A good image editor is invaluable.
Not only does it come in handy when you have pictures to resize, crop, and convert from your digital camera, you can also edit and enhance pictures you find on the Web for desktop backgrounds. In addition, some can perform specific tasks, such as eliminating red-eye, and other snappy functions, such as creating thumbnail pages and screensavers.
In my experience, unless you're an image-editing professional (which I am definitely not), you don't need expensive programs like Photoshop for these simple functions. With some experimentation, I have found that the features of certain shareware programs are more than enough for managing my images for sending via e-mail, making thumbnail pages for the Web, and cropping to change the framing of favorite shots.
Are you familiar with these image editors or have a favorite that you'd like to share?
Fortunately, some apps are completely free, but paying for a shareware version typically gives you more options to play with. Here are a few of my favorites, to help you see if you can get away with a free or low-cost image editor rather than spending the big bucks on a professional-level app.
FastStone Image Viewer is a recent find for me, but I like the thumbnail viewing page and Windows Explorer-like interface that make it easy to find folders of images quickly. In addition to what I'll call the must-have features, such as red-eye removal, resizing, cropping, and conversion tools, FastStone offers some effects you can use to enhance your images. Another big bonus is that it's free. (Free/Windows)
IrfanView is a longtime favorite of mine for quick editing and resizing of images here at work. The interface isn't too fancy, but once you get the hang of it, this nimble editor is great for all the must-have features I mentioned above, and it offers strong conversion support. As an inside tip, you should definitely go to the developer's site and download the full plug-ins file for several cool and useful extras. (Free/Windows)
GraphicConverter for Mac is hands down one of the best shareware image-editing apps you can get, but if you don't have a Mac, you're out of luck. GraphicConverter's biggest claim to fame is its enormous image-conversion support, but it has plenty of other features that make it well worth the low cost. This one even supports Photoshop plug-ins. (Shareware/Mac)
If you're a digital photography enthusiast or like to scan or collect images, you need a good image editor. These apps are definitely great for the basics, and some offer extra features that make them an even better value.
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