Image Viewing: IRFanView
I hated this program when I first started using it. The sys-admin at one of my previous employers had loaded it as the default image viewer, and I could not understand why. After several years of fiddling with other programs, I can now tell you why.
Quick loading, and I mean FAST. Photoshop, JASC, etc, all take 10 minutes to load (or it feels like it) with IRfanview you double click and your image is right there.
Editing tools are very basic (which is why I hated the program initially) but they are more than sufficient to handle the average users requirements. Image scaling, lightening and darkening of the image, etc. If you want to major editing, get program made for editing. If you want to view images and do basic manipulation, IRfanview is the program for you.
Image editing: Gimp it
When I need to manipulate files, I pull out 'The Gimp'.
Why would you pay for Photoshop when this program does everything Photoshop does, and does it for less? Someone else posted this on the same thread, which sums it up for me:
I think that when you struggle for software in a particular area you should always start with free unless you are compelled. That way you can learn the technologies. the techniques, the strengths and the weaknesses. If the free software does what you need, then great! If it doesn't, you'll be able to look at the commercial offerings with specific questions and specific needs. This improves your chances of finding what you need on the first try without buying a lot of unnecessary software.
When I finally start taking the PVR seriously I might have a video editor to recommend. And I'll be doing that right after I finish remodeling the house.