For reasons known only to the psychiatrist treating my OCD, I collect Mac apps. Among the apps that do the same thing are image browsers.
There’s Bridge, which comes with Adobe’s apps. There’s another that’s free. There’s one that’s expensive. And there’s the old fashioned way. Also free. But also requires a little more work. Is there one affordable image browser worth the time or money?
Images, Wherefore Art Thou?
How you manage images on your Mac says something about you as a Mac user. Average user, advanced user, semi-pro, pro. The average Mac user keeps images in iPhoto. It’s free. It works. It’s enough.
For every Mac user who collects images—let’s call them photos for now—more functionality is required.
The advanced user who wants more information from photos, and organizes photo collections outside of iPhoto will need and want an image browser.
Adobe supplies the popular and useful Bridge for Mac and PC users. Of course, you have to fork over hard-earned cash to Adobe to use Bridge, but it’s capable.
There are free options, too. For example, dump your photos into a folder in the Documents folder, organize it appropriately, and use the Finder’s CoverFlow. It works. It’s not loaded with photo details, but you can’t beat the price or the ease of use.
But the Finder isn’t designed as a photo or image browser. Here are three that are. One is free, one has a nominal price tag, one is more expensive.
Lyn – The lightweight image browser and viewer. I like Lyn. It’s simple, elegant, and has the basic features many semi-pro wannabes might use.
Controls are nominal. Organize your images or photos and the Finder-like folder stack displays photos in each folder. Click on an image and get all the details.
Lyn works with any image supported by your Mac, including JPEG, TIFF, JPEG 2000, PNG, TGA, RAW, HDR, OpenEXR, and PPM. It digs out embedded profiles or color spaces, and most common camera metadata.
It also browses iPhoto, Lightroom, and Aperture libraries.
iMedia Browser – Karelia’s popular iMedia Browser is available for free from the Mac App Store.
It browses image libraries in iPhoto, Aperture, and Lightroom (and anywhere else on your Mac), but doesn’t dig up all the same metadata. However, iMedia Browser also browses music in iTunes, movies on your Mac, and Safari links.
This handy app is more suited for finding media and giving you the option to drag and drop into other Mac apps.
Photon – This image browser truly thinks different—both in function and price. Photon is an attractive image browser which can view the contents of your memory cards, including higher quality RAW images, without the need to import them to your Mac first.
Photon’s image display is full quality, whether JPEG or RAW. It batch converts photos on the fly to JPEG, PNG, PSD, or TIFF. It also displays metadata and the image’s histogram.
This app is aimed more at the pro or semi-pro user, or any Mac user who needs quick access to images, and batch conversions.
You won’t be taxed to learn how to use more functions and features. They’re few and far between. But Photon is fast and one click gives you all the details you’re likely to need in an image even before the import.
Mac users have many choices for managing images. Even the venerable GraphicConverter has a built-in image browser and batch conversion, with far more features at one third the price of Photon. This is a case where less is more.
The Finder is limited in image browsing functionality. iMedia Browser is free, works with major apps, does more, but doesn’t have a stellar reputation among the more professionally minded. Lyn is good, but requires a newer, faster Mac. Photon is fast but doesn’t have many extras. Graphic Converter may be the value among image browsers, but the learning curve is steep.