"A stable, image browser, converter and editor"
FastStone Image Viewer is a lightweight but powerful graphics application produced by FastStone Soft. FSIV can be downloaded as an automated installer, a zip file, or in a portable executable form – however, it is only available for Windows systems.
Installation of the main version uses a standard installation wizard, requiring only acceptance of a standard End User License Agreement and a choice of central directory. Installation is brief and does not attempt to include any accompanying software or toolbars. Upon completing installation, the software will open a “Thank You” web page in your default browser (assuming an enabled internet connection.) The FSIV installer will also automatically add shortcuts to the desktop and in the start menu.
FSIV is broken into three main panels: the hierarchical browser, the preview pane, and an in-depth folder browser. Sitting atop these three sections are a number of toolbars which provide access to most of FSIV’s commands and features. Each of the three panels can be resized, although the toolbars themselves do not allow customization, and the layout of the panels in the program window can be changed between three options via a small button in the upper right hand side.
Overall, the interface is reasonably succinct and organized; the potential difficulty of adjusting to the large number of icons which serve as primary controls is eased by the tooltips which appear when the buttons are hovered over. The main menu is rather extensive but logically organized and so within a short amount of time a moderate amount of familiarity can be achieved.
FSIV is a richly stocked tool. It provides interfaces with which to take screenshots or import photos from your camera or scanner, lets you tag images and create slideshows or image strips, and even contains a fair amount of image editing capabilities, including red-eye removal, image “healing”, and light balance and adjustment.
One of the most useful features in FSIV is its batch conversion. This tool allows you to take any number of images and convert them all at once to a new format or new file name format, without the pain of handling individual images. This tool can be used through its own dialogue, or by simply selecting images in the file browser and pressing the button to do a mass conversion.
You can also edit the metadata of an image file, or view its properties and information, including more uncommon properties such as a histogram of the image’s color usage, a feature which would be helpful to data miners or graphic designers. In fact, many of FSIV’s features seem perfectly adapted to users who need more complex utilities for handling mass images while still maintaining a certain level of simplicity overall.
Right-clicking in most contexts in FSIV brings up a context menu with quick access to some of the more likely tasks you would want to perform in that scenario – right-clicking on a folder gives you options to set it as the root folder for browsing or import photos into that folder, among other tasks, while right-clicking on an image gives you the opportunity to email it right from there or to open it for editing with an external program.
One other feature worth mentioning is the selection of favorite folders. One of the options in FSIV’s main menu is a drop-down submenu marked “Favorites.” You can add folders to the list that appears here by adding them through a button on FSIV’s console or through the context menu when right-clicking on a folder. After folders have been added as favorites, they appear as a list under the “Favorites” submenu, where there is also an option to organize them. The advantage of this list is that it provides easy access to your common folders – if you click on one of the folders in this list, it instantly focuses on it in the folder browser, thus simplifying the chore of locating your images.
FSIV also makes a large number of settings and options available to you, giving you control over everything from how the interface looks and feels to how it handles various kinds of image files. This detailed customization lets the interested user fully adapt the software to suit his or her needs. Such an ability strongly impels a user to make FSIV a primary application for image viewing and basic editing, since the customization options give an advantage to comfortable long-term use.
The counts against this application are few. FSIV might be awkward to use until you become accustomed to it, simply because of the myriad minor ways in which it can be altered; this makes it difficult to adjust perfectly. The image editing capabilities, while powerful, are quite limited in extent, and each set of editing features is brought up in a separate dialogue, so that you cannot add text and lines to an image and then change the lighting settings without switching to two different editing modes.
Another issue is that FSIV’s file browser does not default to showing common picture directories, instead placing the user at the root of the drive. This can make it annoying to maneuver around your drive to open image files, especially for someone who is unfamiliar with the organization of Windows folders.
One popular alternative to FSIV feature set is a similar lightweight application called Irfanview. Packed with tools but still giving precedence to viewing and conversion rather than editing, Irfanview is a quality choice, and one that can handle not only image files but other media or text files as well, often displaying the accompanying data by default.
Another possibility is Picasa, produced by Google and available for free, with limited features. The primary advantage of Picasa is its ability to integrate with other Google products and services. Picasa also provides advanced image tagging, recognizing users and linking them back to Google Groups.
Of course, the alternative programs mentioned above barely scrape the surface of the number of able image viewers available. A quick search for “image viewer software” will turn up dozens of similar programs, each with its own benefits and detriments, which gives you the advantage of picking the one that best suits your needs – just remember to be careful when considering downloading unknown applications!
FSIV is stocked full of various assortments of tools and features which come together to form a nicely functional image viewer, with additional support to manage and work with your images without opening up external applications for every task.
While limited in some ways, such as editing and file browsing, FSIV is just unique enough that it certainly stands out among the countless image viewers you might consider.
For high-quality features in a nice package, despite a few nagging flaws, I would afford FastStone Image Viewer 4 out of 5 stars.
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