A Tribute to IrfanView

IrfanView is the best daily-use image viewer, period.

OK, maybe not for everyone. But for a power-user, that statement holds true. It’s the best general-purpose image editor I have ever used since a long time (2004), and it managed to keep that title for all these years in the midst of so many new Windows releases. It supports all the Windows versions from the ancient Windows 9.x to Windows 8. It is extremely snappy and unbelievably lightweight, with an install size of just about 2 MB (12 MB if all plugins are installed).

A Heads up: IrfanView looks old-school. It doesn’t conform too well to the latest GUI eye-candy standards (to keep compatibility with older Windows versions, I guess). The window border inherits the Windows theme, but the toolbar has always been pretty basic, with just bitmap skinning. If you’re just out for an image viewer which can browse through folders and do slideshows, then there are much prettier alternatives. I for one love Picasa’s image viewer.

As a Viewer

IrfanView is a very capable image viewer if you’re looking for a no-nonsense experience. It supports everything you would expect in a good image viewer, like browsing through folders, zooming in and out and viewing slideshows. But in addition to that, it also supports a lot of file formats for viewing and saving. Animated GIFs are supported too, and my most favourite: PSD files! You can’t edit PSD files but you can view them just fine.

Viewing images

As an Editor

Let’s be clear on one thing: IrfanView isn’t Photoshop. It doesn’t do layers or layer effects, it has very limited support for transparency when editing images, it doesn’t have brushes, a Pen tool or a Clone tool. But for everything else, there’s nothing better. You can:

  • Crop and auto-crop images
  • Resize/resample images, set their DPI
  • Do basic drawing (hit F12 and you’ll see)
  • Change the color depth
  • Cut/Copy/Paste rectangular parts of images using the selection tool with pixel-precision
  • Add text and watermarks
  • Create Panorama images (no intelligent stitching though)
  • Capture the screen (full screen/client area, include/exclude mouse cursor, open in editor/save to file, custom hotkey, timed auto-save)
  • Apply effects (Sharpen, Blur, Zoom Blur, Radial Blur, Noise, Pixelize, Explosion, etc.)
  • Do color corrections (RGB, Brightness, Contrast, Gamma, Saturation)
  • Switch RGB channels
  • Save to many output formats and control their settings
  • And God bless Irfan Skiljan, Batch Conversion with a bunch of options! Open-mouthed smile

Built-in effects

And these are just the features that I use and like. It’s also capable of some other crazy stuff like creating standalone slideshows and screensavers of those slideshows with an option of attaching mp3 files, extract icons from EXEs and DLLs, and much more.

It also comes with a Thumbnails application which is used to browse the supported file formats as thumbnails (I never use it though).

The Thumbnails application

 

A few tips

If I’ve managed to convince you to give IrfanView a shot, then I’m sure you’re heading to the website right now Winking smile

IView_GetIrfanView

I suggest that you download the the plugins pack too, especially if you’re a power user. You never know when you might need them. With the plugins installed, the install size is only about 12 MB, so no loss there.

IView_GetPluginsToo

 

After you install it, be sure to go through the settings. You’ll want to tweak some of them to make IView your own. BTW did you know IrfanView was designed also to be used as a very comprehensive command-line tool? I’ll say it again. IrfanView is the best daily-use image viewer out there. Period.

How I recovered from a bad theming attempt

Have you ever heard of UX theme Patcher? It allows you to apply unsigned themes on Windows (basically most of the interesting themes you can find on the internet). deviantART and many other websites have some amazing themes but they can’t be used as they are not signed by Microsoft. Another reason is that some of these themes modify/replace some system files (explorerframe.dll, shell32.dll, explorer.dll) to theme elements like the back/forward buttons in explorer, the start button, etc.

Since these themes provide modified system files, we need to make backups of the originals (note the Windows Service Pack). There are tools to manage themes by changing the system files automatically (Theme Manager is my favourite). I was using it to set some theme, but something must’ve gone wrong. explorer.exe got corrupted somehow and it was not starting on boot. And I had no backup of the original. If Theme Manager made a backup somewhere, I couldn’t find it.

I restarted the PC and hit F8 during boot to bring up the extended boot menu. I thought I’d find “Startup Repair” there, but I was wrong. All I got were a bunch of Safe Modes and a few other options. Luckily, my decision to have an Ubuntu dual boot proved helpful. I booted into Ubuntu and got online for solutions. I kept seeing a command: “sfc /scannow” all over the forums everywhere. What that command does is check the integrity of all the system files (by verifying their checksums, probably) and is if finds any corrupt files, it replaces those with the original file stored in the repository (C:\Windows\winsxs). So I booted back into windows, but there was no explorer again. I didn’t even have my desktop. I logged into my user, hit Ctrl+Alt+Del, and got to task manager. Tried File –> Run –> explorer without luck (obviously, since explorer was corrupt). I started cmd.exe and ran “sfc /scannow” but alas, I had to have admin privileges to run that command! And I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to start a cmd prompt with admin privileges. All the posts on the internet were describing the GUI way (from the start menu), but I didn’t have a start menu without explorer. Then I somehow found this blog post about a nice utility written in C called elevate. With the help of that, I was able to start an elevated cmd prompt, run the “sfc /scannow” command, and reboot into a working windows session Smile

So the summary:

  • Always make a backup of all the files that you will change when you theme.
  • Theme Manager is a great tool for managing Windows themes.
  • Should something go wrong, run “sfc /scannow” with “elevate.exe

Have fun theming Smile