Zoner Photo Studio Free
A powerful and excellent program with lots of possibilities for you to take advantage of its many features.
Pros & Cons:
Zoner Photo Studio Free ("ZPSF") has been my top pick for years since its version 12 was released. The latest v.19 is now called Zoner Photo Studio X and is not free anymore, as an activation key associated to an annual subscription must be provided to continue using the program after the 30-day trial period has ended, otherwise it will stop working.
Get Version 18 for Free
The old v.18 reviewed here, released in mid 2016, is free with some limitations after the trial period. Still good enough to be the top pick here, it will have to be removed at some point in the future, but its main competitors will also have to improve in a number of ways for me to make the change, though. Be advised that Zoner installer deploys both 32- and 64-bit versions of the program even on 32-bit systems! The download link we provide leads directly to Zoner's site, but please skip their 'Free download' button and look in the box below the 'Download Older Versions' heading, then select ZPS 18 from the list and click 'Download'.
Zoner Photo Studio first installs as a full program with all its features at your disposal to try for 30 days and after that period it will downgrade to the limited free version, unless you provide a valid activation key, but it will still have plenty of great things to offer. Aside from the really bad news about ZPS X, most of the changes introduced in later versions improved the program but some others weren't always for the better, and this v.18 includes a few that can be considered clearly inconvenient. The worst part is that you must be online and logged in to a Zoner Account if you want to use the software, whereas the previous requirement was "just" registering with an email account.
The interface looks very professional, even though all those menus, panels, tabs and icons could make it seem a bit daunting and bloated to certain users, but it's very intuitive and tooltips show up for everything. Three main tabs are displayed at the top right, each one addressing a task: a 'manager' where we can switch between several views (browser/thumbnails, individual preview, tiles, details), a 'develop' tab where we can perform non-destructive adjustments to pictures, and an 'editor', which unlike in previous versions will disappear from the GUI forever when the trial period ends. The old 'Viewer' tab is not present in v.18 anymore but a press of F3 still calls up a detachable viewer window where we can cycle through fullscreen images in a typical sequential way or watch them as a slideshow.
ZPSF generates thumbnails in a blink, much faster than any other I've seen, and general speed is outstanding, especially if you have hardware acceleration enabled in the preferences. The zoom system now also includes a very convenient one-click magnification similar to FastStone's, which was an all-time first and is fortunately being copied by others. You can also sort and arrange your pics into any imaginable order, utilize the powerful search with many filters, tweak a lot of options for customization of menus, layout and shortcuts, and compare up to four images with synchronized panning and zooming, even if they are contained in different folders or drives.
The 'Develop' module sports a complete set of professional adjustments (very useful, especially for RAW and TIF files) with a lot of great effects and filters. You can also make automatic backups of your photos, assign keywords and metadata to them, organize them into albums or catalogs, geotag them by dragging and dropping them onto a map, build calendars, stitch panoramas, share pics on the most popular social media and many other things. Moreover, it reads a lot of formats, including RAW and PSD, and writes to the ten most commonly used. It supports video from within the program, 64-bit architecture and multi-core optimization.
Comprehensive help and links to video tutorials are provided as well. And last but not least, that Zoner account needed to operate the program gives you access to your own online photo galleries hosted by the service called Zonerama, with unlimited storage space, no quality loss or compression, no ads, and you can view your uploaded galleries inside the program.
On the downside, apart from the compulsory online operation mentioned above, even though v.18 has decreased its bulky size by 50MB, Zoner still takes over 315MB on your disk, an awful lot more than any of the competitors in this review, and it needs 1GB RAM. OS's older than Win7 are not supported anymore. They've thrown something as useful as the backward/forward arrows away from the manager view.
Color management and advanced batch processing options are only available in the paid version, except for a few individual operations that can be carried out on more than one file at a time by selecting a number of them in the manager, opening the specific process dialog and then clicking 'Apply to all'.
Although Zoner Photo Studio might be a little overpowering for the needs of average users, and despite some questionable changes in usage, it's undoubtedly a powerful, excellent program with lots of possibilities for those willing to take advantage of its many features.
Zoner Photo Studio Free was reviewed by Gizmos Freeware on based on version 18.