Image Glass, qView, PhotoQt are some of the recent photo viewer applications which we were impressed with. But these are for regular users, if you're a professional artist or graphics designer, you may want something that offers a different experience.
PureRef is a cross-platform reference image viewer. It's a freeware program.
When you run it, you'll be greeted by a blank screen. It prompts you to drag and drop images onto the PureRef interface. This isn't limited to photos that are stored on your computer, you can add pictures from the internet or the ones that you have copied to the clipboard. Add a photo or two and you'll see their thumbnail appear on the canvas.
PureRef is truly minimalist, as it doesn't have a title bar or any toolbar. Switch to the maximize mode (full screen) using Ctrl + F.
For a more immersive experience, you could try the overlay mode which makes the application maximized (but not full screen) with a transparent background. Each image appears detached, and you can still move them around the screen. Ctrl + Y returns PureRef to the default view. The program has always on top and always on bottom modes as well.
Left click on an image loaded in PureRef and drag it to rearrange the order of the pictures. Because of this, the program doesn't support left-click to drag and move the interface, instead you'll need to use right-click + drag.
PureRef embeds images to create a save file (.PUR format) that contains the pictures as one portable file. You can choose not to embed local images, but the ones that you paste or drag and drop from the internet, will be embedded.
Click on an image to select it, use the arrow keys to switch between the pictures. Hit the delete button to remove an image from the scene. Rotate an image by clicking on it while holding the left mouse button. Use Ctrl + Alt and the left mouse button to resize a thumbnail. Flip an image by using Alt + shift + left click. Double-click on an image to view a larger version of it. Right-click anywhere in the interface to view the program's menu. Use it to add a note, copy or paste the image, switch to a different view, etc.
Access the Window menu to maximize, minimize, resize the window to the selection size, or to lock the window. Use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out. The Canvas menu has options to reset the zoom, lock canvas, toggle grayscale. The Images Menu is home to various tools including Arrange, Align and Normalize the pictures. PureRef has many keyboard shortcuts, all of which are customizable.
Though the download page prompts for a donation to support development, you may enter 0 in the custom amount field, to download PureRef for free. You can choose from 32-bit and 64-bit versions, with portable options for both architectures.
Aside from the Windows version, PureRef is also available for macOS and Linux. Having an image open in PureRef on a secondary monitor, can be a great way for creating drawings, paintings and digital content. Switch to the overlay mode or transparent to mouse, and use the images as you trace over them using a freehand tool in the graphics editor.
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