10 great digital photography downloads

With these free image editors, photo managers, and other utilities, you can take control of your photo collection.

Viewing and Managing Your Pictures

Like any digital photographer, you likely have so many pictures stored on your hard drive that you can't keep track of them all. What to do? Check out the following freebies for viewing and managing your image archives.

FastStone Image Viewer

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Browsing your photos can quickly become tedious if you use only the photo tools built into Windows. If you're looking for something much better, but you don't want to pay a penny, consider FastStone Image Viewer, which displays pictures lightning fast and lets you browse them in Windows Explorer-style fashion. Simply run the program and go to the folders you want to browse; the program displays all your photos immediately, showing thumbnails and a preview screen. To see any image full-screen, just double-click it.

If all the program did was display images, it would be well worth the download. But it does much more, too, as it allows you to crop, rotate, and resize pictures, as well as send them via e-mail. You can also create slideshows or convert images to other file formats.

One of the program's greatest strengths is the wide variety of file formats it supports--it can handle just about any graphic or photo file format you've heard of. And since it previews videos as well, you can use it as a full multimedia viewer.

Download FastStone Image Viewer | Price: Free

PhotoScape

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If you take a fair number of photographs, you need this free piece of software. It has so many tools, we can't list all of them in a brief review. At its heart, it's an excellent program for viewing all of your photos. You can browse them folder by folder, viewing thumbnails as you go. You can create a slideshow, as well.

But PhotoScape is also a photo editor, with a complete suite of tools covering red-eye removal, brightness and color adjustment, backlighting correction, cropping, adding filters, and more. Another nifty feature lets you combine multiple photos or even create animated .gif files out of photos. The program also offers a way to batch-rename files. Many people will particularly welcome the application's ability to convert photos in the RAW format that some digital cameras use to the much more versatile .jpg format.

Download PhotoScape | Price: Free

Pictomio

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Pictomio is a great, free, all-in-one tool for managing your photo collection and creating slideshows, including carousel-style shows similar to those in Mac OS X Leopard and Snow Leopard. The slideshow-creation feature alone is worth the download, but this program also has a lot more on offer, including automatic geotagging.

After you install Pictomio, it immediately displays all your photos as thumbnails in their folders--no need to wait. You can view your photos as thumbnails, in a filmstrip, individually, or in a carousel-style presentation. You can zoom in and out of photos, and add tags. You'll also see a great deal of information about each picture, including the file size, the date, and the shutter speed and aperture used. Photo techs will love it.

Although the program has many tools for organizing and displaying photos, it offers few photo editing functions, so don't count on it for making corrections or alterations. Also, before installing Pictomio, confirm that your PC can handle running the software; it requires a ShaderModel 2.0 graphics card with at least 128MB of graphics memory. If you're not sure whether your graphics card meets the requirements, check its documentation.

Download Pictomio | Price: Free

Photo Utilities

Want to eliminate duplicate images to free up hard-disk space? Or quickly resize a batch of photos? We've found photo utilities that can handle those tasks and more.

Image Resizer Powertoy Clone for Windows

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The Image Resizer PowerToy from Microsoft is a boon for XP users who want a quick-and-dirty way to resize a single photograph or a group of photos. There's just one problem: It won't work on Vista or on Windows 7. That's where the Image Resizer Powertoy Clone for Windows comes in. As the name suggests, this download is an exact copy of the older utility, except that it's compatible with the newer OSs.

It works the same way as the original does. Just right-click one or more photographs and then select 'Resize Pictures'. The resulting dialog box allows you to select one of four new sizes: Small (640 by 480 pixels), Medium (800 by 600 pixels), Large (1024 by 768 pixels), or Handheld PC (240 by 320 pixels). When you make your selection and click OK, the utility creates copies of your pictures in the new size but leaves the originals intact; if you click the Advanced button before you click OK, you can choose to resize the original pictures instead of making a copy. Note that the utility limits you to making pictures smaller, not larger--if you choose a size larger than the original size, the program won't make any changes.

Download Image Resizer Powertoy Clone for Windows | Price: Free

36-Image Converter

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Have a photo that you'd like to convert to another graphics format? Give 36-Image Converter a try: It can read and convert photos to many different types of formats, and not just the usual suspects such as .jpg, .gif, .png, .tif, and .bmp. It can even convert pictures to .ico and .cur formats, which allows you to turn your pictures into icons and cursors.

The application also has some very nice photo editing features, such as tools for resizing, rotating, cropping, setting transparency, darkening, and adding special effects. Though it isn't nearly as powerful as the image editors discussed earlier, it is very easy to use. PhotoScape is also better for editing, but if you're interested in a file converter that happens to have capable editing tools, 36-Image Converter is still a good bet.

Download 36-Image Converter | Price: Free

VisiPics

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If you spend any time with a camera, you have lots of pictures on your PC--most likely hundreds of them, taking up gigabytes of space. And no matter how good you think you are at managing your photos, you probably have plenty of duplicates, and they consume a substantial amount of your storage. Trying to weed through everything and find duplicates is a wearying, thankless task.

VisiPics does all of that for you, for free. It doesn't rely on looking for duplicate file names, either; it actually compares the photos themselves. Before you run the program, tell it whether you want the comparison to be Strict, Basic, or Loose, which determines how the program evaluates your photos. It then shows the duplicates it uncovers, side by side. Mouse over any photo and its apparent duplicate, and you'll see them in a preview pane, where you can make sure that they're actually the same. VisiPics can delete duplicate photos as well; just click on any duplicate you want to eliminate. Alternatively, you can have the utility move the duplicates to a folder.

I tested VisiPics on seven folders containing 359 photos, and it took a little more than 3 minutes to do its work. I used the Loose setting, and the program listed 68 photos that it said were duplicates. About a quarter of those, however, were not actual duplicates, but the same scene taken from a slightly different angle. When you use this utility, be sure to confirm that the images it unearths are in fact duplicates.

Download VisiPics | Price: Free

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Preston Gralla

PC World (US online)
Topics: graphics software, digital cameras, photography
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