Since Free CD & DVD burning software is one of most popular posts on my blog lets make this a series (if you think this is somehow related to very similar articles in magazine Monitor, you are absolutely right - this is a short version of the article published in August 2007 issue).
ACDSee is a legendary software indeed. I believe almost everyone that ever had a digital camera used it at least some of time. But good old days of version 3 that did everything that we needed and was snappy fast are long gone. Nowadays ACDSee is a big and painfully slow and does a lot of things no-one uses.
So why pay for ACDSee where there are more than a few programs that do (almost) anything that ACDSee does?
Lets define what a good image viewing program is supposed to do:
- show thumbnail view of images in folder,
- show images in full screen,
- lossless image rotation (possibly automatic),
- show EXIF information,
- play slideshow.
Of course, there are other features that are welcome like burning CDs, sending images in email, creating standalone presentations and more.
Old, powerful and super popular program with a huge community of fans.
But time got to it and only somewhat slicker UI would bring it into 21st century. Thumbnail browsing is clumsy. I wouldn't recommend this to newbies, but experienced users might like it.
XnView is also quite popular and is a real rival to IrfanView. Authors are actually in constant fight who is copying who's ideas.
XnView resembles ACDSee, it has all the functions one would expect. There are also version for pocket devices.
XnView is newbie friendly and powerful enough to satisfy image viewing needs of experienced users.
FastStone Image Viewer
Another ACDSee clone that does everything good image viewing program should do. But nothing more. It has a special UI design, but that feels a bit clumsy too me - really depends on your taste whether you like it or not.
FastStone Image Viewer is only free for home users.
Picasa was quite revolutionary when it was released. In 2004 Google both the company and software.
The UI is still special so it needs some time getting use to. What you'll miss at first is full screen mode. But that can be achieved by starting slideshow or pressing right alt.
Picasa is also very friendly if you use one image collection from different computers or share the collection. Image captions and other "database" info in written to picasa.ini file in every folder with images and information is easily ported or copied. All image modifications are done on copies of images and originals are automatically preserved.
I really like free Picasa Web Albums which are of course tightly integrated with Picasa. Picasa can also integrate with Google Earth.
I would recommend Picasa to folks that like to be in 100% control of their picture, but it is a great program for beginners.
Windows Photo Gallery
If you run Vista, you have a fairly decent image viewer already on your machine. Windows Photo Gallery can rate, annotate, tag, search images and can play basic slideshow.
Good for basic image viewing, but you will probably want more. Especially since everything I described above is free.
What to choose?
All programs I described are good. All do pretty much everything you'll need when you'll be browsing vacation photos.
If you have Vista, first try to live with Windows Photo Gallery. If you need more I suggest Picasa, especially if you crave for 1 GB free public and private space on the web to post photos.
If Picasa feels strange, try XnView. I used it some time ago, but now I'm running Picasa.