Five Best Desktop Comic Book Readers

There's a certain nostalgia to reading a paper comic book and flipping the pages, but if you can get digital copies of your favourite comics and you can use your computer's large display to read them, why not? This week we're going to take a look at five apps that can make downloading and reading comics on your computer fun and easy.

CDisplay/CDisplayEx (Windows)

CDisplay is the work of developer and comic lover David Ayton, who wanted a simple, sequential image viewer that was optimised for images like comics. The app is to this day an exceptional, lightweight, image viewer. It can resize images to fit your view, and apply colour corrections, if you wish. Sadly, Ayton passed away in 2003, not too long after making the app available. His web host keeps CDisplay alive in its current state, and the torch has been passed to the developers of CDisplayEx, an open source comic viewer that's built on CDisplay. CDisplayEx adds features to the original, integrates a 7zip plugin, so it's easy to view images inside of archives, supports PDF files, adds multi-language support, and more. You can still get CDisplay, but CDisplayEx is the only one under current development.

ComicRack (Windows)

ComicRack is a free, feature-packed comic reader for Windows. The app supports and can export almost any comic book file, and also supports image viewing through ZIP, RAR and 7z archives so you don't have to unpack them first. The app has a three-paned interface to let you navigate through files and folders inside the app, browse your comics in the bottom pane, and read pages at the top. Another feature that makes ComicRack stand out is that you can collect your favourite comics together in collections, pack them up as a CBZ file, and export the archive so it's readable on other devices. ComicRack even allows you to share your comic library over your home network so you can go to another room and pick up where you left off.

SimpleComic (Mac)

If you're looking for an incredibly simple comic reader for Mac that supports both windowed and full-screen comic views, SimpleComic is a great, free option. The app scales your pages to the size of the window when not in full-screen, supports Quick Look in OS X, so you can peek through the comic before you settle in to read it, automatically saves your place when you stop reading, and more. The app also supports translation and other notes left in the metadata, and is completely open source. It's fast, intuitive and free.

Comix (Linux)

Comix is a simple image viewer for Linux that was designed to handle sequential images in a simple interface that was designed for comic books. All of the pages run down the left side of the screen, and a large pane on the right shows you the current page. The app supports images inside of archives like ZIP, RAR, or .tar files, or can handle a plain folder full of images. The app is lightweight, free, open-source, and gets the job done. Comix does require Python, PyGTK+ (or another GTK+ framework), and the Python Information Library (PIL) installed on your system before it'll run. Some package managers already include Comix, so installing it may be a terminal command away.

MangaMeeya (Windows)

MangaMeeya is maintained by fans at Manga Underground, although its origins are a little mysterious. Regardless of where the utility was born, the program works especially well for manga fans, who have to deal with translation notes and often read from right to left (the way the original manga is published). That isn't to imply that MangaMeeya is only good for manga. The app is a great comic reader and image viewer for all images, and allows you to read multiple pages at once, customise key commands to browse images, and works just fine as a sequential image viewer even if you're not reading comics or manga. MangaMeeya also supports image browsing through RAR and ZIP archives, and can unpack them to a folder as well.

This week's honorable mention goes to Comic Book Lover (Mac, Free), which only missed the top give by one nomination! Often heralded as "the iTunes for comic books", Comic Book Lover gives you an easy to use interface to read your comics, includes important metadata like the artist, writer, publisher, and more, and also syncs with your iOS device via the Comic Book Lover iOS app (which is free) so you can read your comics on the go.

Have something to say about one of the contenders? Upset your favourite missed the cut? However you feel, let's hear it in the comments below.


    lifehacker, you have an uncanny nack of publishing articles to personal queries i have googled only days before the publishing your articles.

      Theyre tracking you.

        this is entirely true, i recall searching lifehacker for an article on comic book readers before google. they've observed my failed search and filled the gap for which i applaud them.

    What is that comic in the title??

    I also find ComicRack is pretty good at reading stuff ( quite configurable ) however its browser is very confusing to use. I tend to double click a cbr and read it, but then i'm in limbo land. I'd like it to be able to show me comics in the same directory at least. It does remember one's im 'reading' or have read.. and kinda does cool stuff, but i've been using it for 6 months now and still haven't got used to it. Previously Gonvisor was the go, as its just a straight our reader with autocontinue.

    For locked down work computers, I use Sumatra PDF on Portableapps - it can view CBR and CBZ archives.

    So THAT's why CDisplay hasn't updated for so long!

    Mind you, it doesn't really need updating. It does one task and does it well.

    It's so lightweight that I use it to read a comic while the rest of my bloated WinXP desktop boots; the only program that'll respond while the CPU and HD are so busy.

    CDisplayEx ist NOT open source.

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