Faststone Image Viewer

Faststone Image Viewer is an excellent, free, image viewer and editor for Windows

Faststone-Image-Viewer-IconI’m very surprised to find that I haven’t previously blogged about Faststone Image Viewer. So surprised, in fact, that I searched my website two or three times (using the search function at the righthand side of every page at to make sure I’m not having a senior moment.

This program is just for Windows. I’ve been searching on and off for a month or so to see if I can find a Mac equivalent as I’m moving all my own photography onto my Macbook Pro (as there’s no doubt at all that my pictures look much better on a Mac than on any PC that I have ever owned).

“Photography software” tends to completely take over the storing of your images and you have to do things their way. This applies to Google Picasa and it applies to Mac’s iPhoto. You do things their way and you trust that the program is keeping track of where everything is. I don’t like this – and neither do lots of other people. I want to see a clear “1:1 relationship” between an image that I can see on the screen and the file in which it is held on the computer. Sounds fair enough, doesn’t it? Microsoft Office doesn’t attempt to completely take over the organisation of your Excel spreadsheets or your Word documents. If you open a Word document you know exactly where you loaded it from and exactly what the file is called and where it is stored when you finish.

Why should it be different with photographs? I suspect the answer to that is that we accumulate huge quantities of photographs (that we may or may not want to edit) and that the sheer volume of them makes it difficult to find anything. I think these programs that take over your images are a response to that problem.

Fair enough if you are happy to trust the program and do not want to “do your own thing” with your images. Programs that work like this include Picasa, iPhoto, and even Adobe Photoshop Elements (via its “Organiser” program). They decide that they’re going to organise everything into libraries and albums and tags and keywords and events and goodness knows what else. This may make for a powerful way of organising things such that you can search for specific items, but that can only happen if you put a lot of effort into the organising and it isn’t the best way of doing things if, like me, you want to start with a “RAW” image, edit it with Photoshop, save it as a tiff file and then, maybe, make a jpg version of the final tiff file. I want to keep track of all the versions and types and I want to know where they are.

The main Faststone Image Viewer window, showing file and folder structure, and thumbnails of images in the selected folder
The main Faststone Image Viewer window, showing file and folder structure, and thumbnails of images in the selected folder
So, for a long time I’ve been using FastStone Image Viewer to look at my photos (in full-screen, with easy stepping forward and backwards between images with the cursor keys) and for seeing which images are in which folder. This is achieved by having a “pane” that shows a “Windows Explorer-like” folder structure and a pane to the right showing thumbnails of the images in the currently-selected folder. This is very intuitive for anyone who has ever used a Windows computer.

If you use an external image editing program (such as Photoshop) then you can configure Image Viewer such that tapping the letter “e” while looking at an image opens your chosen editing program with the selected file ready to edit. How simple and good is that!

Faststone - editing menu
Scroll left to reveal the editing menu
However, if your editing needs are relatively straightforward – straightening, cropping, removing red-eye, altering contrast and brightness, for instance – then the editor built into Image Viewer is fast and easy to use. You don’t need to try to get to grips with the complexities of Photoshop – just open an image to full-screen (by tapping on its thumbnail) and then slide the mouse cursor off the lefthand edge of the screen. An editing menu then pops up and you are off and running. When you have finished editing you are offered the opportunity to save the changed image either as a replacement for the original or you can give it a different name so that you are keeping both versions.

Fasstone image viewer - file information
Scroll right to reveal file and image information
Images are stored in folders and this is just the normal Windows folder structure that you can examine with Windows Explorer (or “File Explorer” as they now call it). You can create folders within Image Viewer and you can drag and drop images between folders. This makes for a straightfoward filing system that you can structure any way you want. It may not be as sophisticated as the likes of Picasa but you get the feeling that you are always in control and you know where everything is.

If you happen to know of an equivalent program for a Mac then please let me know as my beautiful MacBook Pro is woefully underworked until I can find a way of managing my “workflow” properly when editing and viewing images.