capsule review

Ashampoo Photo Commander 9

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Since I reviewed the previous version of Ashampoo Photo Commander, it has undergone a major revision, adding a boatload of new features as well as some user interface changes. It's a capable tool for quickly doing the kinds of minor image adjustments most people need, but I found a number of flaws. Individually, they don't cause much trouble; collectively, they create frustration.

Ashampoo Photo Commander 9 aims to be a soup-to-nuts photo adjustment, creativity, and management tool. It's capable of organizing large collections; generating projects like cards and panoramic composite shots; or editing, cropping, and adjusting the color and contrast of individual photos or entire directories full of images. Ashampoo Photo Commander 9 supports virtually every common image and video file format, and also can organize MP3 audio files (though I'm not sure why you'd use a photo manager for that).

Unfortunately, Ashampoo Photo Commander 9's features fall a little short of what expected. For example, you can rotate a batch of images--but even if your camera records its orientation when the picture was taken and puts that into the photo's EXIF metadata, the program doesn't automatically choose the orientation. Instead, you have to manually choose which way to rotate the images. It's a minor annoyance, unless you have a huge directory of photos that need rotation in different directions. Then it's a big nuisance.

That's not the only feature that's not as automatic you'd expect. The PhotoWizard feature, which appears whenever Ashampoo Photo Commander needs you to select more than one image on which to perform an action, doesn't sort by name until you choose a sort option...despite the fact that the Sort By dropdown menu has "Name (Ascending)" selected every time you open the wizard. The so-called panoramic stitching produced one photo connected along an edge to the next photo in the sequence, with no options to manually match up details or otherwise smooth out the joined images. By contrast, programs like Stoik PanoramaMaker do a much better job of "finding" landmarks in photos and stitching them into a true panorama. I also ran into a problem while cancelling a calendar creation in-progress that caused an error message to display in Korean.

Ashampoo Photo Commander 9's "Create" menu helps you with projects like photo wall calendars, collages, panoramas, an automatically-playing slideshow, Web site photo galleries, and greeting cards. And although it's cool that you can turn your photos into a calendar and add custom dates for holidays or family events, the program doesn't, for example, let you choose which month you want the calendar to start with.

One final note: During the course of installing the product, the wizard prompts you to choose between the Express Installation and Custom Installation. I don't normally recommend that people choose the custom options unless they have specific needs, but in this case, the custom installation permits you to deselect the installation of a Web browser plug called the MyAshampoo toolbar. Antivirus vendors don't consider the toolbar adware or spyware, but some consider it a "potentially unwanted app." I didn't find the browser toolbar a welcome addition at all, and the custom MyAshampoo Search that replaced my browser's home page was just not as useful as Google.

If you're willing to give Ashampoo your e-mail address, the company extends the trial period an additional 30 days, so you can stave off the coach turning back into a pumpkin for an extra month. If you like Ashampoo Photo Commander 9 enough to pay for it, $50 (or $30 for an upgrade from a previous version) isn't a bad price, but the program needs some significant updates before I feel comfortable recommending it.

--Andrew Brandt

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