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30.18 Viewing Image Thumbnails in Dired

Image-Dired is a facility for browsing image files. It provides viewing the images either as thumbnails or in full size, either inside Emacs or through an external viewer.

To enter Image-Dired, mark the image files you want to look at in the Dired buffer, using m as usual. Then type C-t d (image-dired-display-thumbs). This creates and switches to a buffer containing image-dired, corresponding to the marked files.

You can also enter Image-Dired directly by typing M-x image-dired. This prompts for a directory; specify one that has image files. This creates thumbnails for all the images in that directory, and displays them all in the thumbnail buffer. This takes a long time if the directory contains many image files, and it asks for confirmation if the number of image files exceeds image-dired-show-all-from-dir-max-files.

With point in the thumbnail buffer, you can type <RET> (image-dired-display-thumbnail-original-image) to display a sized version of it in another window. This sizes the image to fit the window. Use the arrow keys to move around in the buffer. For easy browsing, use <SPC> (image-dired-display-next-thumbnail-original) to advance and display the next image. Typing <DEL> (image-dired-display-previous-thumbnail-original) backs up to the previous thumbnail and displays that instead.

To view the image in its original size, either provide a prefix argument (C-u) before pressing <RET>, or type C-<RET> (image-dired-thumbnail-display-external) to display the image in an external viewer. You must first configure image-dired-external-viewer.

You can delete images through Image-Dired also. Type d (image-dired-flag-thumb-original-file) to flag the image file for deletion in the Dired buffer. You can also delete the thumbnail image from the thumbnail buffer with C-d (image-dired-delete-char).

More advanced features include image tags, which are metadata used to categorize image files. The tags are stored in a plain text file configured by image-dired-db-file.

To tag image files, mark them in the dired buffer (you can also mark files in Dired from the thumbnail buffer by typing m) and type C-t t (image-dired-tag-files). This reads the tag name in the minibuffer. To mark files having a certain tag, type C-t f (image-dired-mark-tagged-files). After marking image files with a certain tag, you can use C-t d to view them.

You can also tag a file directly from the thumbnail buffer by typing t t and you can remove a tag by typing t r. There is also a special tag called “comment” for each file (it is not a tag in the exact same sense as the other tags, it is handled slightly differently). That is used to enter a comment or description about the image. You comment a file from the thumbnail buffer by typing c. You will be prompted for a comment. Type C-t c to add a comment from Dired (image-dired-dired-comment-files).

Image-Dired also provides simple image manipulation. In the thumbnail buffer, type L to rotate the original image 90 degrees anti clockwise, and R to rotate it 90 degrees clockwise. This rotation is lossless, and uses an external utility called jpegtran, which you need to install first.