Everyone who works with piles of digital images, scanned faxes, PDF-documents, Photoshop files, and other stuff of that kind is familiar with standard Microsoft Document Viewer. Say it frankly, is it enough? If yes, skip this post, if no, go on reading.
I’ll ask the question and I’ll answer it myself basing on my personal experience. What a good viewer program should possess so that its users would run about and enthusiastically tell everybody how good it is?
Tick off points on your fingers. The perfect viewer has to:
- support a manifold of formats as there are plenty of exotic ones specific for various parts of the world;
- have a user-friendly interface (someone can object that it applies to all programs but I meant a big clear space left for image viewing);
- have a tool set to process files;
- be sold at a reasonable price and ideally be free of charge;
- offer some small but pleasant features as a compliment;
- have a multilingual support.
I would concentrate on description of IrfanView today. For the moment, it is one of the most popular image viewers with a plenty of options. Yesterday, I looked at Cnet.com downloads, IrfanView has over 57,922,500 total downloads. I would call it a perfect score for a free image viewer.
Let’s stick to the bullet list mentioned above:
- Formats. Oooompf, I yielded when I got to 55 and there were many lines left. And I even failed to get to the end of the list with graphic formats. Audio and video files are also supported.
- Interface. When I first opened IrfanView I saw a black window and I was somehow impressed by this fact. I would call it a minimalistic design but nice.
- Tool set. An exhaustive set of features to edit the images. You can rotate, crop, change colors, apply filters and effects. In brief, you can use the tools in such a way that the output image would hardly resemble the input file.
- Price. It is free. To some extent. But I will give details later.
- Compliments. I found a list of toolbars that can be integrated into IfanView. Some of them boast a futuristic design. There is also a possibility to create a slideshow and upload it to the Web.
- Multilingual support. Over 30 languages! As far as I understood, it is a volunteer work and the list of supported languages is constantly extended which is good. The bad thing is that I suspect there can be mistakes and incorrect translations.
What I like about IrfanView:
- Light-weight and easy to use;
- Rich set of tools and a huge list of supported formats;
- Multitasking functionality: it plays images, audio and video files.
What I dislike about IrfanView:
- Additional plugins for some cool functionality are payable. Well, the developers want to eat too.
- The official site is not very informative. But there is a forum where you might find the answers to your questions.
- Maybe it is not about the program itself… But I really didn’t like the words “stealing and cloning of the features” as for direct rivals of IrfanView on the main page of their official website. It’s just… incorrect. But it is solely my opinion.
To conclude with, I would say that I now use IrfanView and can think of the time when I used only MS Viewer without shudder.
The closest competitors are ACDSee, XnView, FreshView, CoffeeCup Free Viewer Plus, Firehand Ember, ThumbsPlus and many others.