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IrfanView is a small program developed single-handedly since 1996. Since then it has evolved into not only a photo viewer, but a full multimedia player with an immense range of features. IrfanView (the author instructs us on his homepage that it is pronounced "EarfanView") supports a multitude of file formats ranging from your standard JPEG photos to less commonly used formats such ANI (animated cursor) or DJVU (an image compression standard used often with ebooks). It also supports playback of standard video and audio files. On the IrfanView website, the author claims that IrfanView has been downloaded over 1 million times a month since 2003.
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As of this article, IrfanView is at version 4.10. The installation file is only 1.1 megabytes and the amount of features crammed into this small package is very impressive. Some of them include adding basic paint to your images, exporting a set of images as a slideshow, converting a batch of images to any specification and renaming the output files, and even adding some effects.
I find IrfanView to be very good for whenever I need to make any quick edits to a picture. Since IrfanView is so lightweight, it loads practically instantly. Cropping is as easy as selecting an area of the image and hitting CTRL-Y, or going to Edit->Crop. You can even add effects to the entire picture or just the area you select. Some effects include blur, sepia, emboss, and "explosion" (sort of a variation on a pixelization effect). IrfanView also has your standard image correction features such as rotation, color enhancement, and resizing. You can also perform red-eye reduction and image sharpening with relative ease. In addition, IrfanView offers a plug-in architecture that allows even more functionality. Plug-ins can be downloaded separately or all together in a single package.
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Help & Support
IrfanView has a very extensive FAQ section on the author's website. Most questions can be answered there. Beyond that, the author offers his e-mail address but recommends use of the relatively active forums which have nearly 4,000 posts in the "Support" section alone. Considering this is a free program, this level of documentation and community support is a great resource.
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IrfanView has been over 10 years in the making and it seems to only be getting better. The author has a detailed history log that shows incremental improvement for every version he has released. For a lightweight photo manipulator, there really is nothing more that IrfanView needs. It's pretty easy to give IrfanView a 5/5.