Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Two free photo manipulation programs


By David Gewirtz

In response to our recent photo management articles using some "found" Microsoft software, we got a letter in this week, from reader Alicia Carla Simpson:

If you are really looking for a great program for resizing, you can't beat Irfanview, especially not with a Microsoft product. PhotoFiltre is also a great little program, very easy to use. Both are free, neither has anything to do with Microsoft. Check them out and have fun.

At Alicia's suggestion, we're checking them out this week and both fit into our "Budget Photo Secrets" theme, because these are two powerful products that provide image management and retouching -- and do it for free.


IrfanView (perhaps the least-accessible name we've found in a product in recent memory) is a Windows graphic viewer and manipulator, shown in Figure A.


IrfanView is a viewer with a simple interface. (click for larger image)

Of particular interest is the vast variety of graphic and photo formats the product can read and save, as shown in Figure B.


IrfanView supports many formats. (click for larger image)

In addition to the large library of formats supported, IrfanView has some nice, basic photo manipulation features, including the basic rotation, resize, cut, and crop features. The program supports a nice selection of plug-ins as well as the ability to create panorama images.

There are two "geek" features of IrfanView that deserve special mention. First, the product comes as a single EXE file. There are no DLLs, no special installation, and no shareware messages of any kind. This means you can put it onto a diagnostics CD or a thumb drive and have it available as a resource for any machine you might be on -- great if you're out with a client, for example, and you need to read an obscure format.

The other geekly feature I like is that the program has a whole range of command-line options. I sometimes need to automate some image processing, and it's nice to be able to build in image processing (for example to resize, crop, or resample, all from a batch script).

For being free, functional, and feature-rich, we give IrfanView a 4 out of 5.



PhotoFiltre is the free younger brother to PhotoFiltre Studio. We'd tell you more about PhotoFiltre Studio, but the Web site was all in French, which is Greek to me.

The Web site for PhotoFiltre, itself, has a well-written English translation. There are a few "all your base belong to us" moments, however. For example, the program has a number of powerful automation features, which the Web site describes as "Automatisation module". Hey, since we barely speak English properly (and that's our native language), it's not really fair to pick on those who are successfully managing multiple languages!