Microsoft

IrfanView: A robust (and free) image editor for your toolkit

Ryan Boudreaux reviews the installation and features of the free image editing tool, IrfanView, which can be a nice addition to the web master's toolkit.

Some time ago I presented an article on free or inexpensive web design tools and included several image editing tools. A reader suggested that a more in-depth review be posted on several of the tools; in addition, another reader added that IrfanView was left off the list and wanted to make the statement for inclusion of it as a useful free image editing tool. I have to admit that years ago the only use for IrfanView on my PCs was solely as an image viewing tool, and it was not until recently that I found its editing capability goes well beyond simply screening images.

Those comments are the inspiration for this review today, which includes a little history and some characteristics of the tool and a demonstration incorporating several features of the IrfanView image tool. As I said before, in the past IrfanView had fallen more on the viewing-only side of image tools; however, in recent years it has taken on more features as an editing tool and could be quickly incorporated into any web designer's tool kit.

Version control

The first launch by Irfan Skiljan of Jajce, Bosnia the tool was introduced to the world in January 1996 with Version 1.70 and it provided for viewing TIFF's in an uncompressed format. And with over seventy-eight versions and revision updates since its inception, Skiljan's IrfanView is now into the current version 4.3, which was released in June 2011, and today it is considered a powerful image viewer, simple for beginners yet powerful for professionals.

There is support for that

Today IrfanView can read and save a multitude of graphic, video, and audio file formats. It was the world's first Windows OS graphic viewer with multiple GIF support, and one of the first graphic viewers with multiple TIF and ICO support. While certain plug-ins are required to view particular file types, the complete list of supported file types, extensions and formats includes more than 115 graphic file formats, and 17 video and audio file formats. Currently the freeware graphic tool is available and supported in Windows OS, including 9x, ME, NT, 2000, XP, 2003, 2008, Vista, and Windows 7. IrfanView can also run in Linux under Wine, and on Mac OS X under Winebottler.

Plug-ins

IrfanView has many plugins available including many which are packaged together in zip files, however, you can download all the plug-ins from one large executable file, which is the recommended process. One of the packaged zip files is available for multimedia containing plugins for IV_Player, Med, Mp3, Burning, Nero, Quicktime, Real Audio, and SoundPlayer. Another package zip file entitled formats contains plugins for Awd, B3d, Crw, CADImage, Dicom, DjVu, EaFsh, Ecw, Exr, Flash, Formats, Fpx, Hdp, Ics, ImPDF, JPEG2000, Jpeg_LS, Jpm, Kdc, LogoManager, Mng, Mrc, MrSID, PhotoCD, PNGOUT, Postscript, RIOT, Sff, Wbz, Wsq, and Vtf.

Feature show

Besides the 130 plus supported file extensions, IrfanView also features multi language support, paint options to draw several shapes, the ever popular slide show feature which provides options that can be saved as an exe or scr file or burned to CD/DVD, and support for Adobe Photoshop Filters. I will touch more on using the Slideshow feature later in this post.

Freeware download

The English version of the download along with the MD5 checksums is available from several mirrored sources, including CNET, software.com, and others. IrfanView is the #2 download in the image editing software category for CNET downloads, and it is delivered as an exe file, just at 1.6MB file size. In addition, there are over twenty-two additional languages available for the current version, and an SDK translator for other language conversion capability. A full installation with all plugins will take up about 10MB of disk space, and at this size, IrfanView is a small application that provides a lot more than your typical image viewer.

Installation is easy

  1. Browse to one of the mirrored sites and download the executable file. I like to download my files to a software archive folder and in this case it would be something like D:\SWArchive\IrfanView\.
  2. Double-click on the file iview430_setup_exe.exe to begin the installation.
  3. The IrfanView Setup menu will open, and there are several options for creating shortcuts, user selections, and installation folder location selection. I like to keep my desktop clean so I uncheck most of the shortcut creation options, and keep the default installation location.
  4. Click Next and review the current release information for Version 4.3. This is where you can catch up on all the latest improvements and additions to the software.
  5. Click Next again and the file association options dialog box appears. You can select the file types you want to be automatically associated with IrfanView.
  6. After completing the rest of the standard Wizard options, click Ready To Install. When the installation completes, click Done. If you keep the Start IrfanView box checked it will open upon clicking Done.

Figure G

Image editing

Browse to your folder of images and click Open. The sample image I am using in this review includes photo of the cosmos flower and bug subject, which lends itself well to image editing examples. IrfanView can also direct any active image to be opened within any installed external graphics editor such as Photoshop.

Figure H

Notice the bottom status bar lists the original size in pixel dimension and the bits per pixel, which in this case is shown as 2398 x 1602 x 24 BPP, then the current image as the 55th out of 69 images in this folder, the percent zoom of 36%, the disk size and current memory size, (1.28 MB / 10.99 MB), and the file date and time, listed here as 8/23/2010 / 20:55:31. For more information on the image, click the "i" button, go to Image | Information, or use the keyboard shortcut [I].

Figure I

The image information properties provide more details including the file name, directory name, full file path, compression method, resolution in DPI which can be modified, the original size, current size, print size in cm/inches based on the image DPI, original and current colors in bits per pixel (BPP), the number of unique colors in the image, the file disk size, the image memory size in KB, the current directory index, file and date and the time to load. EXIF and IPTC information is also available; however, both of these require a plug-in installation in order to view or edit the information.

Editing options also include crop, resize, and rotate, and modifying tools include brightness, contrast, tint, gamma level either manually or automatically, and then images can be easily converted to other file formats. IrfanView also has a batch process option where many image files can be modified in one operation.

Slideshows and screen savers

Using the Slideshow feature from the File menu, IrfanView allows you to create screen savers and slideshows from image collections along with the option of embedding MP3 audio for background music. The screen saver or slide show projects can be saved as stand-alone executable files which can run on Windows PC's independent of IrfanView.

Slide advancement settings can be automatic for any number of seconds or can be set for manual mouse or keyboard input, and can also be set for random advancement. Slideshow options include setting the start image, and remembering the last file index on exit, continuous looping of the slideshow, loop the MP3 files for background music, hide the mouse cursor, and close the file after last slideshow. Play modes can be selected from full screen to fit image width or height, or the display multiplier can be expressed as a percent of screen size. Click on the Play Slideshow button for preview before saving the file to ensure the presentation is set as expected. Loaded text from .txt files can also be added into the slideshow file. From the screen properties and settings window the background screen color can also be modified from a color palate. The slideshow can be saved as an .exe file for a stand-alone slideshow presentation, or as a .scr file for screen saver.

Figure J

Click to enlarge.

A sample screenshot from a slideshow is displayed below:

Figure K

Icons

You can also use IrfanView to create icons or favicons (favorite icons) by converting them into the .ico file format. Crop the image to the section you want to use for the icon, then set the pixel size to 16x16 with 16 colors and then name the file as "favicon.ico" for example.

TWAIN

IrfanView supports TWAIN for retrieving images from scanners or other compatible devices such as digital cameras or video capture cards attached to the computer. From the File menu, then select TWAIN Source to connect to the device, as demonstrated in the screen capture below where an HP Officejet 6200 is selected.

Figure L

IrfanView has been a longtime favorite among many folks, mainly due to its simple installation, ease of use, and fast learning curve. While it will not replace any major paint or photo application, it does a great job with what it has available. I would recommend the program to any web designer or graphic designer looking for a free photo editing tool.

About

Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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