XnView: Picture a good photo editing program

We live in a world where relatively speaking, we are given the possibility to immortalize any moment anywhere at any given time, and quite obviously the reason behind this is the fact that almost any modern portable device has now a camera attached to it. Whether it’s a mobile phone, a music player or a tablet PC, the presence of a digital camera on such portable devices has become a trend or a “must”.

That being said, the increasing piles of photos stored on our computers only make us need more a program that can handle a ton of picture formats and provide a complete set of editing functions.

One of such programs that might do the trick is XnView, a tool able to recognize roughly 400 types of image files and convert them into 50 most used file types such as animated GIFs, JPG, PNG, BMP and the list goes on. Furthermore XnView comes with a variety of tools and filters designed for photo editing, a built-in file browser and support for tabbed navigation between multiple opened files.

XnView Main

Installation & Requirements

The XnView installation process is quick, adware-free and simple as it comes with a nice little setup wizard which will help you decide whether you would like the program’s settings to be saved in a Multi-User or Single-User fashion. Additionally, you will be given the choice of adding XnView in the “Browse With” and “Send to” context menus.

As for system requirements, XnView is available in three flavors, and as you’ve probably guessed it these are the Windows, Linux and of course Mac platforms. The system requirements are ridiculously low and as if Windows 95 isn’t low enough, there is also a version of XnView which is fully compatible with Windows 3.1.


It’s somewhat difficult to give a brief explanation on what the XnView user interface is about, but the short version is that it feels slightly crowded at times. Nevertheless, the problem resides most likely in the fact that there’s a pretty large array of options and features offered by XnView and there’s that much you can do when it comes to fitting them all on a user interface. As far as the design goes, the interface does not permit a high degree of customization but you do have the option of changing the toolbar design and button size to some extent.

The good news is that XnView will do its best to give you a helping hand in order to get used to the layout as fast as possible, so you will have a built-in file browser at your disposal alongside the possibility to open multiple images at once -courtesy of the tabbed navigation- and once you familiarize yourself with the user interface you will start to comprehend the fact that your new digital secret weapon offers a file browser, image viewer, editor and converter at the same time. Once you’ve tamed the beast you will be able to easily browse through a decent amount of effects and photo editing tools, the ability to add watermarks to your digital images, create slideshows and much more.

As a side note, in case you would like to add some bells and whistles to your XnView then you are given the possibility to do so via dozens of add-ons and plug-ins which are available for download on the official XnView website, at no cost whatsoever.


– Compatible with a huge number of file types
– Offers a wide range of features
– Fair selection of effects and editing tools
– Supports video file playback as well
– Highly portable, the exe works without the need of an actual installation
– Wide range of optional add-ons and plug-ins
– Multi-platform support


– The user interface seems a bit hard to comprehend at start
– The file browser is slow at times


XnView is more than a decent and robust photo editing tool, but it’s obviously not the only one to be found out there.
IrfanView is probably one of the most popular image viewer and converter over the past few years due to the fact that it offers a large collection of features and tools but does not alienate the newcomer in any way. The user interface is friendly and even if it lacks some functions such as tabbed navigation, InfranView is reliable and might be a better choice than XnView in quite a few scenarios.

FastStone Image Viewer is a second XnView alternative which resembles XnView in many ways, but then it offers a nicer looking user interface, a wider array of effects and a much more complex slideshow utility, offering roughly 150 transitional effects.
Although both IrfanView and FastStone Image Viewer are free for use, sadly both these programs support the Windows platform exclusively.


XnView is evidently one of the best choices we have at our disposal when it comes to free image editing software, but truth of the matter is that there are a few programs from its niche which are able to focus more on delivering a smaller array of tools and features, resulting in a slightly limited but more refined final product. XnView feels as a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, nevertheless in many cases that’s hardly a down-side.