What should you expect from photo management software like ACDSee Pro? If you’re dealing with thousands of photos and other multimedia files, the application has to be fast and incredibly efficient–capable of organizing, finding, and processing photos in as few steps as possible. The latest update of ACDSee Pro–version 2–adds new features to handle such tasks well, provided that your PC has enough horsepower.
The first time I launched the program, it cataloged all the photos, videos, and other multimedia files on my hard drive. (As with most photo management apps, this process can take a while if you have a sizable library.) Using the metadata from your photos, ACDSee automatically categorizes them into folders that you can browse chronologically. You can also browse them by event, year, month, day, or photo calendar.
Pro 2 features a look that has been modernized by adding a gray and black skin to the workspace. The improved Windows Explorer-like user interface shows your folders on the top left, a photo preview at the bottom left, thumbnails in the middle, and properties on the right. As in past versions, the workspace in Pro 2 is customizable. You can add, move, or remove certain elements to suit your specific workflow. For example, I removed the Preview window, as I found it unnecessary because version 2 shows a slick new pop-up preview when you mouse over an image.
ACDSee gives you plenty of options for organizing your images or narrowing a search, and it supplies multiple points of entry in achieving those tasks. For example, you can use the new Group By drop-down menu to view pictures by author, camera, one or more keywords (version 2 adds multiword support), and other settings. Or, you can use the new “Filter By” option to sort pictures by user-applied rating, tagged/untagged, or user-applied categories such as people or places. The Organize window’s Auto Categories list has yet another new way to sort photos–by metadata. In addition, you can rate your photos and filter them based on those ratings.
Also improved in version 2 is the handling of RAW images. The application now allows you to rotate and crop in one step, edit shadows and highlights, and export to multiple formats and resolutions.
ACDSee was relatively speedy when I browsed through my image library, but performance slowed to a crawl when I edited 2-megapixel-size or higher-resolution photos. The app choked when I tried to edit RAW images that ranged in file size from 12MB to 15MB each. My 3-GHz Pentium 4 CPU should have been fast enough, but apparently my system didn’t have enough RAM for ACDSee’s liking (though any good imaging application will need lots of RAM); ACDSee Pro 2’s system requirements do list 1GB of RAM as recommended.
With the ideal hardware, the app’s wide range of photo editing tools becomes more tolerable to use. For example, you can adjust exposure or enhance the shadows and highlights of backlit photos, and see the effects almost instantaneously. (The app doesn’t show before-and-after comparisons, though–and such a feature would have been useful.) You can then apply your edits (up to 13 operations) to multiple photos using the batch processor. ACDSee Pro writes your edits to a database rather than the original files, so they’re nondestructive. You also get a rudimentary Select tool, though it doesn’t go beyond a rectangular shape.
ACDSee Pro 2 is a good application for photographers and graphic designers who use the Windows platform, and the improvements in the app’s core features and interface have made this product even better than the original ACDSee Pro. At $130, it’s also much cheaper than Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, which costs $299. If you don’t have the latest and greatest PC, however, you’ll have to live with sluggish performance, especially in editing.