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How can you view a 360° image (or spherical panorama, sometimes also inaccurately called an equirectangular projection) on your desktop in a way that allows you to pan and zoom around?

When viewing it in many apps it just shows the flattened version, like this:

360 spherical panorama example

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Technical nit pick: The image that was captured by the camera is not a projection. A projection is a mapping from pixels in the original, spherical panorama to pixels on a flat display screen. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 16, 2019 at 14:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Second nitpick: an equirectangular projection by its very nature is always 2:1. That's not 2:1. While that looks like it might be a cylindrical 360º, it's not an equirectangular, which would also include the zenith/nadir (straight up/down) information as well to cover the entire sphere (360ºx180º). \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Aug 18, 2019 at 0:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ This looks like a "partial panoramic" Google Cardboard image, which can take any portion of a full sphere, depending on its EXIF XMP data. developers.google.com/streetview/spherical-metadata?hl=it \$\endgroup\$
    – jumpjack
    Aug 18, 2021 at 8:21

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There are a number of free 360° photo/video viewers for desktop (courtesy of the major 360° camera makers):

Some of the above also have iOS/Android versions as well which may prove helpful.

Alternatively many of the online photo hosting services support interactive 360° images, if you're willing to upload them:

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The simple freeware FSPViewer displays equirectangular pictures quite nicely, available for windows, linux, and OS X.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ FSPViewer requires outdated libpng12.so.0 \$\endgroup\$
    – mitjajez
    Sep 22, 2022 at 20:07
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To get an equirectangular to display interactively you have to deliver it in some interactive viewer format. The most common formats for 360x180 panos would be HTML5, Flash, or QuicktimeVR. The PTGui stitcher, for example, can actually output to QuicktimeVR directly as well as to equirectangulars.

There are a plethora of tools that can do this, and even Facebook and Flickr can do it automatically with uploads that use the appropriate metadata and tagging, respectively. Most will use HTML5 and a web browser.

But if you don't want to use an online service, one tool that will convert any equirectangular image to HTML5, Flash, or QuicktimeVR is Garden Gnome's Pano2VR, but it's licensed. You may also want to look at KrPano.

If you just want to quickly check that a pano you stitched in Hugin looks good, Hugin has a built-in panorama viewer, and a simply using the menu command View → Overview will take you to the Overview pane where you can drag the axes about to rotate the view, but you'll be looking at the sphere from the outside, not the inside. :)

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Panorado is a freeware image viewer for Windows with special support for panoramic and HDR images.

Panorado image viewer

https://www.panorado.com/en/Panorado.php

Koen.

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To view 360-degree photos on your desktop:

  1. Use a modern web browser like Chrome or Firefox.
  2. Open the 360-degree photo in the browser.
  3. Click and drag on the photo to explore it.

No additional software is required.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. I didn’t realise modern browsers had this support. Will have to try it. I suppose the image metadata would have to specify the type of image it is, which may not always be present. \$\endgroup\$
    – Simon East
    Oct 31, 2023 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SimonEast It's the image metadata (as in, Exif/XMPP metadata). Rather, it's the actual filetype (not necessarily file extension) that specifies the type of image it is. That data is often in the first few / few dozen bytes in the file. \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Nov 4, 2023 at 17:32

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