Opening Images

How to view pictures on your computer

XnView Freeware Screen Shot

Sue Chastain

You're on the web now and a whole new world has just opened up. Now you have instant access to information on just about anything you could imagine: games, music, software, and, pictures.

Your children, perhaps thousands of miles away, can now share pictures of their own children with you almost instantly. You've learned how to save those pictures off the web or from email, and now you've got quite a collection safely tucked away on your hard drive or other storage.

Be Responsible: Before you right-click to save those graphics, learn how to be a responsible netizen. If the pictures you're saving are snapshots from friends and family members, you probably have nothing to worry about, but keep in mind that not everything on the web is free for the taking. Some of those pictures you're saving may have copyrights attached to them. Always check with the owner of a site before you take their pictures or anything else. It's the polite thing to do.

How to View Pictures You've Downloaded From the Web

Your neighbor Bob stops by and you jump at the chance to show off the latest pictures of little Johnny (not to mention your newly acquired cyber-skills). So you drag Bob over to the computer, double-click on a picture and instead of seeing your newest grandkid, you get a box asking for a program to open it with, or worse, an error message. Bob mutters something under his breath about technology these days. Now what do you do?

Chances are, you just don't have an image viewing program associated with your picture files. Every file type in your computer must be associated with a specific program before your computer knows what to do with it. Usually, these associations are set automatically when you install software, so your computer knows that a *.DOC file opens in Word, a *.TXT file opens in Notepad, and so on.

If you've downloaded a file type that doesn't have a program associated with it, your computer has to ask you what to do. Similarly, if a file becomes associated with a program that is incapable of reading that file type, or if the associated program has been deleted, you'll get an error. The remedy is simple.

Open Pictures in Your Web Browser

If you're in a pinch and you don't have time to download any software, the quickest way to view GIF and JPEG images (the image types most commonly found on the web) is using your web browser.

In Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, or Chrome, go to the File > Open File Menu and navigate to the folder where the file is located. Double-click the filename and it should display in your browser. You may get a message saying that a program could not be found. If you do, just select OK, and the image will display in your browser window.

Another technique is to right-click on the file and select Open With. Choose an application from the menu.

It's much easier, however, if you have a dedicated image viewer to open your pictures.

Opening Pictures with an Image Viewer

There are many freeware and shareware image viewers that you can download from the Web. Many offer additional features for basic image editing and converting file formats as well. To find the right image viewer for your needs a quick search online will turn up plenty of tools for you to work with.

When you install the image viewer, it should automatically set the file associations to open the most common image files. If for some reason a file association is inadvertently changed or suddenly stops working, you can take the following steps to correct it:

  1. Go into Windows Explorer and find a file of the type you want to associate (GIF, JPEG, etc.).

  2. Select its icon once (don't double-click).

  3. If you have Windows 98 hold the shift key down, then right-click on the icon. In Windows XP, you can right-click without holding the shift key.

  4. In the pop-up menu, choose Open With. In Windows 98, a box will open asking you to choose a program to open that file type. In Windows XP, you will get a sub-menu with the most likely programs listed.

  5. Pick a program from the list. If the program you need isn't in the list, choose [other] (Win98) or Choose Program (WinXP) to navigate to another EXE file on your hard drive.

  6. If you always want that program to open these types of files, put a checkmark in the box that says Always use this program to open files of this type.

You may also choose to associate your image files with an image editor. An image viewer is usually faster when you just want to look at a picture, but if you plan to do any modification of the images, you'll need an image editor. Image editors allow you to perform all types of modifications on your images, such as color correcting, cropping, adding text, adding borders and frames, combining pictures into collages, correcting scratches, tears, and other problems, and much more. For more information, see our article Before You Buy a Photo Editor.