Friday, 10 July 2009

Review: Gwenview 2.3 - The Powerful KDE4 Image Viewer

What is Gwenview?
I'm sure most of (if not all) KDE users are familiar with Gwenview, especially since it became the default image viewer in KDE4. Gwenview is not only a powerful viewer for images, but also a basic image manipulation application, and with version 2.3 it allows even video previews. Although video support was available in 1.4 (which was for KDE3), it was missing in the KDE4 port of Gwenview, but with this new release shipping with the upcoming KDE 4.3, this feature is back.

Gwenview 2.3 in Kubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

Gwenview supports practically any image format handled by Qt, like PNG, JPG, BMP, XPM, TGA or PNM. These are not all though, and even the SVG (scalable vector graphics) format is supported.

Basically, Gwenview has two modes: browser view and image view (which can also be viewed in fullscreen mode). The browser mode displays previews of images in the current directory as thumbnails which can be resized, while in view mode a single image is displayed and it occupies most of the window space. The left sidebar in view mode can be shown or hidden using F11 and includes three tabs:
- Folders, which is the file browser, displaying directories in tree view mode
- Information, which shows image info, allows to set tags and ratings
- Operations, which can show the KDE file properties window, or actions like copy to/move to and delete current image

Browse mode, without the left sidebar

In browse mode, Gwenview displays thumbnail previews of images in the current directory, and upon moving the mouse cursor over an image, four options appear above it, allowing to delete, view image in fullscreen or rotate it left/right.

Thumbnail information can include filename, modification date and current rating, and the thumbnails can be sorted by name, date and size.

The cool thing about Gwenview is that it allows the user to set tags and ratings for each image individually, and it will also display a rich window containing information about the currently selected image. Viewing images as a slideshow is also available.

Left sidebar shows info, ratings and tags, but it also includes a file browser

Among the actions which Gwenview allows to perform without the need of plugins are red eye reduction, rotate image, resize, crop, flip, all those available in the Edit menu.

When performing actions like rotating or mirroring an image Gwenview will ask whether to save it or not, in a nice, unobtrusive fashion:

Asking to save modified file(s)

When in fullscreen mode, Gwenview will display a utilities bar at the top (which can be hidden automatically), showing images in the current directory as thumbnails, access to functions like rotate image, and even a fullscreen configuration window, allowing you to customise the slideshow mode (loop, interval). See below:

Fullscreen mode

What's new in 2.3
Except for video previews, another new feature in 2.3 is the improved history feature. The history will not only show recently accessed folders, but it also includes an 'url bag' or recent URLs place, where all the links to images go, including the ones from Kopete or Konqueror. So if somebody sent you a link in Kopete which you opened directly with Gwenview, you don't have to search for it in the chat history afterwards, Gwenview will display it under the recent URLs section.

My personal opinion is that an image viewer should only be an image viewer (and eventually an image editor) and the reason for it is that video previews seem to slow down things, especially when you need to view some images and have to wait for some video to load. Anyway, I'm sure there are people who like this feature a lot, and it seems to work flawlessly in Gwenview. It almost gave me an impression that I'm using a video player, not an image viewer! See for yourself:

Videos with Gwenview

General behaviour
I noticed that changing the image size from the bottom size bar in view mode is done extremely fast even for high resolution images. Although this doesn't apply to SVG, JPG and PNG resizing was done pretty fast. Gwenview seems pretty stable, I had no crashes and no misbehaviours while testing it. Instead, Gwenview crashed when trying to use the Plugins -> Import -> Scan Images plugin and hitting Cancel at the Looking for devices. Please wait. window. However, not hitting Cancel will open the scan dialogue, and although I have no scanner, Gwenview successfully captured and saved images from my TV-Tunner.

Gwenview also comes with plugin support, but you'll have to install the kipi-plugins package in order to be able to use them. To list several plugins available (but not all):
- print images
- convert to black and white
- email images
- edit meta data
- scan images

The configuration window currently includes basic options, like background colour when viewing images and image thumbnails, transparent background, mouse wheel behaviour or the orientation of the thumbnail bar. As any KDE application, Gwenview allows to configure its shortcuts and set global shortcuts if needed too.

Although not very comprehensive, Gwenview currently includes a Handbook (F1 keyboard shortcut or from the Help menu) and some useful information can be found on the official website too. See this blog for Gwenview updates too.

Gwenview is complete. The impression Gwenview left me is that of an awesome application. It takes browsing and managing images to a new dimension and it makes it a real pleasure. It has more than enough features for an image viewer, and it is incomparable better than the 1.4 series. For a KDE4 user, I couldn't think of another viewer which can do what Gwenview does, and still keep a clean, organized, and customisable interface.
Official homepage

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