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Feb 07, 2002 01:08 AM 7813 Views
(Updated Feb 07, 2002 10:09 AM)

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For long I have used Photo Editor for viewing pictures and some basic enhancements. The photo enhancement is by far the best with Corel Photo-Paint and the most famous Adobe Photoshop, but unless you are through and read many books or joined a computer course, these are very complex. Moreover, such software takes time to load and also hog the memory resources. So higher the configuration, better it works. It's for the pros!


For most of us with average PC configuration there are few good ones available in market such as PicaView and ACDSee 3.1 from ACD systems, a DOS based SEA and IrfanView 3.61. I would still swear by ACDSee3.1 for which I have a review already. But there are certain disadvantages associated with it such as:


a) It is not free and trial version needs one to connect to InTouch server and download e-mails and ads.


b) The initial loading time is relatively fast but still takes some time


c) The download file is 5.66 MB


d) Not many filters


So is there an effective picture viewer that is small in size, fast and also allows some photo enhancements?


IrfanView is one such software.


Installer:There are two versions available on irfanview.com - an exe that installs itself (in program files) and a zip file (in many languages besides English) for those who prefer to do things themselves. I would recommend the self-installer. Its total download file is 800K. But most of the features it claims would not work {Eg. ''Filter Factory'' that has image filters to modify the basic photos.... Not so important, one may argue, but lossless jpeg rotation, opening of mp3, mpeg, shockwave files (basically non-image files) will not work}. Again for those who need image viewer with some basic image enhancement features should be more than happy with the 800K wonder. I am.


For others who don't find it fruitful to use Flash (for shockwave movies) and WinAmp or Window Media Player (for mp3 or wav etc) and Real Audio (for RA files) and WMP7, Zing Player (for mpg or dat movies), IrfanView can be a One-Stop solution (Beware...Its a Jack Of All Trades and Master Of None). But we would need to download an additional 2.4 MB ''all plug-in'' zip file OR alternatively individual plug-ins.


Image Viewing:Its blazing fast. Faster than ACDSee3.1. It opens (nearly all image formats, including new one like LuraWave) in less than 100 ms. There are easy zooming features and color resolution is good. Press ''spacebar'' or click with a mouse and next image from folder appears. There is option for slideshow. But here, unlike ACDSee it does not start with slideshow of photos in the directory. One has to specify the files to be included in slideshow and it also creates a list file on your HDD, so that your selection can be loaded later. This I believe, is an advantage if the slideshow is to be executed frequently and has files from different directories.


Photo Adjustments: There are many features here that could rate it superior to ACDSee. Besides the normal color/hue/saturation adjustments (RGB) convert to grayscale and adjustments and the common brightness/contrast/gamma adjustments, there are other filters such as blur, sharpen, despeckle, emboss, negative. ACDSee has these all. But IrfanView has edge detection, oil paint and pixelize. The explosion one is also good like watching an image through a glass with frost on it. The filter factory (with plug-in) has three more filters - one makes the image appear as if it is in motion...Time pass stuff, could probably use it for digital art.


The disadvantage here is that unlike PhotoEditor, IrfanView does not have slider (other than Filter Factory) with a preview feature to see the changes and adjust the values suitably. This is only for ''effects'' like oil paint, pixelize, explosion etc. The adjustments are provided through a ''Setting'' feature where one enters values in numbers.


Wonder how many trial-error one may require before satisfaction. Renders entire advantage as useless. Even PhotoEditor has sliders for these effects besides useful effects like charcoal and notepaper.


Of course, there are other things such as setting image as wallpaper, MP3 player (X-Audio) and a DAT player (watch VCDs), creating multiple tiff files, conversion of one format to another.


And other disadvantages like:


i) There is no browser (akin to Explorer) like ACDSee has.


ii) It plays Real audio but when it comes to Real video (ram file) it only plays the audio and does not display the video.


iii) Does not play shockwave movies (swf) properly, even with the plug-in.


iv) Like mentioned earlier ''Jack of all trades and master of none''. So while playing music do not expect to adjust bass or treble. You are lucky to have volume adjustments.


Summary:I wonder how this Irfan Skiljan managed to fit an executable complete with a help file that opens a wide variety of picture formats and has provisions of image enhancements - ALL IN 800 K!!!! And then distribute it freely! Overall I would say It's a good product.


But with thumbnail view in Windows ME, I particularly do not feel much use of this one even if it comes to image viewing. And then again, if I were good in basketball I would rather improve on my slam-dunk rather than play golf. (No offense here Mr. Michael Jordon)


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