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by Phil Ball

Q. I need a good computer program to look at and sort through my photos. I don't care for the one that comes with Photoshop Elements because it throws all my photos together regardless of how I've carefully sorted them into folders and Windows Live Photo Gallery is just too limited in what it can do. I don’t have much extra cash so I would prefer that it be inexpensive or free.

A. For years, I have used FastStone Image Viewer to sort through my images and decide which are keepers and deserve further enhancement in my photo editor. The best part is that it is a free download for home users. It looks a lot like a super-sized version of Windows Explorer when you first open it, showing large thumbnails of the images within my folders. By double-clicking an image, it fills the screen with that image. I can zoom in further to check the sharpness and examine fine details.

While these are the main reasons I use it, it has many other tricks such as being able to create a spontaneous slideshow or being able to compare up to four images so I can choose the best one. There are pop-out menus hidden around the four sides of the full-screen view and I find that the most useful one shows a histogram and the EXIF information about that image so you can recall such things as the date taken, the shutter speed and aperture, the lens focal length, and even whether the flash fired.

Other features allow you to quickly rename and resize your images singly or in batches. Just be careful with this since you cannot easily undo it if you make a mistake. You can also do some minor editing work but I prefer to do this in Photoshop Elements since it is more capable. A simple menu choice or keyboard command will transfer the image over to Elements for more detailed editing. To see it in use, visit the Prescott Computer Society's Digital Photo meeting at the Prescott Public Library on June 8th.

Published: Courier 6/2/13 - Page 3C