June 2000                                                                                                     

Web Master Wanderings
By Curt Potsic, Space Coast PC Users Group

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SCPCUG Web Master Curt Potsic

There are many graphics programs on the market and I have used a number of them including Paint Shop Pro (http://www.jasc.com/psp6.html), The Print Shop (http://www.broderbund.com/print.html), LivePix (http://www.livepix.com/), PhotoDeluxe (http://www.adobe.com/products/photodeluxe/), and MS Home Publishing (http://www.microsoft.com/insider/homepublishing/default.htm). All of these programs work well and display many graphic formats but many times I find I just need to display a graphic file quickly and maybe make a few tweaks. I have just the answer for such a situation. It is a very fast 32 bit image viewer/converter program for Win9x/NT and Windows 2000 that in its basic form requires no DLLs or Runtime Libraries. The amazing part is this program also does a number of the things the full featured programs do and it comes as a very small executable (EXE) file. The download size is only 479 KB. The best part is it's Freeware for private, non-commercial use (that means at home). If you don't own a full featured graphics program because you don't do much with graphics, this may be all you need. A word of caution. This program allows viewing of existing graphic files and some modification to them. This is not a draw or paint program. There is no set of drawing instruments or paint brushes.

The program is called IrfanView and it is available at http://softwarecenter.net/irfanview or http://members.home.com/rsimmons/irfanview/. You can also find it by doing a search on "IrfanView" in the ZDNet Software Library (http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/). IrfanView is written by Irfan Skiljan, a student at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria. The program apparently has been around since June 1996 but I was unaware of it until now. Just another example of how really big the web is. (I heard one estimate that there were 800 million pages on the web and even the best of the search engines could only find 30% of the pages.) Irfan says he received over 14,000 e-mail messages thanking and congratulating him on his program in the first two and a half years since IrfanView hit the Net.

IrfanView 3D Button example

IrfanView is a compact, easy to use image viewer but it also allows for direct image editing to produce a variety of effects. I was truly surprised by the amount of capabilities packed into this program. You can crop, resize/resample (with a variety of filters for resample enlarging), rotate, flip, count colors used, increase/decrease color depth, convert to grayscale, convert to negative image, sharpen, swap colors, etc. Especially handy for photo editing is the capability to enhance colors by adjusting brightness, contrast, Gamma correction, and the red/green/blue color balance. You can compare the new image to your original in good-sized preview screens before applying the changes. In the past, I have found the preview screens on some commercial programs are so small it is sometimes hard to see the effect of your change, especially if it is subtle.

IrfanView supports over 35 graphic formats including all of the most popular like BMP, JPG, GIF, and TIF. The support for the not-so-often used formats is what really comes in handy. For example you can drag and drop files with the ICO extension into IrfanView. ICO is the extension for all those little pictures (32 x 32 pixels) or icons you see on your desktop. If you want to see what's on your computer, just go to "Find / Files or Folders" from the Start button. In the "Named:" window type in *.ico and press "Find Now". Drag and drop any of those resulting ICO files into IrfanView for viewing or editing.

Another extension I have occasion to use is CLP. This is the extension Windows Clipboard uses for saving files. In the past I used Paint Shop Pro to view, edit, and convert CLP files to a JPG or GIF for publishing on the web and to a TIF file for publishing in the PC Journal. Now I can also use IrfanView. Similarly, IrfanView allows you to view PSP files which is an extension used for saving Paint Shop Pro files.

This program offers scan (TWAIN) support. It worked perfect with my Visioneer Paperport 3000 scanner. First I clicked on "Select TWAIN Source" in the File menu and selected my scanner in the popup window. Next I clicked on "Acquire" in the File menu and a dialog box said it was testing and connecting my scanner. With that up pops my Paperport Scan Manager software and I'm ready to go. I scanned an image and it was placed directly into IrfanView ready for editing and saving. IrfanView even supports batch scanning.

There is more. You can view the animated GIFs which are found all over the Internet. In addition to the graphic formats, IrfanView supports video (AVI, MPG/MPEG, Apple QuickTime: MOV) and audio formats (WAV, AIF, AU/SND, MID/RMI, RA, MP3). IrfanView is also an audio CD player.

You want more! IrfanView will do thumbnails of all the graphics you have in a directory. Or you can view all those pictures with the slideshow feature. It has a print option and will extract icons from EXE/DLLs. You can also have hotkeys and command line options. Maybe you would like batch conversion or a screen capture feature. IrfanView has it. Conversion of an image into Windows Wallpaper is included. There seems to be no end to this great program.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that IrfanView has a very thorough and complete Help file. I strongly urge you to read it. If you are like I am, you will probably jump right into using the program. Doing so without reading the Help file will cause you to miss some of the more subtle features of this program. For example selecting "Setup" under "Effects" will allow you to vary the parameters of certain effects such as Sharpen, 3D Button, Explosion, Fine Rotation, etc. Also be sure to read the Help file about "Properties" and "Capture" (located on the Options menu).

Above I mentioned the RA (Real Audio) and MP3 extensions. These, as well as several other extensions, require you to download plugins. You can download the plugins individually or as a zip file of all IrfanView plugins at http://members.home.com/rsimmons/irfanview/plugins.html. There are currently 9 plugins available for things like Filter Factory 8BF files (Photoshop plugins), Kodak Digital Camera (KDC) files, Kodak PhotoCD (PCD) files, Real Audio (RA) files, MP3 files, FlashPix (FPX) files, etc. The all_plugins.zip file is only 936 KB. All that is required to install the plugins is to create a new subdirectory under the IrfanView directory and name it "PlugIns". Then unzip your downloaded file and copy the plugin DLLs into the "PlugIns" directory.

The all_plugins.zip download is well worth it for the additional capability it gives you. In addition to being able to play the popular MP3 files and Real Audio files you can now use Filter Factory 8BF files for additional image effects. First load an image into IrfanView. Next select "Filter Factory" from the Image / Effects menu. A new window will pop up showing three filter groups (Andrew's Filters 29, AFH, and Krusty's FX Vol 3 {tools}) on the left side. These are included samples. Clicking on any of these names will cause its associated filter to appear in a window on the right side. You will already be seeing your loaded image in a preview window at the top right. Clicking on the filter name will apply the default values to filter slider parameters which now appear. You can adjust the sliders as you see fit and the preview image will change accordingly. Click on the "Apply to image" button to finalize your change.3D Art created with IrfanView and 3D Filter plugin

I especially like the "RedBlue 3D Maker 1.0" filter associated with the third filter group. This filter lets you create 3D images which you can view with anaglyph (red/blue) glasses. At the right is a sample of some 3D art I created using only IrfanView. I opened multiple copies of IrfanView on my Desktop and selected "Create new image" and "Add Text". I then did a little cut and paste editing. The small graphics are from the Webdings font I found on my hard drive. If you want to get into this 3D stuff go to the AltaVista Search Engine (http://www.altavista.com/) and type in "anaglyph". I got a return of 4,994 pages found. For a quick sample try Anaglyph stereo at http://www.studio3d.com/pages/anaglyph.html or Stereo Images - 3-D Gallery at http://www.3d-web.com/gallery.htm. Also checkout Mars in 3D at http://www.rainbowsymphony.com/mars3d.html. If you don't have the red/blue glasses to enjoy all these cool 3D pics, that site will send you a free pair.

To experiment with more filters go to PC Resources for Photoshop (http://www.netins.net/showcase/wolf359/adobepc.htm). Here you can find more than 1500 Photoshop filters. Steve Fisher has created a huge site with over 175 pages so it may take a bit of searching to find what you want. You will need another program for converting downloaded Filter Factory (FFL) files to the 8BF files IrfanView uses. The program is called Plugin Commander and is available from Plugin Com HQ at http://pico.i-us.com/. The Light Edition is Freeware. Note also that IrfanView cannot read original Photoshop 8BF files, only 8BF files created with Filter Factory.

Finally, if you are in the market for some Desktop wallpaper, check out Steve's Fisher's Monthly Wallpaper Images at http://www.netins.net/showcase/wolf359/past_wp.htm.

Note: Web Master Wanderings articles contain links to external web sites. Web addresses are constantly changing. There is no guarantee that the information links provided in this article will remain unbroken or up-to-date beyond the date that this article is originally published.