BOOT CAMP 476 (15/0/07)

Freeware Top Tens. Part 2, Images and Graphics


Moving swiftly on, our theme this week is free photo editing, viewing, file management and recovery software. Most digital cameras come with a suite of programs but they tend to be ‘lite’ versions with limited functionality, or tied to a particular make or model of camera. Freeware can fill in the gaps, from useful tools and utilities, right up to advanced editing applications and some of the programs we’ll be looking at are even better than their commercial counterparts.


As usual, before we start a few words of caution. Be careful when visiting Internet download sites, double check the address, watch where you click and always read the EULA before you install any new software (see also this week’s Top Tip). All of the programs featured are one hundred percent free and as far as possible have been checked for malware content but you download them entirely at your own risk and we cannot help with technical queries. If you find a program useful and want to keep on using it please send the author a donation or pay the licence fee.




AutoStitch is a foolproof way to create stunning panoramic photos from a sequence of overlapping pictures. Simply stand in one spot and snap away, turning a few degrees each time. It doesn’t matter if the images are not in sequence, the program works that out for you, seamlessly matching and blending the images into one long photograph.  It is incredibly easy to use and the finished picture opens in your preferred image editing or viewing program, so you can save it or print it out.



Digital Photo Recovery,

Sooner or later one or more pictures on your digital camera’s memory card will become corrupted. This small program can recover damaged and deleted image files, even after the card has been formatted.




If you want to create a graphic from scratch or manipulate a photograph, the Gimp can do it. The only proviso is that the Gimp is an advanced program with a steep learning curve and not for absolute beginners. However, it is well worth getting to know, there’s a full set of painting tools, sub-pixel sampling, gradient editor, custom brushes and patterns, full alpha channel support, layers and channels, multiple undo, text layers, support for all common file formats and more than 100 plug-ins available, and if that little lot meant nothing to you, it’s probably wise to start with something a little simpler…



Image Brander,

If you want to protect or label your photographs this little utility lets you add a custom watermark, copyright symbol, logo or custom stamp to the image, either singly or in batches.




Irfanview is an image file viewer, with hidden talents. It can display more than 80 different file formats, and convert images singly, and in batches, from one format to another. It also supports most popular video file formats and animated gifs. There’s a fair selection of editing tools, a slideshow feature and lots of effects to play around with as an added bonus it can often display corrupted picture files that other viewers refuse to open.




Back to basics with a beefed up version of the Paint program included with Windows. It’s ideal for simple touch-up and editing jobs and perfect for beginners.




If you own a digital camera you need Picasa! It goes from strength to strength and the latest version could be the only image editing and viewing program you will ever need. The feature list is far too long to print here but if you want to keep track of the pictures on your PC, clean them up, remove red-eye, crop, apply effects, print, copy to CD, display as a slideshow or email and upload to the web Picasa is for you.




Photobie has been compared to PhotoShop and whilst it isn’t quite as sophisticated as its commercial cousin it is one of the best-specified imaging editing programs around. For advanced users it has a Layer Manager, there’s a comprehensive set of painting tools and it supports PhotoShop plug-ins. Other highlights include screen capture, gif animation, photo framing, a directory browser, batch resize, rotate and slide show. 




At first glance it doesn’t look significantly different from other image editors but it’s the well-thought out layout that really sets this program apart. Contrast, brightness and colour controls are all instantly accessible, and you can undo limitless changes. The Gamma Correction utility can transform images that are too light or dark. Incredibly easy to use and ideal for beginners and experts alike.



ScreenHunter Free,

One of the simplest and quickest ways to capture an image from your PC screen. With a single click you can grab the whole screen, part of it, or set it to capture the screen after a preset delay.


Next Week – More Freeware and Shareware Top Tens





Facility to specify transparency in pixels, allowing images and backgrounds to be layered and blended



Type of image file (Graphics Interchange Format) extensively used on web pages; multiple gifs replayed several times a second, are widely used to create simple animations   



End User Licence Agreement -- the lengthy document that no one reads, which appears when you install a software application and you have to agree to before the installation will proceed




Most programs downloaded from the web are in the form of ‘.exe’ files and all you have to do is double-click on the download and the installation is carried out automatically. Larger programs may be compressed into ‘zip’ files. Windows XP has a built-in decompression utility and when you double click on the zip you will be asked if you want to ‘Extract’ it. Follow the prompts to unzip the file to a location of your choice (or use the default – usually the desktop) then click on the extracted ‘.exe’ file to install the program in the normal way.



© R. Maybury 2007, 0905

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