I have been a loyal user of ACDSee photo management applications for a number of years. ACDSee provides a fast and easy way to manage digital files, whether it is just downloading from camera or card reader, or simply trying to locate images in a large collection of pictures. Now ACDSee have introduced the Pro 3 version and I am keen to take a close look at what’s new and see how this performs.
On launching ACDSee Pro 3, by default your “Pictures” folders is selected, this can be changed to any folder of your choice. A quick start guide floating panel is displayed in the centre of the screen, this provides a brief overview of what ACDSee Pro 3 can do. Additional resources, such as tutorials, user guide and support can be accessed via a link on this panel. The quick start guide can be turned off for subsequent uses. The interface has many modes including; Manage, View, Process and Online. I will look at each in turn.
On the left hand side is the folder hierarchy, which is similar to Windows browser. Click on a folder containing images and the contents are displayed in the centre panel. Other options include Calendar view, this is great for quickly finding images taken on specified dates or even at a certain time of the day. Of course you must ensure that your digital camera has been set up with the correct date and time. Click on an image in the centre panel and a preview is displayed in the left panel or hover your mouse over any image and a small preview pops up. I found this feature annoying when I was moving about on the screen, in the same way that hot text links on a web page are a pain, I haven’t as yet found a way to turn this off. You can also add an image basket to the bottom of the screen and drag pictures into it, these are remembered each time you run ACDSee and are a handy way to work on selected images. Images can be easily removed from the basket without deleting them from your system.
On the right hand side is the Properties panel, use this to add Keywords or view the EXIF information on a picture etc. Keywords are key to using this application efficiently, assign a keyword or a collection of keywords to any image and then use the powerful search facility to quickly find all the images matching your criteria. On a database containing over 50,000 images I could locate a collection of 100 pictures in less than 5 seconds, regardless of which folder they are stored in. All the searched pictures appear in the centre window and can be dragged into the image basket or manipulated etc. If you are like me and forget to assign keywords to images then don’t worry, as long as the folder is named i.e. Christmas 2008 then the search for “Christmas 2008” will bring up all the images in that folder. Of course all the images must be added to the ACDsee database in order for any searches to work. This can be done by either viewing a folder or instructing ACDSee to catalogue your image folder(s)
Besides the visual elements on the interface, many of the key features are accessed through a plethora of menus, drop down menus or right clicking on images. On first viewing I found the many options daunting and can see how many novice users could be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices. However, once you get to grips with the application then you will quickly find the options you’re looking for.
The next tab is the View mode. This screen is minimal when compared to Manage mode. A film strip is displayed at the base of the screen and a large picture is previewed from the current selected image. Images can be advanced by using the arrow keys. Although in the View > Navigation menu it indicates that images can be advanced by pressing the PGDOWN key or to view previous image press Shift+Alt+L. I think ACDSee are complicating a simple process and need to rethink some of their menu instructions.
A few simple icons at the base allow you to rotate of or zoom in on an image. These are hard to see clearly, due to poor choice of icon colours. I would have also liked the icons to be grouped together, instead we have some on the left hand side and a few on the right.
Before I move on to the next mode Process, I should point out that the Print comand only appears on the View screen menus. I found this odd as surely when you have finished editing-processing a picture the next logical thing to do is to print it. A better option would have been to create a new tab for Print or replace the Online tab with Print. I will come back to this later.
This is an interesting tab, which I am not sure whether it should be included in an image management application or not. Generally most people will want to manipultae their images in Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. On the left hand side there are two tabs; Develop and Edit. The Develop tab includes; General, Exposure, Highlight enhancement, Fill light, Contrast and Vibrance. These comprise of a set of sliders and numeric inputs, generally the slider are easy to move and update the image instantly as you move them. Other Develop options include; White Balance, Lighting, Advanced Colour and Tone Curves. The most interesting one is the Advanced Colour, just click on a colour in your image and then move the cursor up or down to instantly change the selected colour, saturation or brightness. This works a treat and I have used it several times on various images.
The Edit tab offers many options such as; Special effects, Borders, Rotate, Crop, Perspective correction, Lens correction etc. It also duplicates some of the Develop settings such as Exposure, Tone Curves, Advanced Colour etc. Most of the Operations launch a mini plug in filter which then gives you several tweaking options.
ACDSee has given a lot of thought to the develop tab and has included some useful features, but I wish some of the more frequently required tools were easier to find. For example I would have liked the crop tool to be an icon on the View mode, as it is, it’s a menu item buried within the Edit tab menu.
On the whole the Process mode does offer some excellent image adjustment options, I would be quite happy to use these for instant image corrections. However, I would still use applications such as PaintShop Pro or Photoshop for any fine tuning or cloning work etc. Images can be sent directly to your chosen image editing application by pressing Ctrl+ALT+X, again you have to dive into the menus to find this, a simple button would be useful.
The final tab gives you the option to upload and share your images onto the ACDsee server> I would have preferred this tab to give me options to upload my images to any site that I wanted to use. However, again buried within the menus you do have the option to ftp. images to any address. This Online tab should have been used for more advanced printing options, as it stands the Print facility is far too basic, options such as multiple images and layout templates are missing.
ACDSee Pro 3 has too many features for me to cover in this short review, features such as SlideShows, Screen Capture, Rename, Create CD or DVD, Burn, Batch Edit etc., these can all be found in the menus. The search facility on ACDSee is probably the fastest I have used on any Data Asset Management application. Large collections of pictures can be searched in a few seconds. For a digital photographer being able to locate images quickly is essential. All in all ACDSee Pro 3 has to be the best release to date and I do not hesitate in recommending this as an excellent application.
Ease of use 8/10
Value for money 9/10