ACDSee Pro Photo Manager
Note: This review addresses v3.0 of the software.
If you're a typical user, you probably have thousands of photos squirreled away on your hard drive. Finding those images can be a challenge, which is where ACDSee Pro comes in. Completely redesigned, the tabbed interface is divided into four functionality areas similar to the steps in a typical photographer's workflow: Manage, View, Process, and Online.
Manage mode is where you import, organize, keyword-tag, rate, batch-process, search for, and compare images. The batch processing, keywording, rating, and organizing work smoothly and easily; searches are quick and savable. Unfortunately, Compare, which allows you to examine similar images and tag them for further consideration, is a separate window. Since the other Manage functions are not available in Compare, you can't rate or keyword-tag images as you compare, which can slow down workflow.
The View mode lets you inspect images at higher zoom levels; it also allows you to watch slideshows. Here, you can play movies and add sound to your images. The division of View and Manage modes seemed counterintuitive to us. In View mode, you have the ability to use the same caption, rating, and tagging tools as in Manage--a major help, but it would be far more useful if ACDSee combined Manage, Compare, and View into a single tab.
The Process mode now has two edit methods: the nondestructive Develop, which won't affect image integrity; and Edit, for pixel-level adjustments. Develop is further divided into Tune (to adjust exposure, tone, and color), Detail (for sharpness and noise reduction), and Geometry (to handle lens distortion, perspective, crop, and so forth). Any changes made in Develop are saved separately from the original image. The Edit section of the Process tab includes such tools as Red Eye and Special Effects, as well as pixel-based Exposure, Tone Curves, White Balance, Sharpen, and Color adjustments.
The new Advanced Color tool--available in both of the Process sections--impressed us. With Advanced Color selected, click anywhere in your photo to choose the color values directly under your cursor. Then drag up or down to increase or decrease the saturation, brightness, or hue of all similar pixels in your image. Alternatively, you can select specific colors in the spectrum, choose saturation, brightness, or hue, and use the tools in the dialog box to make the adjustment. The resulting curve tends to be gentle, with the changes in the image appearing natural rather than overly dramatic.
The Online mode tab is just a window into the ACDSee Online service for sharing and archiving photos. The full range of online tools is available in the File drop-down menu in the other three modes. For instance, that's where you'll find the Send tools for e-mailing or uploading to the Web. The program supports uploads to Flickr, Smugmug, and Zenfolio, and via FTP, as well as publishing to Tivo and creating an online SendPix slideshow. The company says that it will support uploads to other sites in the future.
As capable as ACDSee Pro is, the software can be intimidating; learning how to make it work for your particular needs may take trial and error. However, the opening splash screen is a QuickStart Guide that offers a helpful albeit cursory explanation of the interface, and ACDSee's Help menu provides info about various features and tools--but little advice or instruction on their use.
ACDSee Pro does an excellent job in helping to catalog and search large libraries of photos. Our greatest concern about this version is the division of the interface into workflow tabs. The way tools are spread across Manage, Compare, and View hinders an efficient run-through of photo inspection, selection, and tagging. If those limitations don't sound like a problem to you, though, ACDSee Pro 3.0 might fit your workflow.
--Sally Wiener Grotta & Daniel Grotta