Like many purists, I always rename my .cbz files to .zip and my .cbr files to .rar. (or, in my case, convert them to .zip) And, like many people, I extract my comic and manga archives before I view them. Well, until now.
I decided that I’d give specialized comic viewers a try and gathered up the two most likely prospects. (The two comic-specific image viewers I found in the media-gfx section of the Gentoo Linux Portage tree) A Python (using PyGTK) tool named Comix for UNIX-like operating systems, and a wxWidgets-based C++ program named Comical which is available for Linux (and probably other UNIX-like platforms), Windows, and MacOSX.
Both readers have the following minimum feature set I desire:
- Opening both directories (unpacked comics) and zipped comic archives with equal ease. (rar too, but I don’t need that)
- The intelligence to disable two-page mode automatically when viewing comics with two pages per image file. (optional in Comix’s case. Don’t forget to turn it on in the preferences window)
- Load and cache the next page in the comic while you are reading the current one.
- Full-screen mode
- Two-page mode can be configured for stories which read right-to-left (manga mode, as many call it)
- Thumbnail sidebar for quick navigation (can be disabled)
- Customizable zoom and rotation modes
However, Comix also has the following benefits over Comical:
- Automatically jumps to the previous/next archive when you go back/forward from the first/last image in the current one. (Probably the single most important feature it offers as far as I’m concerned)
- Reads four times as many image formats as Comical including BMP. (which is notably absent from Comical’s supported list) and SVG (which I have a soft spot for)
- Quick-access “magnifier lens” so you don’t have to zoom the whole page to read that one tiny bit of text.
- Searchable “comic library” system which automatically displays covers (first pages, technically) from any comic archives you add.
- “Adjust Color” option for comfortably viewing yellowed (or otherwise tinted) scans. (Also includes a contrast adjustment feature)
- Supports archive comments, including treating contained .txt and .nfo files as additional comments.
- Can open tar-packed comic archives (with or without bzip2 or gzip compression)
- Built in option for saving the current page to disk outside the archive
- Built in option to convert the current archive to any other supported format except RAR.
- Easy toolbar button toggle for “manga mode”
- More flexibility in the scaling behaviour. (“stretch small images” can be toggled independently)
- Can optionally overlay a page number on each thumbnail in the sidebar
- Pure GPL license (Comical links against libunrar rather than using the unrar binary, so it has an added linking exception in it’s GPL license)
- Bookmarking of images, whether or not they are inside archives.
Comical does have benefits of it’s own, for example:
- Better page caching (caches backwards AND forwards and you can configure the number of pages)
- Works on Windows and as a native MacOS X GUI app.
However, Comical is rather bare of configuration options compared to Comix and I don’t like the following design decisions:
- The scroll wheel does nothing. I’m used to GQView and Gwenview where it changes pages.
- Comical displays pages two-by-two but provides a confusingly useless “go forward/back by one” pair of buttons which I often click by mistake. (In it’s defense, it is smart enough to cut two-page images in half to keep this working as intended)
Both tools are about the same speed, though both seem to mess up while reading the zip file. I can only assume that they are either not doing enough “extract on demand” or not doing enough of the work using a background thread.
My final verdict? Comix all the way. Not only is it superior in every personally relevant way I’ve tested it, it’s written in Python so I can make it even better if I can ever find the time.
Now to just add it to the list of non-default tools for opening zip files so that I don’t have to rename my .zips back to .cbz. (Some things never change. My stubborness about matter-of-principle issues is one of them.)
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