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Linux thumbnail viewers

By Rob Reilly on November 04, 2005 (8:00:00 AM)

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Thumbnail viewers are utilities that let you quickly view or manipulate images. For instance, many let you display, rotate, and zoom images. Some also offer built-in slide show features -- though not at the level of presentation programs such as Impress. Here's an introduction to several common Linux thumbnail viewer programs.


Gwenview, the image viewer for KDE, is the Cadillac of the bunch. As with the other viewers, you can use it to preview images (thumbnails) and their filenames on the left side of the screen, and see full-sized images in a larger window on the right.

The program has a host of batch file processing options. For instance, it can convert a bunch of .jpeg files that were taken using a digital camera to .png for Web site use. Gwenview can import and export the following formats: JPEG, PNG, PPM, BMP, and TGA. You can import TIFF, but can't export it.

Some of the other batch processing functions let you add borders to your images and normalize, solarize, or edge-detect your scenes. Edge detection can create line drawings from your scene elements.

Gwenview uses external graphics editors to change pictures. You can select a picture, then right-click on the External Tools menu item to pick your editor, or you can add your favorite editor under the Settings tab.

Slide shows are a strong point of Gwenview. You'll find the option under the Plug-in tab. Click Tools -> Slide shows for a setup screen. You'll see a multitude of transition effects. For instance, the Cube transition puts each image on a cube and spins it around to display it. Fading between slides is very smooth. The transition time is selectable in milliseconds and has a lower limit of 1 second. Since Gwenview supports looping, it would work well in a signage application, too.

Gwenview - click to enlarge

Gwenview has an HTML album creator, which you can find under the Plug-in tab. Click Export -> HTML Export to assemble albums from selected images or an entire directory. You can also select the number of images per row, the look of your borders, or the background colors. Click through the Selection, Look, Album, and Thumbnail screens to review options.

Gwenview also has a calendar creator. With it, you select your font style and 12 images. Press Next, and poof, the application creates a calendar using your images.

For a full featured thumbnail viewer package with a lot of options, Gwenview is my choice.


gThumb is a fast little viewer originally for the GNOME desktop. gThumb version 2.3.3-9 came bundled in the SUSE 9.2 Linux, and I used it with KDE. It displays a list of filenames on the left and shows each thumbnail image on the right. If you double-click on an image, gThumb replaces the thumbnails with a scrollable view of the selected image. It also offers various zoom, rotate, and single image format conversions.

gThumb - click to enlarge

If you fill in meta information for each image, such as comments and categories, gThumb has a search feature you can use to locate an image. Naturally, you can search by date or file name as well.

You can create a Web image album by selecting images and filling in a theme and HTML file name under the Tools -> Create Web Album menus. gThumb creates an index file you can upload (along with the images) to your server. The HTML file displays each image, the ones before and after, comments, and navigational arrows. The themes are limited but attractive.

For a good balance of speed and ease of use, you won't go wrong with gThumb.


GQview is simple and basic, and probably the fastest viewer on this list. When you select a thumbnail, the image appears immediately in the right window. Displayed images are of very high quality. All the usual functions are there, including image zooming, rotating, and flipping, but GQview lacks any format conversion functions.

GQview has an editable list of editors, too. You can use GQview to quickly move through your images, then click on your favorite industrial strength graphics editor to make changes. My default SUSE 9.2 configuration offered a selection of the Gimp, xv, and xpaint. This capability sure would have saved me some time on a recent book project.

GQview - click to enlarge

You can create slide shows and start them with a right click and Start Slide show selection. The default transition time is one second, but you can alter that under the Preferences tab. GQview can either go alphabetically down the filename list, or you can use Ctrl and left mouse clicks to select the images you want to include.

GQview is a good viewer for use on older hardware, when you hate to sit around waiting for things to load.


Finally, xzgv is just a simple viewer with a featherweight (653KB) footprint. If you just want to view images quickly, this is the program for you.


Qiv is a command-line viewer application that you can run in an Xterm window. It has the same zoom, rotate, and image manipulation capabilities of the GUI viewers, with all the rich capabilities of the command line.

For example, if you wanted to quickly produce a slide show of your .png images, gather them in a directory and in an Xterm type:

qiv -s -d 5 *.png

The images will appear, one by one, with a five-second delay between slides. Pressing Escape ends the slide show.

You can specify options such as contrast, maximum picture size, brightness, and image centering when starting the program. See the help menu or man pages for a lengthy list of options.

Qiv also functions in interactive mode, using the keyboard and mouse. Basic keyboard commands are intuitive, such as the plus/equal sign to zoom in and the minus sign to zoom out. The lower-case h flips an image horizontally, while the lower-case v flips an image vertically. Mastering functions beyond the basics requires a good memory or a cheat sheet.

This program is great for fast setup and display of your slides. Since it runs from the command line, you don't have to mess around with on-screen buttons or mouse clicking.


XV - click to enlarge

XV is really only a pseudo thumbnail viewer. It has been around for years and works well for viewing images. You have to load files from a file list tree, without a preview, and the images show up in a separate window. Once an image file is loaded, you can bring up each image by clicking on its filename. So, it sort of has thumbnail viewing capabilities.

XV has no slide show mode, but it can convert images to a different format; all you need do is change the extension and save. It works with all the major formats -- GIF, JPEG, PNG, and TIFF. Click on the Save button, then click and hold the Format button to see a complete list of export formats.

Even though XV is a little outdated in the user interface department, it is a solid viewer that you can use to quickly flip through a list of pictures.

Thumbs up

As with everything else in the open source world, thumbnail viewers give users a variety of capabilities and features. There is sure to be one that meets your needs.

Rob Reilly is a consultant, writer, and commentator who advises clients on business and technology projects. His articles regularly appear in various Linux and business media.

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on Linux thumbnail viewers

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Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 04, 2005 05:49 PM
though restricted for commercial use, also avaibable for the Linux platform : Xnview : has had a lot of development through the years, great interface, lots of options : <a href="" title=""></a>



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 04, 2005 07:00 PM
In a picture viewer, for me it is very important that the application is very fast and responsive.

I think it also should be easy to use so you can browse between many pictures in a fast and efficient manner.

Btw, the screenshot on 'xv' looks very old and rusty GUI.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 05, 2005 03:58 AM
Yes, duh, did you miss the fact that xv is OLD? It's only been mentioned a thousand times...



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 04, 2005 08:42 PM
I did some comparison, too. And finally ended up in Showimg and the kipi-plugins:

- Installable by Debian apt

- a bit image-editing integrates

- Detection of duplicate images

- Mass-Renaming of images

- good Slideshow-Features

- Screenshots

- HTML-Album an other export-features

- Batch Processing


Wikipedia articles

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 04, 2005 10:17 PM
There are articles about these software on Wikipedia.

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== Mentioned in Comments ==
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A few remarks about gthumb

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 05, 2005 02:49 AM
The description of gthumb seems to imply that it cannot display the image in 'Folder' mode like in the Gwenview and GQview screenshots.

This is not true. That 'mode' can be enabled via the menu entry View > Show/Hide > Image Preview.

However, I understand why the article writer made that mistake.

I have been using GThumb for more than a year (probably closer than 2 or 3 years) and I am still confused by the system of display modes ( "Folders" , "Catalog" or "Image" ) combined with the multiple ways to enable/disable the image preview , the EXIF info, and the user comment.

For example, in "Folders" mode, there are 4 buttons on the top-right of the image preview:

    (1) display the image

    (2) display the Exif

    (3) display the User comment

    (4) disable the Image Preview

It is far too easy to click on (4) by mistake. The result is that the image preview pane is completely gone and must be reenabled via the menu. It took me weeks to figure out why image was sometime disapearing. Very confusing.

Even worse! in "Image" mode, the image preview only has 2 buttons:

    (1) Show/Hide a 'double' pane with Exif on the left and the User Comment on the right ()

    (2) Close

When you click on (2) which often happen by mistake when you try to click (1) the effect is to return to the mode from where the image was called ("Folder" or "Catalogs").

To be even more confusing, the menu View > Show/Hide can also be used to enable/disable the thumbnails pane and the directory pane in "Folder" and "Catalogs" mode.

Another annoyance I noticed in Gthumb is the fact rotation are done via a popup window so at least 3 mouse clicks are needed (select "Rotate Image", select rotation , Apply ). Even worse! in "Folder" or "Catalog" mode, the toolbar contains a "Rotate Image" button to open that window but the 'Tools' menu must be used in "Image" mode.

My conclusion is that Gthumb can be very powerfull. It is fast and has some nice features (web gallery, import photo from camera/usb stick, burn CD) but its interface is too confusing.

If you are looking for an intuive image browser for your mum then this is not the one.




Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 05, 2005 10:12 AM
Xli is also available: it's basic, but extremely fast.


Two factors missing from this review

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 05, 2005 05:18 PM
There are two important details missing from this review:

1 - which viewers support viewing thumbnails located across multiple directories and subdirectories? Browsing on a per directory basis is frustrating for large collections.

2 - which viewers support EXIF/IPTC data? This allows you to more effectively manage your images, as well as tie important information to images (which can be critical if you are publishing images).

Adding tags, titles and descriptions to images is fine, but a waste of time if this meta data is written anywhere other than to IPTC.


Re:Two factors missing from this review

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 07, 2005 02:45 AM
What about printing?? The lack of something like Windows XP's photo print wizard was one of the reasons I couldn't convert my dad over to linux about 6 months ago.

Linux badly needs something that prints as well as Windows XP's "photo print wizard" or ACDSee.



Posted by: Anonymous Coward on November 07, 2005 05:43 AM
This entry is very unfair to XV and needs to be updated.

> You have to load files from a file list tree, without a preview,

Not so - there are THREE ways to bring up XV's thumbnail viewer:

1) Run 'xv -vsmap' from the command line.
2) Right-click to bring up the menu panel, click on 'Windows' then on 'Visual Schnauzer'.
3) Type ctrl-V to do the same thing with a keyboard shortcut.

> XV has no slide show mode,

Also not so. XV has a bazillion command line options. Try 'xv -wait 2 *.jpg' to automatically switch photo's every 2 seconds (for example). There are also options for random viewing, recaling the images, making the images be the X-windows wallpaper, etc, etc.

XV is definitely for command line users though. Most of XV's excellent functionality requires that you RTFM and use the command line options.



Posted by: Administrator on November 09, 2005 04:04 PM
Does any viewer naturally support postscript as easily as other formats? I know I can easily convert, but I create all presentations in LaTeX(Prosper) using mainly postscript images, and miss an easy way of scanning directories for graphics.



Posted by: Administrator on November 04, 2005 08:26 PM
a small note to the above article on thumbnail viewers for linux;

xv _does_ have a thumbnail preview-based image browser, to access it press +V at the main screen. without it it wouldn't be worth mentioning in this article all together. KDE and Gnome are not the only players in the linux world - do your homework people!



Posted by: Administrator on November 04, 2005 08:30 PM
i typed "Ctrl + V" but the _Control_ was lost during encoding.

the feature is called "visual schnauzer" btw


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