Certainly there are higher-end solutions and those presented here. For example, I often use Adobe PhotoShop and Corel PhotoPaint. However there are many things about the programs below that I actually like better than the big boys be it speed or simplicity or sometimes they actually do something better. Either way, feel free to peruse the choices here and see if there is something that you might be able to utilize.
Recommended Free Software – FastStone Image Viewer
FastStone is like your favorite multi-function pocket tool. True to its name, it is certainly a good image file viewer, but it can also manipulate and convert images very well.
The primary elements are a tree view of folders on the left and the contents on the right which I normally keep on the thumbnail view. Double-click on an image to view it full screen, the scroll wheel and PgUp and PgDn moves between images and Ctrl + scroll wheel and the + and – minus keys to zoom. My preference is to default for FastStone to zoom the image to fit the screen (under “Settings”, “Viewer” tab, set “Auto Image Size” to “Auto Fit (All)”.)
Like Windows Explorer, you can create folders, copy or move images between folder, delete files, rename files and such.
When viewing an image, moving the mouse to the left side of the image brings up a menu. You have the usual rotate, resample, color adjustments, and sharpen but also some nice ones like watermarking, red eye removal, clone and heal. There is a draw board that I have used a few times that produced good results with nice details like transparency and drop shadow settings on the highlighter and boxes. Also there are a few effects like frames, bump map, sketch and oil painting.
One thing that FastStone does an EXCEPTIONAL job on is in the crop board which I use all the time. Not only can you crop by dragging a rectangle around, but you can lock the rectangle to a particular aspect ratio or even define a specific dimension in pixels. Furthermore, the result can be saved to a file losslessly, meaning a JPG doesn’t have to go through a decompression and re-compression cycle adding a generation to the life of that image. (Lossless rotations are also supported.)
There is also a simple slideshow capability. Select one or more pictures and press “S” to set the options such as random, loop, duration and transitions, then click “Play”.
There are also an in-depth batch conversion feature, batch rename and a very good tool to download pictures from my cameras memory card where my pictures are sorted into folders by Year \ Month \ Date. Kudos.
I don’t use the file tagging feature, myself and so I turn that off by going under “Settings”, “Thumbnail” tab, I uncheck “Use Thumbnail Database”. While there, I make the thumbnail size larger because I have high resolution monitors and find the default thumbnail size letting too small.
Okay, I wrote a lot here because there is a lot here and that I really do like this program do give it my recommendation.
Recommended Free Software – PAINT.net
Recommended Free Software – Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor)