There’s a ton of image viewers out there, some great others not so. Some of the most famous include IrfanView which has been around for donkey’s years, and other less well known but popular programs such as ACDSee Photo, which is also not a bad tool. We recently had urgent need of a photo viewer, editor and manager utility, and having hunted around for ages, found one which beat the others hands down in terms of features, power and sophistication.
We featured the superb FastStone Image Resizer freeware a few years back, but the power of their new FastStone Image Viewer (FIV) utility has really blown us away. Now don’t expect a fantastic user interface, with all modern bells and whistles, because that’s not where this program excels. The interface is, to put it bluntly, definitely a throwback to the 1990s, but if you can get over that, you’re going to love what you can do with this tool.
For one thing, and it’s a HUGE feature, it’s one of the very few free photo viewers which let you deal with files on a select and action basis. Most of the others force you to use Windows selection function (e.g. hold down the shift or control key and select multiple image files to process). Which is fine, unless you’re doing a ton of files at one time and only need to select around 20 out of hundreds. At which point the limitations become obvious if your finger slips off the key or mouse.
With FIV, you can set things up to select images with a checkbox, so no matter what happens your selection stays intact (use Settings – Thumbnails tab – Allow File Tagging). It can save a lot of headaches and time with large data sets. The freeware also handles most of the RAW image formats for the major camera brands, which is excellent and very useful if you do a lot of RAW shooting.
We also love the instant pop up editing interface which you get on single image view, which gives you all the power you need to tweak your images to your liking. No, it’s not a replacement for something like Adobe Photoshop LightRoom, but there again we’re not talking the same price league. For what it is, this program really does give you enough to satisfy most casual photographers and enthusiasts.
You can edit levels, sharpen, crop, rotate and all of the usual editing requirements you may need on your photos. There’s a slideshow creator (which also supports mp3 audio) and a superb image size optimizer to help create perfect sized images for emailing as attachements without sacrificing quality. And tons more features too numerous to mention.
Needless to say, the thumbnail and general image handling is first class, and you can tell that because the program does most of the important stuff without you needing to ask. It will scan and retrieve the folders and photos you have on disk in seconds, and just about every action you take happens at lightning speed. Even the editing and image processing is impressively fast.
All in all this is definitely the best photo and image manager we’ve found on the freeware market. If you’ve got years worth of photos you need to sort out, tweak and store we cannot recommend this free program enough.