ACDSee Pro Photo Manager

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, January 2006
Published by: ACD Systems
Requires: Pentium III processor or faster, Windows 2000, XP or Vista, 100MB free hard disk space, 256MB RAM
MSRP: US$129.95

I have used the ACDSee for viewing, processing, minor editing, organizing, cataloging, occasionally publishing, and archiving photo collections for a number of years. I've reviewed several incarnations of the product. The last couple of versions have been a massive improvement over earlier versions. In this review I won't dwell on all the image browsing features that we've covered so many times. ACDSee is one of the best image viewing and image management tools I've used. It is also one of the simplest. In this version it is still fast, but ACD Systems has also added all sorts of useful features aimed at professional level photographers.

The addition of support for Adobe's Digital Negative (DNG) file format and more comprehensive RAW image file format support brings ACDSee fully into the realm of professional tools. However, while support for DNG is good, it's far from perfect. I found several DNG files which were not viewable, but which were through Adobe Bridge and Adobe's other tools. Having said that, there were also actually some RAW files I could view in ACDSee Pro Photo Manager, but which could not be read in Bridge or Photoshop. This would seem to indicate that the DNG format itself is not yet finalized.


The metadata (camera properties, image properties, etc.) handling in ACDSee Pro Photo Manager is excellent, with much of the data available in a tabbed panel in the image properties pane. The pane displays information which changes based upon whatever is currently selected whether it be drives, folders or files. This information includes user-defined database info, file & folder info, EXIF, IPTC and custom (ACDSee-centric) metadata. This data helps you in defining natural catalog groupings and also when searching for assets in your database. You can also set metadata in batches. Add the capability for customizable shortcuts and workspaces and the software places itself front and center in the professional photographer's toolkit.

There have also been improvements to the image enhancement and processing tools with lens correction capabilities, shadow and highlight adjustment features and non-destructive RAW processing. You can also add watermarks to your photos, either individually or in batches. The compare images tool is excellent for sorting and reviewing shoots so that you can pare groups of photos down to relevant images.

Color management support using ICC profiles has been added, further enhancing the idea that this is a tool which should be taken seriously. Substantial improvements have been made to the handling and storage of your image assets, including enhanced HTML and CD/DVD-compatible media creation capabilities.

The support materials for this great tool are somewhat thin on the ground. Once I'd registered my package I was offered a free digital photography e-book and a text heavy manual. I think that instead of giving away a free digital photography e-book, ACD Systems should invest some time and resources into improving the user manual. Add some relevant images, screenshots and examples, and enhance the new and intermiedate user experience by supplying some basic tutorial videos (particularly covering new features). Online support should be something to look out for as the product has just been launched as I write this review. I didn't expect much, but the online forums are already present with some activity.

How does ACDSee Pro Photo Manager differ from ACDSee 8 Photo Manager? If you are familiar with ACDSee already, the Pro version should present you with very few surprises. However the surprises that are there, are very pleasant ones indeed. The biggest change has been in the batch processing, which has been improved through the use of unified interface. This interface allows the application of up to 10 different processes to be carried out on selected images. The batch capabilities have also been made easier through the use of a new visual tagging feature. This is one of my favorites, allowing you to organize, sort, process and cull files with great ease. Using the tag feature you can select specific files and move them to a folder for batch processing or just leave them where they are and use selection shortcuts to make your modifications. If you want to have a look at a comprehensive list of the differences between the ACDSee 8 and ACDSee Pro versions, have a look at the feature matrix (it's a PDF file).

Cons: The newly added support for Adobe's Digital Negative (DNG) file format is a great addition, but the compatibility of the ACDSee DNG loader needs to be improved. I felt that the loader should have been able to import and display all of the DNG files I tried. On the other hand, considering that the DNG file format is based on the Digital Negative Specification and still under development to some extent, this compatibility should improve over time with some updates. More and better support materials required. The user interface (UI) is a bit complicated at times. I did feel that the UI let the application down somewhat, but given the historical context, it remains a faithful extension of the existing product set at ACD Systems. I'd love to see some kind of visual style search which compares and presents similar looking images.

Pros: Easy to use, excellent utilities, extensive RAW support. Useful, basic photo editing capabilities. Visual tagging. Fast operation. All in all ACDSee Pro Photo Manager is an excellent solution for any photographers using a Windows-based PC and thinking about RAW and photo workflows. Amateur photographers and photo enthusiasts can also benefit from using ACDSee. I used it to organize and clean up my large digital clipping collection. Digital clippings are reference files and image snags of samples of good design and other inspirational images. For someone who is looking at an efficient method of organizing large numbers of these types of graphics and images, this program is ideal, especially because of the improved batch processing and visual tagging features. The support materials issues mentioned above certainly didn't prevent me from making ongoing and extensive use of this powerful tool. I recommend ACDSee Pro Photo Manager for anyone who has the need for a reasonably priced RAW image workflow, an image asset management engine, a large collection of digital images to view and organize, and large volumes of general image processing tasks.





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