Best Free Photo-Editing Software

Updated June 30, 2013
In this report
Best Reviewed

Free photo-editing software


Basic tools and powerful programs

While there are many free photo-editing programs available, reviews recommend Google Picasa far more than any other. The program's strengths lie in its organizational tools, but the software now also includes editing tools -- including some fairly powerful ones -- that might be all that many users need. The current version, Google Picasa 3.9, is available for Mac and Windows operating systems. It combines image editing with organizational features, and the latest version is integrated with Google+ for file sharing and tagging.

Reviews are complimentary of Picasa's image-editing tools. Google recently purchased the popular Picnik photo editor, so its photo-editing capabilities have improved, and it includes tools such as facial recognition, adjustment brushes and filter effects. The software is easy to learn to use, which is another plus, and Google Picasa offers an online photo album for sharing and geotagging. Reviewers also praise Google's organizational tools. "For pure photo management, nothing does it better, with an organisation and design that stands out from the crowd," says Jay Stansfield at PC Pro. However, reviewers would like to see integration with networking sites like Facebook and Flickr (not surprisingly, Google chose to focus on its own social network, Google+).

Most free photo-editing software and online services provide only basic tools. At the other extreme, you can find photo editors, such as GIMP (which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program), that rival Adobe Photoshop for power in manipulating images. GIMP is available for Unix/Linux operating systems as well as for Windows and Mac.

The latest version, GIMP 2.8, includes new features like layers and advanced brushes. Reviews of this latest version are quite positive, finding its usability much improved thanks to a new single-window editing mode. Even so, most experts say GIMP is complicated and probably overkill for those who don't want to spend hours learning how to use it. Instead, other free photo-editing software is much easier for beginners, with enough editing tools to enhance photos without being too time consuming.

Mac users might also want to consider Apple iPhoto, a photo-organizing and editing program that is included free with a new Mac computer. It's also available in the Mac app store for $15. Reviews of the current version, Apple iPhoto '11, are positive, including an Editors' Choice award from Experts say iPhoto really excels in some areas, such as its integration with Facebook and easy-to-use guides for creating photobooks and calendars. Ease of use is another plus, as reviewers say iPhoto has a beautiful interface that is very easy to use, even for beginners. However, most reviewers prefer Google Picasa, which offers more online viewing options and editing tools. "The problem for iPhoto is that Picasa does a better job with the most appealing of those extras, like face- and geo-tagging," says Michael Muchmore at