a bit unmanageable". My real words are "a bit less manageable", obviously comparing to others in the top list. I admit the 'cons section' for Irfan might be somewhat fussy because the program is so good that it's hard to find something to say against it. Sure you are very used to working with it and after such a long time you know how to make do. And you're obviously a loyal Irfan fan. After all, why change if something works for you? But haven't you thought that your loyalty might be biasing your own opinion about the rest of the programs? Yes, IrfanV may be the most downloaded viewer in history and rightfully so because it is undeniably an awsome program. Apart from that, perhaps many people download it just because they think that such a huge number of downloads must correspond to a very good software (they're right), and they just follow the mainstream without noticing there are some alternatives that they might like better. I first used it in 1998, when somebody told me it was an excellent (and at that time, probably the only) free replacement for MS W98's viewer. I really loved it because it allowed me to do many things with my scanned photos, before I went digital. But my job as a photographer called for something else and forced me to move to something more professional like Corel and finally to Photoshop for editing tasks, although Irfan remained my main viewer. But then many other programs came out and I began trying lots of them, just in case there were better options for my needs. And I learned there were. Clearly, my needs are special and different from the majority of computer users', but several apps in my article could cover nearly all of them without even having to open Photoshop. I have my personal favorite, but most of the time I find myself using a combination of programs instead of just a single one. I'm sorry to say IrfanV isn't usually included. I don't like its current (old, aging, dated) approach. And that's just me. But I happen to be the editor of this review. And that's why I say it's "a bit less manageable". Because it is. Its main window doesn't even provide a right-click context menu for quick operations or easy 'basic tasks'. How can you say "it still has no equal when it comes to doing the basic tasks most people are looking to get done"? Have you really installed and tried the programs I mention above? Could you please elaborate on those basic tasks? Average computer users love icons and don't like to learn keyboard shortcuts or delve into menus. The most basic task that is performed millions of times every day by millions of users who store their photos on computer disks or memory drives is picture rotation. Hey, just try and find a simple icon on IrfanView's interface for a convenient and speedy rotation, instead of having the function buried in a menu. That's what I call ridiculous.
Exshail Image Viewer 1.0 (size about 47 kb): Features: 1. You can rotate image left or right. 2. You can mirror\flip image. 3. You can resize image by dragging any corner of form. 4. You can crop image (by dragging to mark selected portion of image) & save croped image in png format. https://sites.google.com/site/exshail/home/exshailimageviewer
Thanks, Panzer. I'll take a look at it.

to get Zoner v14 (and in general to get classic versions of "up"graded ie degraded/spoiled software www.oldapps.com lives up to its name, worth remembering.

I've never been here before, but I want to say this is an excellent and informative review; I'll be back (in a non-threatening way)

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