Using the Graphics Viewer IrfanView


IrfanView is, in my opinion, the best freeware/shareware graphics viewer available. It's controls are intuitive and the program can perform virtually all of the functions that I typically need. Keep in mind that this program is not a replacement for applications such as Adobe Photoshop. While it does have some editing capabilities, it's basically a graphics viewer. I'll cover many (but not all of the features).

The Buttons on the Toolbar

This first image is the IrfanView desktop. As you can see, it uses a standard Windows layout. The buttons on the toolbar are as follows:

This opens the file browser window to the default/last used folder. Notice that there is a preview window that shows the highlighted file. It also gives you basic information about the file.

Opens the dialog window used to set-up/generate a slideshow. There are options associated with this that I'll cover in detail later.

Save/Save As:
Use this button to save a file. Below, you can see the various file properties available when you have selected the option to show the 'save dialog box'. This option can be set in OPTIONS >> PROPERTIES >> MISC. 1 and check/un-check the Display 'Save' - Dialog for -> 'File Save' box. When saving JPG files, you have the ability to set the desired quality of the image by moving the slider left (low quality, small file sizes) or to the right (higher quality, large files).

This will delete the file from the computer. The following is a list of other options for the delete button. You can access them through OPTIONS >> PROPERTIES >> FILE HANDLING.

  • Delete without asking
  • Delete to recycle bin or delete immediately
  • Jump to next file after delete
  • Close program after delete

This cuts the selection (removes it from the image leaving the 'background color for cut' behind). To make a selection, left-click and drag the mouse or use the 'Create a custom selection' in the edit menu. After 'cutting' (as opposed to 'copying') the selection area is reset (no longer selected). In this next image the 'background color for cut' was set to black when I cut the selected area.

Here, the 'background color for cut' was set to white. As you can see, instead of randomly selecting an area, I selected two of the thumbnails and their associated text. Since the background of the image and the 'background color for cut' were set to the same color, you can not tell where they were cut from (the area from which they were cut was replaced with the 'background color for cut' which was set to white). To set the 'background color for cut' option, go to >> OPTIONS >> PROPERTIES and select the MISC. 3 tab.

This copies a selection. It doesn't remove the selection from the image. After 'copying' the selected area remains selected. As with cutting, the selected area is copied to the Windows' 'clipboard' (in memory).

After cutting/copying, if you click PASTE with no selection defined, the currently displayed image will be replaced with the selection you cut/copied. If the previous selection is still displayed/selected (as after copying), pasting will simply replace it. If you copy/cut a selection then make another selection, the selection will be filled with the cut/copied selection. If the newly selected area is a different size than the copied selection, the old selection will be resized to fit the newly defined selection. In the following image, I selected and copied the 'bios3' thumbnail. I then selected a small area at the upper left of the image and pasted the copied selection. I did the same 2 more times. Once in the center of the first and second columns (very narrow and relatively tall). The second selection stretches virtually all of the way across the center of the image.

Above, notice that the pasted image that's larger than the original image is blurred (lacks definition). This is because there's a limited amount of data with which to work. To fill the larger area, the software has to generate additional image data based on the available image data. This is common in bitmap editing and is not the fault of the software.

The undo (and redo when available) arrow simply un-does the last operation. There is only one undo level. Only the LAST operation can be undone. If you need to go back more than one operation, you will have to REOPEN the file. Do NOT save the file before you reopen it unless you save it with a different name. If you save it with the same name in it's original location, you will overwrite the original file with the file you edited.

The main dialog box gives you the basic file information for the image.

The EXIF data is generated by the camera when the picture is taken.

The ITPC information is editable by anyone who views the file with software that offers access to the information. You can see a few of the available fields below.

These buttons change the size of the displayed image. As you can see in the following image, the actual size of the image is 2048x1536 (look at the status bar at the bottom of the IrfanView window). The window size is set to 800x600 for the tutorial. IrfanView has resized the image to fit the window. To make the image larger, you click the plus button (to bring the displayed image closer to its actual size). You should also notice that the status bar tells us the percentage of the actual size and other various information.

Below, I clicked the '+' button until the image was displayed at 100%. When the image display size is larger than the window, you can see only a portion of the image. To get to the part of the image in which I was interested, I used the RIGHT mouse button to drag the image (when zoomed, the default view was the upper left corner of the image). Another way to zoom-in is to select an area then click inside the selected area.

Note: There are several default settings for the way IrfanView displays an image. They can be accessed by going to VIEW >> DISPLAY OPTIONS. The following image shows the options.

Left-Right arrows:
These step you through the supported image files in the current directory. You can also use the left/right arrow keys or the space bar/backspace key on your keyboard to step through the files.

Using the Slideshow Function

IrfanView can produce slideshows from images, audio and video files stored on your computer. You can select any or all supported image types from any directory on any storage device. This section will lead you through a few of the features.

Standard Slideshow:

To play a standard slideshow: click the SLIDESHOW button >> navigate to the desired directory >> ADD FILES to the slideshow and click PLAY.

You can add files in several ways:

  • You can select them from the IrfanView file browser on the right (shift-click to add consecutive files, ctrl-click to add non-consecutive files, drag to select files) and click the ADD button.
  • You can choose ADD ALL and and all displayed files will be added. If you have the 'include sub-directories' checked, the files in the sub-folders in the chosen directory will be included.
  • You can drag them from a Windows Explorer window. You would drag them to the left pane (under 'slideshow files').

You can sort the files manually or by clicking the ADVANCED OPTIONS button and selecting one of the choices in the dialog box.

The slides can be advanced in several different ways:

  • Forward by keyboard input (spacebar, arrow up, arrow right, enter)
  • Backwards by keyboard input (backspace, arrow down, arrow left)
  • Forwards by mouse (right button, wheel back)
  • Backwards by mouse (left button, wheel forwards)
  • Forwards automatically (time interval can be set in dialog box)
  • Sequence can be determined by the order of the files in left pane (the 'added' files) or it can be set to play in random order.

Since audio files are included in the supported file types, you can select an entire directory of files and have them play in any order you select (even randomly). It also works with video files. You may need to download the 'plugins' from the IrfanView site to play audio and video files.

Building Screensavers:
To build a screensaver, you build a file list as you would for a slideshow and then click the 'Save as EXE/SCR file'. This will work for all supported file types. I tried it with video files but it would not remain in screensaver mode. It's likely something in my computer that's triggering it because it works fine with other files (don't set the interval below one second). Set the files to loop. Remember that most of the options for the slideshow affect the screensaver.


  • Screensavers are not necessary for LCD monitors. They were designed (and are necessary for) CRT based monitors. With an LCD monitor, unless you simply want to have a group of images shown when the computer is idle, a screensaver is unnecessary.
  • If you have a CRT based monitor, I wouldn't suggest using video files in a screensaver. When playing videos, there is a bright (relatively high intensity) toolbar on the player that could burn a CRT after a few months. LCD monitors will not burn so this doesn't apply to them.

Saving the File List:
When you build a file list, you can save that list. The list can be used to load a previously generated slideshow. To save the list, click the 'Save filenames as TXT' button.

Note: I have found no way to print a list of files from Windows Explorer (except for this feature in IrfanView). To generate the file below, I set the slideshow file browser to show 'all files' and then clicked ADD ALL. Then I saved the file list to a text file. If someone knows a different way to generate a file list in text form, please email me.

Image Editing

Resizing an Image:

While IrfanView isn't a full featured image 'editor' (I don't think it was ever supposed to be a full featured editor), it can handle a few tasks. The following is an image that needs to be reduced in size. It's 800 pixels wide here. I want it to be 640 pixels wide. To resize it, I'll go to IMAGE >> RESIZE/RESAMPLE.

In the dialog box, I can either enter the width I want on the left or I can pick a standardized size from the right size. I chose the 640x480 radio button and clicked OK.

This is the result. You'll notice that the resized image is not exactly 640x480. That's because the choice to preserve the same 'aspect ratio' was checked. Since the height/width ratio of the original image (800/587 or 1.362/1) was not the same as the chosen new size (640/480 or 1.333/1), the software could not resize to exactly the chosen size. If 'preserve aspect ratio' was de-selected, the new image would have been resized to precisely the chosen size.

Applying Artistic Effects to an Image:
Below I applied a few of the artistic effects to the the image above.

This is the 'effects browser'. Here, you can get a preview of the effects on your image. Most of the effects have one or more variables you can change to suit your needs.
3D Button
Edge Detect
Here, I reduced the color depth to 8 colors.
This is under the 'Enhance Colors' link. You can adjust the brightness, contrast and saturation as well as the level of each of the individual colors (Red Green and Blue). You can see the results before applying them to the original.

Red-Eye Removal:
While I didn't have a photo with red-eye, this will show you the effect. To remove red-eye, select the red pupil and a small area around it (the 'small area around it' can't be avoided because the selection is square and the pupil is round). The first image below shows the selection on the image before the reduction. The second image shows the red area removed.

Screen Capture:
If you're reading through the tutorial in order (from top to bottom in the directory), you've read the 'Keyboard Shortcuts and More' page. On that page, I mentioned screen capture. With no additional software, in Windows, you can capture the desktop or the foremost window. While this works relatively well, it has it's limitations. For instance, if you're capturing the screen and need the cursor to be visible in the captured image, it doesn't work. IrfanView allows you to capture the screen precisely as you see it. The following is the dialog box for the screen capture module:

Above, you can see that you have a choice of different trigger modes (on the right of the dialog box). The captures can be triggered manually by a set of keystrokes or at selected time intervals. If you want the screen to be captured by a keyboard shortcut, you can set the shortcut key by clicking inside the text field next to 'Hot Key' and pressing the desired key. When you press alt and the selected key, an image will be captured. The captured image can be dropped in any folder (the default folder is set on the lower part of the dialog box) or the captured image can be set to open automatically in IrfanView for editing.

At the left of the dialog box shown above, you can see that you have 3 choices for the capture area. It can capture everything that's displayed on the monitor (shown below).

It can capture the full frame of the active (foremost) window.

Or it can capture the 'client area' of the foremost window (shown below).

When capturing by time interval, it will capture frames until you reopen the capture dialog box (simply press the 'c' key when IrfanView is the foremost window) or until you close IrfanView. In the next image, you can see that I set the capture timer to 1 second. The files from the highlighted file down were created by IrfanView at 1 second intervals. Notice that they were dropped in the 'destination directory' (drive 'H' in this case) selected in the capture dialog box.

Batch Conversion/Rename:
If you need to perform the same operation on multiple images, you can do it with the 'batch conversion/rename' function in IrfanView. To start, go to FILE >> BATCH CONVERSION/RENAME or hit the 'R' key. When the dialog box opens, navigate to the desired folder and add all of the files to the batch. Here, I'll be converting TIF images to JPG images. There is a lot going on in this section so pay close attention.

Here, we see the batch dialog box. All of the files have been added already. I've also set the output folder to a new one I created just for this example. You can drop them into the same folder if you like but this makes things a little neater.

When I clicked on the 'Set Rename Options' button above, the following dialog box popped up. Here, we control what the new name will look like. Here's a list of options:

  • If we want the old name included in the new name, we include the string $N.
  • If we want to add new, incremental numbers to the old images, we include one '#' for every number. If you have less than 10 images in the batch, you only need one #. If you have less than 100, you need only 2 #s. If you have less than 1000, you need only 3 #s. You get the picture. If you don't include enough #s, it will still place the incremental numbers in the name but the length of the new numbers will vary. For example, if you include 3 #s (good to 999), the numbers will start with filename001, filename002...filename055...filename999. If you only include one #, the name will look like this filename1, filename2...filename55...filename999.
  • In the 'Replace Text' boxes, you can tell the software to replace some part of the original name with some other text. Since all of the files began with 'P', I told it to replace the 'P' with 'Renamed'.
  • The 'Starting Index' is the number of the first renamed file (to be inserted where you entered '#' above). Unless you've previously renamed a portion of the files, you will generally leave this at '1'. The increment is the amount the file number will increase for each renamed file. This will generally be left at '1'.

The dialog box has several options on the way the actual image is processed. For example, you can resize all of the images. Although it's perfectly fine to reduce an image's size, increasing the size is rarely done because the quality suffers. you can apply effects (sharpen, brightness, gamma...). There's a long list down the right side of the dialog box. Most all of the options are self explanatory. If you look near the bottom of the right side of the dialog box, you will see an option for text overlay. When this box is checked, the grayed out button will become active.

Above, I chose to add the text overlay. Below, you can see the dialog box. Here, you can add text to the images. For our sample, we added a short message indicating that there was no copyright and we included the file name. Please note that the original file name and extension will be shown. If you want the new file name and extension to be shown, you'd have to add the overlay AFTER renaming the files. The height and width dimensions are for the text box on the image (the text box borders are not visible). On our images, I wanted the text to be centered so I set the text box to the same width as the image and checked the radio button labeled 'center'. The text is going to be centered in the text box, not necessarily on the image. The X/Y values are for the top, left corner of the text box. Setting these will force the text box away from the top left of the image. Here, I left the X (left/right) value at zero. I set the Y (up/down) value to 1/2 of the image height. This means that the top of the text will fall below the centerline of the image. If you want the text to have no background (other than the image), select 'transparent text'. If you want it to have a background, you can select the color below. Keep in mind that the background will fall only directly behind the individual letters (the entire text box will not have a background).

The following image is a before/after example of what the text looks like.

This is a side_by_side comparison of the new files and the old files.

Creating Thumbnails:
Many times, when working on web sites, it's necessary to generate thumbnail images (generally used as links to the full size version). Irfanview allows you to create thumbnails in a few easy steps. To access the Thumbnails module, go to FILE >> THUMBNAILS or simply hit 'T' on the keyboard. Below, you can see the main window.

This is the dialog box for the thumbnail options. It can be accesed by going to OPTIONS >> SET THUMBNAIL OPTIONS. A couple of notes:

  • Resampling is not really necessary for thumbnails this small. If they were larger than 150x150, then you may want to consider it. That said, unless you have a large number of thumbnails AND a very slow computer, the added time from resampling will likely not be noticeable. If you want to make the thumbnails noticeably better, try the 'sharpen' filter.
  • The thumbnail size can be set to any of several sizes (accessible by clicking the 'down arrow' on the drop-down menu).
  • If you 'stretch' the thumbnails, they may become distorted if the height/width ratio of the thumbnail doesn't match the ratio of the original image.
  • If you choose 'paint thumbnail borders', the area outside the image will be filled with the color selected.
  • The background color of the window has nothing to do with the way the thumbnails will be rendered but it will give you an idea of what the thumbnail will look like in its intended environment.

To generate the thumbnail files, go to FILE and select the appropriate output. The one I chose (to generate individual thumbnails) is highlighted. The thumbnail will have the same name exept that '_t' will be appended to the file name (before the extension).

This is an example of what you might do with thumbnail images.  
   TH -- 005 -- TH003_095.jpg
   TH -- 007 -- TH004_095.jpg
   TH -- 009 -- TH005_095.jpg
   TH -- 012 -- TH007_095.jpg
   TH -- 014 -- TH008_095.jpg



Contact Sheets:
When someone has to choose an image from a large group of images, they often print a contact sheet. It contains the images and the name of the image (or some other reference). To print a contact sheet with IrfanView, you follow the same steps as the previous example but instead of making the choice to generate individual files, you select the option to generate a contact sheet. If you have a lot of thumbnails, you may only want to generate the fisrt page to see if you need to make any changes. If you like the output, then you can generate an entire set of contact sheets. Below, you can see the 3 pages generated for the images we had in the directory.

Note: For this example, I went through and batch renamed the files (I had deleted the files from the previous example). This time, I inserted the incremental number near the beginning of the file name. If you are going to insert this number near the beginning of the file name (so that the number has a significant effect on the order of the files when sorted), you should include at least as many #s as you have digits in the file count. Failure to do so may lead to files being sorted in a somewhat different order (depending on the sorting system).

Acquiring an Image from a Scanner

Although the fine details will vary from one scanner to another, the basic steps will be the same. To scan an image (assuming that you have a scanner installed on your computer), you go to FILE >> ACQUIRE. You will see something similar to this first image (your software will be different).

Click PREVIEW to make a preliminary scan of whatever's on the scanner table. If you have the option to select the scanning resolution. Some software is dumbed down so you may have to work a little to access the advanced options.

When the image appears, select the desired area (if it hasn't be automatically selected) and click SCAN. When the scan is done, the image will open in IrfanView to be edited and/or resized and then saved.


The following images in this section are of the print dialog box. Irfanview offers more print options than any other software I've ever used. It's very easy to get the printed page to look precisely as you'd like. For instance, I've used it quite a few times to print scanned pages. To get a good quality scan of a text page, you have to scan it at relatively high resolution (~600dpi). If you scan at that high of resolution, many software packages will print it on multiple pages instead of a single page. in IrfanView, you can easily print it to perfectly fit the page.

With this setting (note the 'print size' options), the file will be printed to the actual 'width'. If, for example, you print a page that would be a full normal (8.5x11in) page, in 'landscape', the page will be the correct width but it will be squished from top to bottom.

Here, the file will be printed as large as possible within the margins of the page and the aspect ratio will remain in-tact.

In this first image, the image is going to fit to the margins of the page with no regard to the original aspect ratio. This will provide the largest possible printing of the file. It may also result in geometric distortion (squares may become rectangles, circles may become ovals).

Here, the image will be a specific size. Note that the units (centimeters/inches) are used in this setting.

Below, you can set the ratio of the image's actual dimensions to the printed dimensions. Generally, printing is done at 300DPI (even if your printer's resolution is specified to be 1400DPI). This means that an image that is 600 pixels wide will be 2 inches wide on the printed page when you have the scale set to '1'. If you set the scale to '2', the 600DPI image will be 4 inches wide.

You can see that the preview of the image below is double that of the previewed image above. Also notice that the scale is set to '2'.

In the previous printing examples, all of the images were set to print in the center of the page. Below, you can see that the 'center' box is no longer checked and the image is offset by 2.54cm from the top/left corner.

In thie example below, the image is offset by 2.54 inches. All that was changed is the measurement units. Keep in mind that the image can not be pushed off of the page if the offset is set too high but the image will be squished out of proportion.


  • There are text fields to allow you to add headers and footers to the printed pages.
  • To print the folder or file name, you can add the strings listed below the text fields. These are text sensitive. For instance, it you use $f for the file name, it will simply print $f. To print the file name, the 'f' has to be in upper-case form.


If you have any suggestions for this page or for the computer pages in general, please Email me.
If you're interested in electronics or car audio, you may be interested in my car audio site. It has lots of graphics and covers virtually everything associated with car audio.
If you're interested in macro photography basics or want to see lots of close-ups of insects and spiders, you may be interested in my macro-photography site.

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