Pictomio: an image viewer with a high coolness factor

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Pictomio is a free image viewer which features a slick, modern interface and 3D accelerated browsing of image libraries.

It brings together a host of functions for working with images such automatic grouping of images, tagging, image rating, EXIF and metadata editing, as well as image rotation and zooming. Pictomio can also view and manage video and media files and requires a fairly powerful graphics card to run.

In software as in anything, we ideally want to balance both form and function. And although Pictomio scores high marks on both, there exists a good number of more powerful and feature-rich freeware image viewers out there that nonetheless will not hold a candle to this one in terms of sheer coolness and the richness of the user experience.

It does come at a cost (will require a powerful graphics card, and is somewhat higher on resource consumption than the average viewer) but if your machine has the resources you will probably love this. Here are more notes on this program:

  • The user interface: simply looks good and is definitely the program’s strong suite. Navigation is intuitive and everything is accessible through a combination of tabs (on top, on the side of the screen, etc) and right-click context menus.
  • Image browsing: offers thumbnail browsing, film-strip browsing, single image browsing and the iTunes-style carousel browsing, which is somewhat cool but not exactly mind-blowing (and which is presumably why the 3D acceleration is needed). Allows you to sort and/or filter images based on different criteria (see “organization” below).
  • Organization: if you are looking for a tool that can best organize a complicated image library this one is on steroids. Pictomio scans a user selected folder initially and immediately sets to work indexing your library and organizing it across different categories and elements. For example, it allows you to classify images into user-defined categories, rate them, flag them as favorites, tag them using multiple arbitrary tags, create albums, browse by medium or by “color mark”, browse by EXIF data, and maintain a shortlist (a basket, if you will) of images to work with. It even keeps a history of performed search queries. You can filter what you are looking at by everything (e.g. date criteria, landscape or portrait, etc.)
  • Pictomio Slideshow screenSlideshows: you can use the slideshow function just as you would any other image viewer (grab a bunch of images and run the slideshow), or you can choose to specify exactly the display duration for each image, the type of transition used (supports nine different transitions such as Cut, Dissolve, Flip, CrossFade, fade) and the duration of each transition. If you create the perfect slideshow you can save and re-use or re-view it later on.
  • Metadata: offers a comprehensive metadata editor. Aside from some of the elements mentioned above (rating, category, tags, albums) it allows you to enter annotations and to edit/view EXIF data.
  • Editing: this program is not geared towards editing. There is little on offer aside from the lossless rotation and zooming functions; no cropping, no applying of filters, color (or redeye) correction, no on-image text annotation, etc. It assumes that you already have all of these functions using an external image editor.
  • Keyboard shortcuts: for the keyboard-inclined, Pictomio supports a keyboard shortcut for most everything you can do with it.
  • Memory use: this seems to vary wildly depending on what I’m doing with the program. I’ve seen it go from as little as 3 megs when minimized to as high as 120 megs. Suffice it to say it is somewhat resource hungry.
  • Other functions: a color dropper and a ruler to measure image elements. Nice touches.
  • Other media support: in theory Pictomio supports video and audio files as well as well as images. However, this seems like an afterthought, as the program is so heavily geared towards images. It seems to be dependent on system codecs, which I try to limit as much as possible, and was not able to play many of my videos.

Wish list

  • A pared-down version with lower 3D graphics card requirements: i.e. a version that takes away the carousel view and some of the bells and whistles but maintains the look-and-feel and everything else. Would be great.
  • The option to switch off non-image media support (videos and music files) in the settings. Or otherwise remove it as a feature altogether if that might make the program less resource hungry.

The verdict: the bottom line is that I really like this program. Pictomio is geared towards (a) organizing your image library, and (b) providing a cool and slick user experience. This notwithstanding, there are fewer editing functions than you would expect, and you will have to turn to an external program if you want these functions (the excellent – and free – Photoscape is a great option, or see this posting).

My advice is: if you are ready for a new image viewer that delivers a good user experience, and if you have the resources to run it by all means check out this one.

Version Tested: 1.0.15.0

Compatibility: Windows XP, Vista, with 1 GB RAM and CPU > 1GHz. Requires a graphics card with Shader Model 2.0 and a minimum of 128 MB video RAM.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 6 megs).