Irfanview: A Top-Tier Photo Editor

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Irfanview is a small, lightning-fast, super-powered photo editor for Microsoft Windows. If you ever touch digital images, you need it.

I promised recently to write about my favorite writing tools. Irfanview is one of them. This may seem strange. How is an image editor a “writing tool”?


Writers need images and illustrations. Maybe not all the time, or even most of the time. But we do, or we will.

As a writer, you’ll need photos to illustrate your writing, especially if it’s non-fiction. Or you’ll need a cover image for your novel or short story.

Maybe all you’ll need is your own profile photo for Facebook or Twitter. Or for one of those wide-angle “cover images” these social media sites insist you display.

The photo you’ll have will always be too big. Or it will include stuff you don’t want. Or the resolution will be too small, or too large. Or you need JPEG format, but it’s in PNG (or vice versa, or something else). Or the person in the portrait (you?) is facing the wrong way. Or a thousand other little wrinkles.

Irfanview to the rescue

For casual needs such as I’ve described, I’ve seen people buy Adobe Photoshop (for hundreds of dollars), then struggle with it. Photoshop is a high-end, super-heavyweight software behemoth, not for the faint of heart.

If you’re into layers and “unsharp masks” and a thousand other esoteric pixel manipulations, you need something like Photoshop Are you the photo editor for National Geographic? Then yes – spring for it!

Or download the open-source freeware image editor, GIMP. That does most of what Photoshop does. Good luck getting it to run fast! You can make yourself a sandwich while waiting for it to open, while it enumerates fonts and lines up its own plugins and otherwise behaves like the battleship it is.

Oh, and then it taunts you with the same proliferation of esoteric options and inscrutable floating toolbars as Photoshop. If you need all that, we’re happy for you.

There’s also the free online version of Photoshop. There are a bunch of other great online photo editors. I use – and like – several of these. Especially for special purposes, such as adding text to an animated (GIF) image.

But uploading and downloading take extra work, and I mostly don’t have the patience for that. Not for the things Irfanview can do in a couple of mouse-clicks.

Irfanview is renowned for the almost infinite variety of file formats it can view, and convert among. It can play video and audio files.

If you also install the free Ghostscript software, you can use Irfanview to view and manipulate PDF files. I’ve used it, for example, to break down a multipage PDF into individual JPEG images. Or to take a series of JPEG files, convert the whole batch into one multipage TIFF, then export that as PDF.

Need to embed watermarks into your photography? Create one watermark image, then add it to hundreds, or even thousands, of pictures using Irfanview’s batch-processing mode.

Reviewers love to rave about IRfanview’s speed and versatility. What most impresses me is how phenomenally intuitive it is.

Want to crop a picture? Just draw a box taking in the part you want to keep, then press Ctrl-Y (or choose Edit>Crop from the menu). Even the trickiest operations are mostly that easy.

For me, photos open instantly in Irfanview, and the results – when I command it to perform an operation – are also instant. It just works.

Up above, I compare GIMP to a battleship. Irfanview, by comparison, acts and feels like a high-speed runabout.

Oh, did I mention the hundreds of dollars you can drop on Photoshop? Irfanview is free for personal use. For commercial use, you should register it. Lifetime registration costs 10 euros, or about $11 US.

The program is named for its creator, the brilliant Irfan Skiljan. I like the name because it also means mystical insight.

(This article is part of my series on #toptierwritingtools.)

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