Lightweight image viewers for Linux

Linux has many image viewers; here are some I’ve found worthy of note.

Some people stretch the term image viewer to the breaking point, applying it to applications better described as image editors, collection managers, camera import tools, visual search tools, or album generators. So to clarify, by image viewer I mean just what it says on the tin: a lightweight application that lets you quickly view images and then gets out of your way.

What is the point of a quick previewer if it’s so bogged down by feature bling that it’s no longer quick? For that reason you won’t find hundred-bladed Swiss army knives like F-Spot or gThumb on this list. By all means, use such tools if you find them useful, but don’t think they take the place of a lightweight viewer.

More specifically, an image viewer should:

  • open without delay image files of all common formats (that includes The Gimp’s .xcf)
  • browse directories and open files directly without having to import anything
  • not leave your hard disk littered with hidden thumbnails or metadata scattered about
  • easily pass an image to another application or to a console command for editing or processing

The last point is of particular importance to me. I like to browse my image collection with a lightweight image viewer, and use it to (for example) open an image in The Gimp for editing, or have jhead change the file’s timestamp to match the EXIF timestamp. If an image viewer can do this, it doesn’t need to do anything else.

So, on to the viewers:

Eye of Gnome (eog): GTK. Part of the Gnome project. It silently litters your hard disk with .mediaartlocal/ directories full of “thumbnails” that are often no smaller than the original files. Cannot view .xcf files. Can pass an image to any application associated with images in Nautilus, but cannot be configured to pass an image to a console command for processing.

ephoto: Part of the Enlightenment project; if you don’t use Enlightenment it will drag in a lot of dependencies.

feh: Console-based; no GUI.

geeqie: GTK. Modern fork of gqview. Can pass images to another program. Directory controls are operated with a single click and not the standard double click, which takes some getting used to. Can view EXIF data.

GImageView: Abandoned since 2004.

GPicView: Part of the LXDE project. Can only view one image at a time; no directory thumbnail view. Cannot view .xcf files. Cannot pass images to another program.

GQview: Abandoned in 2006, later forked as geeqie.

Mirage: GTK. Clean, highly usable interface. Can be configured to pass images to another program. Cannot view .xcf files or EXIF data.

Ristretto: Part of the Xfce project. Can pass an image to any application associated with images in Thunar, but cannot be configured to pass an image to a console command for processing. Can view .xcf files. Can view EXIF data.

xv: Not open source.

REFERENCES
Image Viewers at Linux App Finder

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About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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12 Responses to Lightweight image viewers for Linux

  1. anonymous says:

    dklovedoctor writes:If you really want lightweighthttp://www.xnview.com/en/index.html

  2. wpost says:

    Thanks; I'll check it out next time I revisit this issue.

  3. anonymous says:

    Anonymous writes:Eye Of Gnome is awful – very *slow*. Fully agree about it writing shit everywhere. Gnome devs apparently don't seem to care about these things. Nautilus – which for some reason ships as the default on many systems – is also very awful – it grinds to a halt opening directories containing large numbers of files. Fail.Geeqie is really on the right track but doesn't seem(?) quite as lightening snappy as the old GQView. You can stop it writing a history file by removing write permissions from that file in ~./config/geeqie, but it still churns doing something(?) with the accels and geeqierc.xml files which it seems to need be writeable to navigate directories. XNView is excellent and contains a many image conversion, simple editing, re-compression and metadata features all built in. It's cross platform and it can view a huge number of file formats off the shelf. But it's not open source – although the author has given permission for it to be distributed before on a case-by-case basis. If it was open source it could kill Eye of Gnome and all the other image viewing abominations in foss linux distributions.

  4. KerenSkyy says:

    @dklovedoctor thanks, couldn't remember the name of this one.

  5. anonymous says:

    Anonymous writes:Thanks! Mirage fits XFCE nice.

  6. anonymous says:

    Phred Camp writes:An excellent article, thank you. I wish more Linux developers (Gnome, KDE, whatever camp) would read this and actually think when developing their viewers. The unfulfilled Holy Grail is someone out there creating a Linux native equivalent of Ifranview (even equal-ish to an ancient 2.x version of Irfanview). Instead we are treated to a confusing array of 100+ projects and not one comes close for freatures and ease of use. Mention iView and people spout on about Gweview, digiKam, etc – these are horrid sh!te and are shameful rubbish. And don't go on about Wine – its a band-aid on Linux. I want a great and powerful yet simple viewer, native so I can have it as my default. Any takers?

  7. KerenSkyy says:

    Agreed about irfanview for *nix! No FLOSS application i have used comes close :mad: :( Xnview is pretty good for a proprietary

  8. anonymous says:

    Anonymous writes:Why was gthumb not mentioned in this article? Gthumb seems to be the only thing out there for LINUX that even comes close to Irfanview. Why do all of the available photo viewers need to cerate meta files? Why do they make you import photos into virtual libraries instead of simply letting you create real folders to organize your photos via a thumbnail viewer like Irfnaview does? Would really like someone to explain this… is it a limitation of the LINUX OS or something else? I am still blown away that there are no LINUX photo apps that even come close to doing what Irfanview does… I am a professional photographer and Irfanview has been an indispensable tool that I have used for many years… I have recently decided to give up on Windows and switch to Ubuntu with the MATE environment, but the lack of an app that compares to Irfnaview may be the one thing that prevents me from being able to completely do away with Microsoft… and I really don't want to run Windows apps via an emulator like Wine.

  9. wpost says:

    Geeqie fits your description perfectly. I'm very happy with it, and being GTK based it should elegantly fit into Mate's look and feel. Give it a try.What Geeqie does not have is Irfanview's dozens of plugins. I consider this to be one of Geeqie's strengths, so perhaps your workflow and mine are different. I do no editing whatsoever in my image previewer. I prefer a lightweight previewer with no bells or whistles but that can easily send an image to a full featured editor or pipe it to any arbitrary command. That workflow keeps the previewer snappy and gives me all the power of Gimp and the command line at edit time. So I suggest you try the combination of Geeqie+Gimp, which works for me even better than Irfanview+Photoshop did for me on Windows.I most emphatically do not want a collection manager like gThumb. Collection management brings with it virtual libraries, metafiles, bloat, hidden crap scattered all over my drive, and an overall "we know better than you do" attitude to image management. I suppose there's a legitimate use case for such bloatware, but I don't want to even imagine what it might be.

  10. anonymous says:

    Rave writes:Thanks for the list! It helped me find geeqie as an alternative to eog, and I am so much happier. I work on stereo video files exploded into individual frames. Now I can have side-by-side displays and super-fast iterating through files. I thought eog was slow, and now I know it was.

  11. anonymous says:

    Anonymous writes:I have only two issues with geeqie: doesn't supported animated GIFs, and when deleting files even slightly too fast, it chokes.Too bad the dev doesnt seem super active, as these are mentioned on the mailing list already years ago.

  12. Pingback: Using geeqie | A maze of twisty little passages

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