Mac Image Viewers: looking for an IrfanView clone

Update (January 2013):  having migrated to Mountain Lion I revisited my search. Checked out lyn, sequential, simpleimage… and the good old Xee is still the best. I am actually beginning to worry about Mac platform: after all, Xee has not changed much in the last few years, yet nobody really caught up!

In the Windows world IrfanView is the definitive image viewer: intuitive yet powerful, it can be used for virtually any image processing, from impromptu slide shows to massive batch operations.

Well, I switched to a Mac, so I tried to find an equivalent. Sadly, there is not one, but there are some good partial substitutes.

The following are my very brief notes for my own use. They ignore the features I do not care about.

What do I care about? –

  • view images full screen,
  • navigate within (and, ideally, beyond) the folder while in fuyll-screen mode
  • rotate with a hotkey
  • lossless rotate (for jpegs)
  • resize
  • crop
  • copy

Current Mac Preview looses the ability to go to the next image when in full-screen mode, thus forcing me into this search.

Xsee by bitcom – more of a mini iPhoto than an impromptu image viewer. Probably good for organizing pictures. Where is my instant-view? Not for me.

Graphic Converter – the closest thing to IrfanView (still my personal golden standard) in terms of features and power. A big, comprehensive application aimed straight at the professionals. Sort of like “PhotoShop of image processing”. And just like PhotoShop, it is somewhat intimidating and not exactly intuitive till you read the manual (yes, it comes with a manual). I wish I had time to harness its power – maybe there is a way to make it do the simple things too! (like, be an image viewer).

JustLooking – it’s a “Preview Plus”. What’s the plus? – rotating images and going to next/previous in the full-screen mode. There is also resizing. But there is no lossless rotation, and the exif data is not preserved when saving (that is kinda sad, not that everyone cares). Nice replacement for Preview, but i want more…

Photon – very professionally looking application great at what it does best: sorting through your images. If you find yourself coming from a photoshoot with hundreds of fresh pictures that need to be quickly evaluated and put into various “buckets”, this is an app for you. But it is not a “traditional” viewer. Not for me.

Photostickies

PhotoStickies in action

PhotoStickies in action

are a rather unique viewer. While they do not perform any image processing and do not let you navigate to another image either, they are worth considering for the gloat value: PhotoStickies are an excellent way to throw a bunch of pictures (and webcam streams) on your screen right before you show off your new Mac to those burdened with Windows. Each image is shown without any borders/toolbar and under arbitrary angle, so you can really create a credibly artistic impression. I think I am going to keep it just for that (I am vane). It could also be an awesome tool for trade show booths.

ToyViewer is “almost there” in terms of the features I consider essential. There is even a number of sophisticated filters. But there is no lossless rotation of JPEGs. Sadly, when you commit to viewing a folder in full-screen mode, you can navigate between its images just fine, but if you started with a single image, you are stuck with it. Nope. Not good enough for me.

CocoViewX is another near-perfect viewer. In fact, it does everything I want. I just cannot quite get used to a few rough edges in the UI (and I am too dumb to figure out how to resize an image, even though I refuse to believe that the functionality is not there). The ability to mark images while in full-sceen view and then see them in the drop box will appeal to many (and annoy some) – it depends whether you want an image viewer or an image manager.

Jview – a nice, very simple viewer. Too simple for me. Great for many.

Xee – finally! This one works. It crops, it rotates and saves losslessly, it shows fullscreen. The option to move/copy to one of many pre-defined locations is extremely convenient. And so is the hotkey to open the image in an external editor. The only problem is that it does not resize images (WTF???), but then I guesss I can use some external app for that. Any suggestions?

P.S. Who would have thought? – I have configured Xee to launch Preview as the external editor for the sake of resizing. Twisted!  Some day I will learn the power of Graphic Converter…

Updated on Oct 29, 2008:

As per Thom suggestion I have tried ViewIt 2.27.  One more “almost there” viewer. Very nice features for basic batch processing. Very smart “disappearing” toolbox. Support for scanning and import from cameras. Yet it annoyed the hell out of me – once you open a file there does not seem a way to go to the next file in the same directory (I love such impromptu slide shows). There seems no way to cut a piece of an image either. Conclusion: not for me – i guess I am spoiled forever by IrfanView.

Updated on Oct 32, 2008:

Thanks to David (see his comment below) I took a look at Boinx PhotoPresenter. It is a very rich Slideshow creator with lots and lots of sexy transitions and the ability to share the resulting presentation via email, Apple TV, iDVD and so on within just a couple of clicks. Strictly speaking, it is not an image viewer – you cannot rotate a photo or do an impromptu presentation, but it definitely excels at its one task: creating slideshows. I got it confused when i tried to manually re-arrange the photos, but it is worth keeping an eye on. Bottom line: I will likely be buying a copy for my Mom in another version or two (when all the buds are gone) – this is exactly what she would use to show off her travel photos.

Updates on Nov 12, 2008:

Well,  I thought that the best IrfanView on Mac is …. original IrfanView. Since  I got Parallels anyway, I configured it to run in Coherence mode (when it seamlessly integrates with Mac OS). It is true: nothing can beat the original, except… I have multiple monitors of different size an orientation.

IrfanView can handle multiple monitors under windows very intelligently. In fact, i take a tiny credit for being the first to ask Irfan for this feature – he had it working by the next morning, and within an hour iI was buying my IrfanView license just to encourage him.

But Parallels sees my multiple monitors as a single display, and that confuses the hell out of IrfanView in the slideshow/fullscreen mode.

Update on Feb 22, 2009:

As suggested by “g” (see the comment below) i tried SimpleImage. It is sleek. Really sleek. In many ways it has the nicest UI among all the viewers. The icon for “adjustments” is ingenious (wherever it came from). Two problems (beside  it not being free – a good app is worth the money after all): (1) there is no support forum. Since the creator is human, this means that the same questions have to be answered again and again till he gives up on any support. (2) There is no lossless rotation of JPEGs. That’s a deal breaker for me. Still… very nice UI.

The Bottom line: if you have Parallels (or Vmware Fusion), use its seamless integration mode and go back to the good old IrfanView. Life is too short to spend it looking for an exact copy of the hapy relationnship we once had with this program.  I fact, I would go all out and say that this is true of pretty much any relationship: once you stumble across a really good one – hold on to it (more experimentation may bring you lots of excitement and an exotic virus, but is that what you are looking for?)

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