A fast and compact image viewer with lots of features and plugins.
Pros & Cons:
One of the best choices is the classic IrfanView (named after its author, Irfan Skiljan). This is a first-class product, but one for which I have mixed feelings. I began using 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 the photos I scanned, before I went digital.
It's always been an amazingly capable application and very fast at displaying images. It offers plenty of functions for editing, converting, batch processing, slideshow exporting, etc. and supports almost any graphics plug-in (including one for color management). Some of the features (its resizing algorithms, for instance) are outstanding and could even rank above a big fish like Photoshop. When it comes to viewing damaged images IrfanView will try and display every area it can, instead of the error message that most other programs will show.
It's a small download and it takes a mere 2MB on disk. This program has steadily remained the most downloaded (and then probably used) free viewer on download sites. And not without a reason, because it's a very powerful performer.
But, although so many users love it, IrfanView just doesn't work the way I'd like it to. There's some kind of "inconsistency" to it that is hard for me to explain. As personal quirks I'll say wheel zooming here requires holding the Ctrl key because it's assigned to browsing previous/next file, but then an image zoomed larger than the program window moves up and down when you spin the wheel. The inspection of different areas of a magnified image is done by right-clicking on it and dragging around with the mouse, as opposed to the usual left click in most other viewers.
RAW support needs several different downloads and installs for plug-ins or dll's, and I don't see the point in having that separate module for thumbnails. This, however, may be exactly what other users prefer and the same applies to the interface, which looks a bit too outdated to me. It's quite simplistic, but not really intuitive and it's looked almost the same since early versions. I'm not fond of programs changing interfaces if I like a previous one, but a revamp might be welcome once in a while. Anyway, Irfan is a real winner for obvious reasons.
(The first download link on Irfan's site points to Cnet, which can be objectionable for its download policy and the unwanted additions it installs sometimes. Many alternatives can be found on the same page.)
IrfanView was reviewed by Gizmos Freeware on based on version 4.42.