The holy Grail: Image browser freeware stuff
I’m a heavy Keep-Everything-Even-If-It’s-Trash kind of person if it comes to digital data. This includes, but is not restricted to, photos. My little crappy snapshot cam is in high use and my flickr-Account already stuffed with a few thousand snapshots. What I really crave for is a little handy tool that let’s me manage my photos offline. But I couldn’t find one yet. Also the discussion on my favourite (german) mac freeware-blog OS X Freeware didn’t end up all too promising, so on with the search.
There’s iPhoto packed with OSX, but since I like to have control over my data and iPhoto does stuff like copying photos if you manipulate them and some other uncontrollable stuff it’s no choice. Most of the other stuff is too heavyweight or does too much. I want focused stuff – do what you have to do, and stay slim. Freeware is preferred, of course.
So right now I just downloaded 13 potential candidates to become my favorite photo-assistant and since I’m currently trying the handy offline-blog-management tool ecto I’ll just document each single of those 14 guys on-the-fly to share my experience and ease this process for others. I’m nice, eh?
Candidate #1: CocoaSlideShow
Hm ok, I guess I didn’t carefully read the description here. This tool does what it’s name suggests: It makes slideshows. You add the files, click “view” and there you go: Slideshow. But it’s doing this pretty good, so I’ll keep it for that purpose. You never know. It’s only 280kb, non-installing and keeps focus – the kind of software I like.
Candidate #2: CocoViewX
This is a good thing! First of all it’s offering a great way of browsing. You have a list just like in the finder. Choose the folder to start, and click your way through your collection. Intuitive. As you explore it you find out about it’s features. There’s a drop box: A sidebar on the right, where you can – surprise – drop photos you find for quick access later. It creates thumbnails by default, however you can fasten the whole thing by either turning this behaviour off (there’s a button to do this manually for the folder you’re in) or at least by disabling anti-aliasing for thumbnails.
Under the graphical surface there’s a lot of power, like exif viewing / editing, batch processing, thumbnail generation and a lot more. If you customize the toolbar you’ll find out about the Rotate CW / CCW buttons. Also there’s a slideshow feature, a fullscreen mode and easy access to favorite folders. Looks like the tool to go. Definitely being kept. Ah, and by dragging a picture from the dropbox back to the browsing window you move it from it’s original location (or, with the default finder ALT-key-cheat, copy). I like this. Oh, 3.4MB by the way. On to the next.
Candidate #3: FFView
Now that’s going to be interesting. This is intentionally done to read mangas and comics on-screen. First of all the mac speech control is popping up, so it’s audio-accessible. However I don’t use that feature at all, so none of interest for me. Uhm … strange things happening. The folder browser looks good, however if I click a folder it pops to a fullscreen-window, no file list anymore. Don’t know why, can’t seem to prevent this. Clicking the “list” – icon doesn’t do anything, clicking fullscreen shows the pictures fullscreen, portrait-formats to be scrolled down. I get the idea of that being useful if you read a manga, however I’d like to stop that fullscreen thing with ESC or at least by accessing a menu with the right mouse button. But nope. Had to quit it and won’t start it again :) In a field of 14 starters there’s no 2nd chance.
Candidate #4: FootageHead
Wow, nice. Very fast, very minimalistic: A simple folder-drawer to the left, a viewport to the right. Creates thumbnails and views pictures almost instantly. Perfect for browsing through and deleting the baddies, however doesn’t offer any form of manipulation (even the rotation only affects the view, I couldn’t find a way to save that). But it’s very fast, so I’ll gonna keep it. Funny enough it’s 2.4MB, that’s about ten times the size of CocoaSlideShow by offering quite the same features. But hey, 2.4MB in times of terabyte-harddrives …
Candidate #5: ImageBrowser
Huh, welcomes me with a donation-dialogue and is asking for a code (you get one if you donate). However, the only disadvantage is that this dialogue pops up on startup. And hey, if the program turns out to be great I’ll consider a donation anyway. So on with the testing. First of all customize the toolbar and throw in the useful stuff that’s not there by default: A button for “fit to window”, a dropdown to change the sort-by-behaviour, a dropdown with applications to edit the current file (supports view for videos & audo, as well as selecting all kinds of files and define an editor in the preferences). There’s a button to generate thumbnails for all files in the directory and one to stop, if things get too slow.
The preferences offer a lot of useful customization, like turning off auto-thumbnail-generation, an option to generate thumbnails when the picture is viewed, one-click-file-renaming and so on. However, especially compared to FootageHead, that thing’s real slow. Loading the same picture takes about one second. Sounds fast, but try for yourself. FootageHead beats that by far. But the cool thing about this is I can specify all kinds of programs to show up in the edit with dropdown, so I’ll probably keep it as a small browser to edit specific types of files. There’s potential, but the image-thing doesn’t work all that well …
Candidate #6: Image Browser X
Similar name, other software. They’re not related. This one starts up kind of weird, with a huge info dialogue and a strange startup-window … hmmm. Hm ok, whyever that one was listed as an image-browser, it in fact isn’t. You have to “prepare” single pictures first, with a helper application, and I guess you then can view it or stuff, but that’s not what I was looking for at all. So on with the tool testing.
Candidate #7: Images
Yep, I really think it’s good for software to have unique name. Makes it easy to find in Google, does it not? Okay, I’ll not be too sarcastic, due I admire people releasing free software. This thing is neither visually beautiful, nor very functional. It’s preview is slow, you can’t edit anything. It’s basically pretty much the same as the finder, just with less functionality and worse looking. Sorry, but this just is … uhm … useless (ah, turns out it’s a java-app. Those tend to be slow, and are just not the way to go for imaging software).
Candidate #8: ImageWell
Once more an application that’s not for browsing. There are some nice features, like flickr-uploading, iDisk uploading and stuff like that. You can add watermarks and do some fancy editing. But once again it’s slow, especially with bigger pictures, and there’s no browsing-like-functionality whatsoever. Probably does another job real well, but it’s no good for what I need. So dismissed.
Candidate #9: MultiThumbs
Starts up with a huge dialogue and an easy-to-understand message: Open a folder with the file menu or drag photos here. I’ll do the file menu thing. Ok, it opens the folder, creates thumbnails and displays them clean on a black background. I didn’t check out the preferecnes, but you can open a photo fullscreen by clicking it and probably do some more stuff – however the creation takes it’s time and isn’t anything like browsing. So this one also isn’t what I am looking for, however does another nice job so if you’re looking for thumbnail-stuff give it a try.
Candidate #10: Photopolis
Ok, this is an exotic thing. It will use photo’s creation dates and build a virtual town (3D) you then can walk through, for example on the “December Street” or the “2007 Street” (years = vertical, months = horizontal). No for the startup. Ok, the first thing with an installation dialogue. I don’t really like this, because I want lightweight stuff I can just delete if I don’t need it anymore, but I really want to try this. I chose my whole pictures-folder (1.5GB). It’s 16.18 now. The progress bar looks good, seems to process the pics kind of fast (yeah, Live-Blog-Reporting. I should do this for a NFL-game: “NOW ALL NEW: LIVE-BLOG-ENTRY-WRITING-AND-AFTERWARDS-READING – All the excitement, as fast as you like!” 16.35 – it’s done. 17 minutes to export 1.5GB isn’t all that bad. Now for the city. Wow, that’s really nice. It’s damn slow on my PBG4 though (3fps isn’t that exciting), but on a fast machine this most be great. Give it a try, it’s a great way to explore your archive! Not of much use, but hey – life’s not only about efficiency.
Candidate #11: PixelWalker
Starts up instantly and the first impression is good – kind of like the column browsing in finder, but all columns accessible. Looks good to me. I’ll check the toolbar and the preferences. Ok, nothing there. The toolbar includes everything, the preferences are minimalistic: Choose your default editor, add file extensions to exclude and decide if thumbnails shall be loaded in the background. Now for the program. Hm ok, it’s kind of fast, but uhm … uncomfortable to operate. There’s four states of window arrangement, bot none with thumbnails + browsing. You can browse to a folder and then switch to thumbnail view, but you can’t see thumbnails as you browse. Not so good. Ok, the shortcuts for the views are 1 – 2 – 3 – 4, so switching is as easy as can be. This way you can browse very fast with the keyboard. Strange enough the folder-view doesn’t show some of the pictures, whereas switching to thumbnail view lists everything. I’ll keep this one and play around a little more, could be handy to find stuff. The thumbnail creation is pretty fast.
By the way it just turned out that any of the tools tested until now has manipulated some of my files. Renamed them quite strangely, one Thumbnails-subfolder has been created … damn, that’s the stuff that just shouldn’t happen at all. Should have checked that after every tool, shouldn’t I? Indeed, I should. DAMN.
Candidate #12: Xee
A highspeed starter. The preferences are loaded with keyboard shortcuts. A few highlights: You can define up to 10 destinations and define shortcuts to move or copy pictures there. Basically you can browse through any folder with the keyboard damn fast and “throw the pictures around” with ease. Sounds like one hell of a productivity application. Wooohooo! Image display is the fastest yet. I like the keyboard navigation, however the scroll wheel works just as fine. There’s a crop function and you can save the cropped part to a new file, however can’t just overwrite the original (what’s probably a good thing). Also you can mirror and rotate pictures and save that over the original file. Somehow the preview isn’t updated, so if you move on to the next pic and go back the just rotated image will show up as before the rotation, but the file is updated. Strange. I like Xee.
The statusbar shows a lot of Info, like how many frames (this not only includes animations, but also the default finder-preview is detected as another frame – neat!), the zoom rate, the total picture count in this folder, date & time, file name, file size in bytes and file dimensions in pixels. There’s a fullscreen-mode as well. That’s the closest thing to IrfanView (PC) and it’s going to have a fix place in my tool collection. Recommended!
Candidate #13: RapidoMap
Ah, finally another one with an installation dialogue. But this isn’t a picture browser, it’s something special I decided to give a try: It’s a geotagging-tool, for adding your photos to a map. Based on yahoo-maps it first of all fetches map data from the web. Now I can add locations. The interface is simple and functional, I like this. As I geotag all my flickr-images and this application has a built-in flickr-upload function it’s just one thing: Perfect. Well, almost. Unfortunately it won’t let me add locations when I’m offline. I need a tool like that for travelling. I want to add locations based on addresses wherever I am, add the photos and the next time I connect to the web the app should assign the locations to the map and let me upload the photos. By now the tool just won’t let me start it up if I’m not online, but I wrote a feedback mail and am looking forward to the reply. After all it can’t be that much of an issue to implement this, it’s just delayed assigning of the info. THEN it would be perfect.
Preview: JetPhoto Studio & a view more
Just stumbled upon this handy thing. With 20MB it’s real heavyweight compared to the rest, but it looks damn promising: Calender view, flickr-integration (tagging, geotagging, uploading, organization by EXIF-data, …) The downloads almost done, now for the testing. I expect another installation dialogue ;)
Also I found more freeware image stuff, I’ll continue my report another day – I’m tired of this screen and I already unpacked too much stuff for one day by now. A quick summary of today’s odyssey: Xee, CocoView X, Footagehead are potential candidates for browsing, as is Pixelwalker. CocoaSlideshow will be kept, cause you never know and it’s just nice, plus ImageBrowser will stay on the disk for browsing other stuff than images.