If you’ve always felt constrained by the Picture and Fax viewer in Windows Vista or 7, or, if Microsoft’s Photo Editor from the older versions of Windows has just been cumbersome for you, Irfanview, the free photo editing tool, might just be the alternative you’re looking for.
This small, lightweight yet full-featured image editor combines the tools of MS Paint and the quick access of Picture and Fax viewer along with lightning-fast speed and tremendous versatility to position itself as one of the best image editing apps out there.
And best of all? It’s free for commercial use, without any pop-ups, warnings, time restrictions or advertisements.
Irfanview was developed by Irfan Skiljan way back in 1996. Currently it is in its fourth version and according to the author, is downloaded a million times every month, all the while receiving glowing reviews from almost every corner of the internet.
That it works with every version of Windows from 95 to 2008 Server means it can deal with minimal hardware with as much ease as it works on today’s computers.
So What Can Irfanview Do For You?
For starters, it can handle almost every image format you have heard of, from Bitmaps (BMP) to Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) and many others you probably haven’t heard through a first-party plugin.
In fact, plugins expand the scope of Irfanview tremendously, allowing you to view files made through Photoshop (PSD), Autocad (DWG) and Microsoft’s HD Photo format (HDP). But it doesn’t end at images – even natively Irfanview can play music and video files (through a basic series of controls), and through plugins it can deal with a wide range of multimedia formats too.
Then, we come to the meat of the issue. Irfanview excels at making photo editing simple, painless and quick. You can instantly resize, rotate, resample, re-color and modify your image through the “Image” Menu or even better, through simple keyboard commands (‘L’ for Left Rotate, ‘V’ for Vertical Flip, Ctrl + R for Resize).
Copying and pasting sections of any image is as simple as selecting an area with a mouse and copying through the Edit menu or Ctrl + C.
It also has image or photo manipulation tools. You can swap primary colors with just two mouse clicks, remove camera flash-caused red eyes from photos, convert the image into its negative and add borders to the image.
Another cool feature is the Image Effects Browser, which allows you to blur your photo (or parts of it), emboss it, rotate it in a spiral or just play around with fancy effects to make the next background image for a greeting card.
Beginning with version 4.10, Irfanview has added a paint brush mode to its list of features. This is the ultimate feather in a cap full of feathers for this software, as the functionality of painting tools here is far superior to that in Microsoft’s own Paint.
Along with the usual brush and line and fill tools, you get features that allow you to rotate the image to level with lines that you draw, measure angles of straight edges within your image and lengths of segments. Even the text box menu is superior, as unlike Paint, here you can add text and preview it at any image size, meaning that you can work with very large images that have been heavily zoomed out to fit your desktop.
Of course, I have already mentioned some plugins (available here), but there are those that go well beyond image editing. Through these add-ons (some of them third-party and shareware) you can save images as PDFs, read Flash and Shockwave formats, transfer files using FTP and even perform Optical Character Recognition (OCR) i.e. recognize text within an image or generate screensavers from multiple images.
There are other features too – you want to download images from a camera? The in-built TWAIN driver can do it for you. After transferring, do you want to convert multiple images from one size to another (say, to attach to emails) in a single pass? Batch Conversion will do it for you. Or send images directly to the printer? There’s the Copy Shop feature.
There are many other features in this versatile software that you can discover on installation. And as mentioned before, not only is it free, but it is guilt-free too. The installer does ask if you want to install Google Desktop Search, but it does not nag you to do so. Therefore, for image processing needs, you may not need to look farther than Irfanview.