Ask LH: Which Image Viewer Should I Use?

Dear Lifehacker, I was wondering if you had any recommendations for a good image viewer for Windows. I've been looking for something that lets me view most image types and zoom in/out as well as having a nice GUI. I've been using Microsoft Office Picture Manager for a while and it fits what I need in that it lets me zoom in/out easily, but it doesn't support GIF image types and the GUI leaves a lot to be desired.

I also tried IrfanView but I don't like the look or feel of it and zooming is tedious as it only lets you go by set increments with the + and - buttons and it doesn't show the percentage zoom. Any other suggestions? Thanks, Picture This

Dear PT,

When I read the very first line of your letter, I immediately thought: "I'll be recommending IrfanView". I'm a big fan of IrfanView -- it's lightweight, it has loads of keyboard shortcuts, it can perform complex batch processing, and it's infinitely more capable than the built-in Windows picture viewer. But then I read on, and realised you'd already tried Irfanview and didn't like it. Fair enough -- it's a useful reminder that there's no such thing as a single piece of software everyone will love. Tastes and needs differ. So rather than picking just one tool, here are a couple of free options to try:

  • When we listed superior alternatives to crappy Windows tools, we suggested XnView. That said, if you don't like IrfanView, I suspect the similarly broad feature set here may not be to your tastes either.
  • Nexus Image is a more recent piece of software, which focuses on viewing rather than editing and has a much more minimal interface (as you can see above).

If anyone wants to recommend other useful Windows image viewers, we're all ears in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Just regarding Irfanview - it does show percentage zoom, in the third box from the left in the status bar. You can also hold down ctrl + scroll wheel to zoom if the buttons are annoying (and they are). Fair enough about the look & feel being a bit stale though - there are skins available but they aren't great. I'm usually super picky about a nice-looking UI but god dammit, Irfanview is just so good that it is probably one of the few programs I legitimately struggle without.

    And Irfanview's plugins, especially the ability to hit F12 and have a floating paint toolbar come up (with a clone tool no less!) mean it will always remain my first choice. And the Grosberg_24 toolbar icon set is much nicer too. And displaying the personally-configured exif data in fullscreen mode. And... dang, this programme is just so configurable.

    if you are all about a pretty gui (and not about actual usefullness ie. irfanview)..
    use picasa, seriously

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