I want to introduce a browser plug-in I installed over a year ago and use on a near daily basis. It's so familiar to me, I'm surprised when others just discover it. However, this happens frequently enough, I realized it's still relatively unknown and thought I'd write about it.
The plug-in is called CoolIris and is hands-down the best way to view large numbers of photos on the web that I've found. After installation, it is activated by clicking a small icon in the bottom corner of pictures where it's available. When activated, it displays images on a "wall" covering your entire screen, three images high and as long as it needs to be for the list of photos it's showing. The images are automatically scaled to the same size to look balanced and consistent. There is a slider control across the bottom to move the wall back and forth. Clicking on an image will zoom it to medium size.
Double clicking an image will zoom it to full screen. When in this mode, each image fills the screen with thumbnails across the bottom that can be used to select different images. There is a play button to automatically advance to the next image after a brief delay, basically functioning like a slide show.
Each image has a number of buttons to provide various functions related to the image. These include such things as e-mailing a link to someone, viewing the original web page containing the image and marking images as favorites. Some of the functions require creating an account with CoolIris for configuration information. This is optional to use the plug-in, but required for certain features.
There is also a search function that allows you to search any one of a number of photo sharing sights such as Flickr, SmugMug, Google images and Yahoo images, to name a few. You don't need to start your search in CoolIris however. You can go to one of these sites directly, or any other site that supports the MediaRSS feed format, do your search, and then start the plug-in.
If you run a blog with galleries, you need to enable this on your site. People who have the plug-in installed will love you for it; some may even ignore your site if it doesn't support it. More information can be found at http://developer.cooliris.com.
The CoolIris plug-in is available on both Windows and Mac in Firefox 2.0 and 3.0. Additionally on just Windows it runs in Internet Explorer and on just the Mac in Safari. Click the image above to go to their site to download it and start viewing images on a whole new level.
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