There are several image viewing utilities out there. I’ve settled on the
FastStone Image Viewer as my viewer of choice. More than just a viewer,
FastStone also includes basic image manipulation tools, so it can fill in for
many image editing needs as well.
In this video for an Ask Leo!
webinar, I’ll show off a few of its features.
FastStone Image Viewer. I’ve actually already installed it, but FastStone comes from FastStone.org. It’s a free utility. I believe if you go to the download page, they might ask for a donation but that’s about it. Everything you’re about to see for FastStone comes with it for absolutely no cost.
We’ll start by going over to My Pictures where I actually have pre-loaded a few pictures. Now you’ll notice here that the pictures that I’m showing you, two of them are in .nef format which is the Nikon raw file format that Windows itself cannot display natively. And of course, the other two are .jpg files, which pretty much everyone on the planet can display.
If I fire up FastStone, you’ll see that it too is basically a browsing application. On the left-hand side is the traditional file folder layout and you can see that we’re actually looking at my pictures. But FastStone for a vast majority of raw formatted files can view them natively. So you can see here that those two pictures that were not visible before are now in their thumbnail view. So it’s a very nice, very fast utility for browsing folders and pictures and being able to pick them out and see them and so forth. But it’s a little bit more than that.
So if I double-click on one of these, I get a full-screen view of the image. Now this particular image is actually as you can see in the upper left-hand corner is a 4k by about almost 3K picture; it’s a 12 mega-pixel picture. Which is much, much larger than this particular screen can show.
So if I take my mouse, you’ll see that it looks like a little magnifying glass. If I take the mouse pointer and now click and hold on any particular area of the screen, it magnifies to 100% and as I move around, you can see that it actually moves around in the picture itself, allowing you to take a look at the picture in detail. So, great, we’ve got a way to look at pictures, very useful just for that alone but it’s much, much more.
If I now take the mouse pointer and move it over to the left-hand edge, a menu pops up and these are all of the different editing and viewing options and functions that FastStone Image Viewer provides. If all you’re trying to do is resize pictures, rotate pictures, crop pictures, this is a wonderful tool for doing exactly that.
You’ll notice that there are also options for adjusting colors, lighting, brightness, and so forth. A lot of the things you might end up trying to do with a different image editing program can be done fairly easily within FastStone and all for free. There are also a set of effects that, to be honest, I’ve never actually used. But again, there’s a lot of flexibility, a lot of functionality that is in here that is extremely useful for managing and modifying your own images.
So, and of course, there is Edit with External Program so if you find that what FastStone offers in terms of functionality isn’t sufficient for what you need, you can associate another program. For example, on my primary machine, I actually have Adobe Photoshop associated as the external program. So all I have to do is hit a keystroke, E, and it automatically fires up Adobe. With this particular photo loaded ready for whatever I want to do to it. If I now take the mouse pointer, go back to the center and go up to the top, there’s a navigation bar so now it’s navigating, allowing you to quickly without having to go back to the other interface, select from the other pictures or navigate around your machine to select different pictures and move around.
We go off to the right-hand side; here, it gives us information about the picture. This is the meta data that is placed in many, if not most, image files these days by the cameras that take them. In this particular case, this is a .nef like I said Nikon raw external file and it lists the make and model of my camera, the version of the software on the camera, the date and time the picture was taken, and the various details about the exact settings that the camera used to take that picture. If my camera had a GPS in it, there could potentially also be a GPS location associated with the picture.
And then finally on the bottom, if you hover over the bottom, there’s basically a toolbar that let’s you access many of FastStone’s more common features and functionality very quickly.
‘Escape’ – dismisses the picture and we’re back to our regular interface. As I said, these two are .nef pictures. Right and left arrows will actually move you through the images making for a very, very handy and powerful image viewer. I know that a lot of people like to use some of the alternatives. I keep using, trying to use, some of the alternatives and I keep coming back to FastStone as my image viewer and selector of choice.
One of the other things I’ll to point out before we leave FastStone is that it’s also a ‘drag-and-drop-enabled application, which means that if I want to copy a file to this particular folder, I can click on it in Windows Explorer and drop it onto this folder or vice versa; if I want to copy or move one of these pictures out, I can click ‘hold’ on the picture and then drag it to Windows Explorer and leave it somewhere else or ‘shift-click’, ‘Ctrl-click’ to make copies of the image. We hit ‘Escape’ to stop that operation.
But that’s FastStone Image Viewer in a nutshell. It’s a very handy program; I use it frequently. You’ve only seen four pictures, I probably have several thousand that I navigate through fairly regularly and, yes, many of them are in fact are of my dogs.
How does it compare to IrfanView? So a lot of people really like IrfanView; I’ve used both and IrfanView is a similarly powerful application. I, personally, find FastStone’s user interface to be much cleaner and much easier to use. One of the things that kind of…I won’t say annoys me, but just rubs me the wrong way about IrfanView is that the thumbnail viewer (which is the utility that you would use to look at the directory full of images and just show their thumbnails) is a different application, is a separate application from the individual image viewer. So if I were to open up an image in IrfanView, that fires up a separate program and that actually turns out to cause just a little bit of confusion when you are trying to do file associations and that kind of thing. So, it fundamentally boils down to a matter of taste. I just like the feel of FastStone better and I think that for the average computer user, it’s a little bit more intuitive how to operate the application and how to basically get things done, the things you want to get done with an image viewer. IrfanView is a fine program; I certainly don’t have anything to say against it other than the fact that I just find FastStone more comfortable.
FastStone Image Viewer…have pics in an efs folder; will slideshow option work? An Encrypted File System? Absolutely! Basically, it’s just a file viewer. It doesn’t know about the details of the underlying file system so if you can navigate to a file system or to a file in Windows Explorer or the Command prompt, the fact that it’s encrypted or not doesn’t really enter into the picture. It just accesses files like any other application might access files and the encrypted file system hides all of those details from all of the programs that might try to access that files be they pictures or whatever. Naturally, you have to be logged in as the appropriate person so that you’ve got the credentials to decrypt the files, but the underlying file system doesn’t really matter. And to be clear, I’ve also done this…you can just view directly from USB drives, from external drives. I view directly across from my network from time-to-time because with those thousands of pictures I mentioned earlier, they are actually stored out on a network accessible storage device and so if you just – to put it bluntly – it just sort of works.
Zoner will not show more than one pic at a time. (Zoner Photo Studio) You can’t use slideshows in Zoner for an efs folder, interesting; I don’t know why that would be, to be honest. I see no reason why FastStone should not be handle efs files or efs folders just fine. To be clear and to be totally candid, I don’t use efs; I really don’t like Windows efs because of the way that it’s tied to your Windows login. Unless you happen to have taken some steps when you create the encrypted file system to save the decryption somewhere else, if you ever lose your login to that Windows machine, you’ll lose everything that’s in that encrypted file system folder. That’s one of the reason I rely heavily on TrueCrypt instead and I can absolutely guarantee you that TrueCrypt, again it’s another encrypted file system, it exposes everything just as plain old files once you have a TrueCrypt volume mounted. FastStone absolutely works there and I really don’t see any reason why FastStone wouldn’t work properly with an efs. I’m very surprise that slideshow for any program be it Zoner or whatever would have an issue.