After playing around with some Photo editors, I realized that some of the functionality I was hoping for at a slightly higher level was in fact more for a photo organizer / management program than an editor. So now I’m going down a different rabbit hole looking at free ones.
First up, surprisingly, is Adobe Bridge. I say surprisingly because I just blew all the old copies of all Adobe products OFF my system, so why would I download it? Well, just to try it. And I’m underwhelmed. It’s okay, and if I was into tagging or keywords, sure. One thing it does REALLY well is handle metadata. There’s even a view mode i.e. kind of like details in a file listing where you have about eight columns of metadata with dates, times, keywords, ratings, etc. Not bad, but nothing I really need. Pass.
Now, with the behemoth out of the way, I am moving on to XNViewMP, one that I am really interested in. I have already used XNView in the past, nowhere near using the full power of the tool, and this version is the upgrade. Heck, I’m impressed when I get to the first folder of files. It shows me it in “preview” thumbnail mode, but below each photo is a bunch of EXIF data. Fantastic. Different “views” show different info, but the default includes dates, sizes, and then lens mm (irrelevant for the iPhone ones), f stop, exposure duration, and ISO. Sweet. File conversions to other formats are built in, which is useful for comics and memes in making them all JPGs (better for sharing on social media). And BAM! it allows me to flip horizontal too, without changing the quality or file size. Double sweet. Let’s see what else it can do.
Change thumbnail size, occasionally useful. Add tags and ratings, doubtful (although the ratings are nice — six levels of excellent to poor, but also separated from the tags which allow for personal / work / etc.). Resizing for email, always useful. Upload, probably not the tool I’ll use. Some GPS work that I’ll probably ignore (I try to turn it off on my photos). Oooh, nice, I can edit the EXIF thumbnail, which annoys me sometimes with not matching the proper orientation. I like it.
Oh, interesting, there is even a decent screen capture option with a built-in delay so you can tab over to get it looking right on your screen. It could even tell when I told it to look that I had a webpage over in Firefox and gave me the option to capture just that. Sweet Jesus, this thing has some features I never even knew I needed! Including a CREATE function for file listings, contact sheets, a banner even…wow. This software is downright awesome. I’m in love. Now, if it would only let me do a bunch of internal editing. 🙂 Okay, okay, that’s not the point of this post. Just saying. Oh, and it does a bunch of other things including batch processing, most of which I can do in my file explorer, so not as critical.
While I’m already in love with the XN software, I thought I would check out its cousins:
- XNConvert — I didn’t see any reason to download this, as XNView already includes conversion. But not like this…every mask / filter / tweak you ever thought of doing, you can do in this batch tool. Denoise, blur, crop even. I don’t know when or if I would ever use it, but it’s a lot of power at once.
- XNRetro — allows you in theory to provide just a bunch of filter looks to existing photos, but it actually does more than that…you can adjust brightness, contrast, colours, etc. all manually too in a VERY simple interface. I tried it on my darker-than-desired shot of Jacob inside a tube slide, and although 20 retro looks/colours, 15 lightings, 5 vignettes, and 30 frames later and it wasn’t really doing anything for me, it is still nice to have, and free, so might as well leave it installed. I could play with brightness, contrast, etc. myself, not really the point of looking for simple “out of the box” adjustments though. Weird that it runs as a standalone file, i.e. doesn’t need to be installed. Could probably run it from a USB key if you wanted to.
- XNSketch — allows you to convert your photo into something like a sketch or oil painting. Nothing awesome, although I confess I thought the photocopy effect looked the most realistic of a bad photocopy from the past. Okay to leave it installed, nothing exciting when trying it on a pic of Jacob and Andrea. However, I did a sketch version of my telescope setup and it is pretty sharp. Definitely some interesting possibilities for the future.
- XNShell — by installing this, it adds a bunch of the functionality of XNView to my context (right click) menus in file explorer or my replacement program. Including horizontal flips. Nice.
I almost don’t need to continue, I already have success! But okay, why not?
I’ll give StudioLine Photo Basic 4 the next test slot. Okay, weird startup. It wants to save its data in C:\StudioLine. Why would it think anyone would want it in the C:\ root as opposed to under \Data or \Documents or \Pictures? Or even \user\blah blah blah. Whatever. Okay, time for abandonment. Like a few of the other classic “managers”, it wants you to import everything into a database. I don’t have time for that, I’m modifying locations and files on the fly. The database just can’t keep up. I played with a few settings, and almost nothing was intuitive to me. Pass, uninstall.
FastStone Image Viewer has a simpler interface, very clean and clear. Easy to navigate because it looks like a file manager. A few clicks, and I can flip pics horizontally with lossless JPEG format. Resizing for email or other purposes is pretty easy, with option to just copy and save to another folder. All of it from the right-click / context menu. I tried full view mode, which was a good option. And from that view, taking my mouse all the way to the left pulls up a sidebar-like set of menus (resizing, files, rotations, colors, effects); going to the top gives you a filmstrip of other files; going to the bottom is a navigator menu with the most used options from the main menu I think; and over to the right gives you all the EXIF data. My scroll wheel takes me to the next photo in the filmstrip. There’s a crop and heal function for a shirt with a stain, but I’m no artist at fixing blendings. Lighting adjustments on a dark pic of Jacob on a tube slide were pretty basic. And it has options to create Contact Sheets, etc. Overall? A pretty good tool. But doesn’t do anything that XNViewMP can’t do, and most not as well. Pass, uninstalling.
Moving on to Magix Photo Manager. On the install, I normally accept default installs, but for these, I’m afraid things are going to change my Picture File Associations, so I’m going custom. And this one? It was going to install something called Music Maker too (for soundtracks for videos)? No warnings, not a question, just extra bloat to install by default. Not impressed. Equally, there was a bloatware program called SimplyClean…default in custom was NOT to install, wonder what default was in regular install. I hate software that does that. Not many options that I want for stuff. However, it does have an option for basic facial recognition, which could be useful, but it didn’t seem to recognize Andrea or Jacob in two photos taken seconds apart. Pass, uninstall. Except after I was done, there were three extra remnants left that I had to uninstall manually. I don’t know if it’s malware, or what, but seriously unimpressed.
Apowersoft Photo Viewer was next on my list. It was pretty basic, and it really was mostly a viewer, but even the basic editing didn’t integrate well. Nothing to write home about, pass/uninstall.
Nomacs Image Lounge. The program did nothing for me, nothing to make it stand out. But I would remiss in mentioning that it has a basic Mosaic option I haven’t seen in any other program i.e. take a photo, tell it a batch of other photos, and have it create a mosaic by arranging tiles of all the other photos into the shape of the original. I tried it with a basic print of the moon, and only a handful of images for it to work with, but it turned out well enough for me to keep it as an option to try some other time with much more complicated inputs.
Okay, so what’s next. DigiKam. Okay…oops, it says I have it already installed. Not promising if I don’t even remember still having it. Well, at least I can update to the latest version, right? Okay, so I have no idea what’s going on. In my folder for Pictures, I have one called Working, and in it I have the batch I’m playing with called B1 as the folder. Digikam won’t show it to me. It won’t even show me it exists. Okaaay, so I went to my sub-folder that has my latest imports in it. Nada, doesn’t like that folder either. There are four or five sub-folders under it, but even with REFRESHING the folder, it doesn’t do squat. Trying to import the folder or files doesn’t help either. WTF? Okay, well bye bye, thanks for coming out. Oh, wait, it comes with another program called ShowFoto. Which kind of does the same stuff as other organizers, but not well. Okay, enough time wasted. Uninstalling. I think I only had it in there because it handles RAW. And then, wtf, the importing of a folder created some sort of recursion within the folder. 10K files duplicated, and 20GB of data later, it looked like there was no end. So I zapped the directory. Yikers. No idea what that was about. But definitely glad I removed it.
Well, I’m going to keep plowing ahead. I tweaked my anti-virus and anti-malware and my firewalls to max, even though I already had it on high alert and was only downloading based on high-end sites reviewing the software and certifying it safe to try.
Photo QT Image Viewer is next up. A fairly decent photo viewer. With an odd “transparency” model built in to see the apps running behind it. In full pic mode, I can lock the metadata info bar on the left, decent layout. But nothing exceptional, and XNViewMP blows it away by a mile. Moving on, uninstalling.
And last, but not least, is WildBit Viewer. The viewer was basic except when it comes to EXIF / metadata — it had it laid out in SPADES. Almost worth it to keep it just for that. But most of that I never use beyond the basics. The editor is decent, but when I saved a flipped image, it dropped the size by 30%. Nope, can’t have that. Okay, I’m done. Bye bye.
Looks like XNViewMP was the clear winner. Good to know. And soon I’ll have all the bases covered. Now I want to see what’s out there for facial recognition and mosaics.