NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, March 2012
There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
By Bill Moeller

wam7630-nwapcug@yahoo.com (click to email author)

…but FastStone Image Viewer 4.6 is as close to it as I have found lately. This freebie is a combination image viewer for your digital photos, an image editor for cleaning up and making your images more presentable, and a slide show generator for making it easy for others to see your photos in the sequence and with the timing that you want. Download it (go to FastStone.org and follow the links), fire it up and start using it. You will very likely find it to be very “intuitive,” as computer folk like to say, and not be bothered at all by the lack of a meaningful Help or by the incomplete tutorial. It has a Windows Explorer type file layout in the left hand panel, and shows the thumbnails of the photos in the folder you have selected in the right. Click on one of the thumbnails, the image goes full screen, and you are off and running. Move the mouse around the edges of the screen and different options and information will pop up. Check them out. They are informative and they are powerful.

For years I have used Paint Shop Pro and Adobe Photo Shop Elements to edit my photos. Recently I have also started to use Canon’s and Pentax’s proprietary software to pre edit and convert raw images before going to PSP and PE for the finishing touches and printing. I am amazed at how much of what they do that this free software will also do. It will read and allow working with many raw formats, including the proprietary Canon and Pentax formats that I use. It contains a number of very powerful editing tools such as Levels and Curves which it makes very simple to use by providing slider controls and allowing side by side viewing of the “Before” and “After” versions of the picture you are working on. And for those things that it can’t do, or which you prefer to do using other software, one of the choices in the Edit menu is Edit with External Program. A click of the mouse, or the use of a keyboard shortcut, will open that other program with the selected image on the screen and ready to go. I use this for White Balance, which FastStone cannot easily do, and for making permanent changes to raw files, which FastStone cannot do at all (raw file edits in FastStone are preserved by using Save As and designating a non-proprietary format such as jpg or tif.)

Which brings us to slide shows. The process is almost identical to the one I used for years with 35mm slides—look at the slides on a viewer, throw out the junk and the duplicates, sort the keepers into a meaningful sequence, renumber or rename the slides to reflect this new sequence, and load the slides into a carousel for the show. With this software, you can look at your photos full screen if you like, one at a time or as a slide show, even side by side for critical comparison, as part of the culling process. Sorting is done by dragging and dropping the thumbnails. Renaming and loading into a separate output folder is done by using the Batch Convert/Rename tool--just be sure to specify jpg as the output file type. At this point you can view your images as a slide show using Windows Explorer, FastStone, Picasa, Flickr, or just about any other image viewing program; or, if you prefer, you can use Slide Show Builder to create an executable (.exe) file that prepackages your slide show for automatic viewing on any Windows computer.

Bottom Line: This is one very capable package at an unbelievable price--well worth downloading and checking out.

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