Monday, December 17, 2012

Mac has no good picture viewer

I can't seem to find any built-in program on my new (the very newest) Mac Mini that is anything like a picture viewer.  Every built-in program seems not to be oriented to people like me, who like to collect thousands of images.

Back in the original days of multimedia computing, picture viewers were possibly the single most popular kind of add-on software.

I'd go further and say it even seems to me that Mac goes out of it's way to inhibit picture viewing on the grand scale (with many thousands of pictures in nested folders) like I do.  Given the otherwise incredible capabilities of these programs, I'd say that it looks to me like they have been deliberately hobbled in this area.

Take the Finder.  It's wonderful that Finder now provides a cover-flow mode.  That does allow you to see what is in your pictures as you are scanning through them.  But such pictures do not fill the entire screen and so this is not a picture viewer.  Now you can create a magnifier window, which does follow the current picture pretty well (it sometimes takes more than a moment to catch up).  And you can scroll forwards and back using the arrow buttons.  That's all good.  But once you enlarge the window to take up the whole screen, the arrow buttons no longer work.  If the arrow buttons actually worked in full screen mode...this would be a decent picture browser.  But they don't, and it's extremely clumsy to go from one full-screen display to another.  You have to click on the de-magnify button, select the new picture, then magnify that.  This must have been a design decision.  Why make the arrow keys not work in full screen mode when they work in every other mode?

Nog consider iPhoto.  With all the capabilities to modify photographs, and all the long times it takes to do anything, this seems clearly like an image glossing program.  Not a true image manipulator, but close enough for those who don't like to do anything interesting, just touch up their photos a little.  Now once again you can view photos full screen.  And here, you can actually use the arrow buttons.  The program is dog slow as a picture viewer, but it kinda works.  But "full screen" doesn't really mean "full screen.  You see the photos in their native format, or an even scaled reduction.  A true picture viewing program would expand every image to full screen size regardless of the native size.  This is not hard to do, especially for jpeg images.

Long ago I purchased a program called "Picture Explorer" for my Windows 95 system.  It had the most wonderful picture viewer, with these features:

1) very fast, even on 133 mHz machine
2) arrow buttons work
3) optional preview pane showing next picture, optional details pane
4) any picture could be scaled to any size by moving mouse
5) the Finder-like browser used 2 dimensions to show up to hundreds of photos at a time, with little wasted screen space.  Then click on any photo, and it goes full screen with features 1-4.

17 years of breathtaking computer progress later, I can't find a program as good as that was.

I obtained the now unsupported Phoenix Slides, and it's a decent program in a number of ways.  But if you hold down the front or back arrow keys to scroll through more than 10 photos at a time, it stops showing them.  The image size control is limited and quirky.

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