Every operating system has its default image viewer. In Mac OS X, it’s called Preview. In Windows, it’s called Windows Photo Gallery or Windows Live Photo Gallery, depending on which version of Windows you’re using. In Ubuntu, a version of Linux using the GNOME desktop environment, Eye of Gnome is the default viewer. All of them are very nice programs, with basic viewing abilities. Windows Photo Gallery has a bit more in the way of viewing a library of images, as opposed to Preview, which is a strict viewing program (although Mac users also receive iPhoto when they purchase a new Mac), while Eye of Gnome is also a pretty basic viewer. In Kubuntu, the KDE-based distribution, Gwenview is the default viewer, and it is the subject of this article.
Gwenview can be either a basic viewer, a stripped-down image browser, or as a very lightweight editor. It’s not necessarily the top of the line program for any of those tasks, but if you’re looking for a good all-in-one solution with sufficient capabilities in each category, Gwenview is a good choice (and is probably the reason it’s been selected as the default image viewing application).
There are a couple ways to launch Gwenview. Double-clicking most image files in KDE, or choosing the Open option from a contextual menu, will start Gwenview. In these instances, it starts in viewing mode, so you’ll only see the toolbar on the top, the sidebar to the left, and the image. By default, Gwenview will scale the image to fit the size of the window. Make the window larger or smaller, and the image is scaled accordingly. If you want to see the image at full size, simply right-click and change the scaling behavior.
If you’ve opened Gwenview by clicking on an image that is inside a folder with more images, you can use Gwenview to browse through them. Tapping the space bar moves you through the images, alphabetically by file name. You can also use the arrows in the upper toolbar to navigate forwards and backwards through the images. If you want to see the images fullscreen, or in a slideshow, Gwenview also has those options available. The slideshow and fullscreen interface is very nice, with a dark background and a thumbnail strip across the top of the window. Most aspects of this interface, from the thumbnails to the background color, can easily be customized by right-clicking while in slideshow or fullscreen mode.
Gwenview can also be opened on its own, without first double-clicking an image. If you open it in this manner, you’ll get the other interface, which is more of an image browser. In this mode, you’ll be shown folders and images you recently viewed. Sometimes, when an image is no longer available, you’ll get a red “X” indicating you looked at something that’s no longer there. Off to the side you’ll see two extra tabs, one for Places and the other for Tags. The items listed in Places can be modified, but are – by default – locations on your computer (the same locations that appear in the Dolphin file manager sidebar). Tags are little pieces of information you can add to images to help sort and search through them.
For instance, if you took a large number of photos at a birthday party, you might add tags to each photo, identifying the people in it. This way, you could easily search for “Billy” or “Sally” and have only photos they appear in show up in the search results. You can add any piece of information to the tags, of course, including dates, places, events and people… or whatever you want.
Gwenview does have basic editing capabilities, but the functions are limited to basic activities such as cropping, rotating, resizing, red eye reduction and similar operations. If you want to edit an image in a more capable editing program, simply right-click on the image, go down to the Open With menu option, then choose from among the other programs on your computer capable of opening and editing images. When you’re through editing, save the image in the program you used; when you return to Gwenview, the changes will be shown.
Overall, I think Gwenview is a great program. It’s a basic, well-rounded program that doesn’t try too hard to become something it isn’t. It has basic features for basic users, and then provides options for people with greater needs to use programs more suitable. It isn’t a full-fledged photo library manager or professional image editor, but it doesn’t try to be. It’s found a nice balance between features and usability, and is one of the reasons I like using KDE so much. Gwenview is a KDE program, but can also be used in other desktop environments, should you so desire.