Whip photos into shape with ACDSee 15

Take your photos through importing, viewing, enhancing, and publishing with ACDSee, a full-featured photo-management tool that easily lets you switch between Manage, View, Edit, and Online modes.

ACDSee and its publisher, ACD Systems, have been on the scene for several years now, so it's not surprising to see how polished their flagship product is at this point. Getting started with the software is simple, yet the extensive feature set--particularly in regard to management of a large photo catalog--should provide users plenty of opportunities for learning how to master the application. With ACDSee 15, every step of the photo process--importing photos from cameras or other devices; cataloging photos in your library, applying corrections or creative edits to photos; viewing photo slideshows; publishing, printing, and sharing photos--is mostly a breeze, with a well-stocked help section in case you get lost.

The installer is straightforward and simple to use, with no bundles, and a custom setting that lets you choose which supporting plug-ins you'd like to include with the install. There's a slightly annoying required step of setting up a (free) "acdID" account, but that also provides access to a ACDSee Online account with 2GB free space and assorted tools for sharing or printing photos.

The "Online" tab makes up one-quarter of the primary navigation--the other three buttons being "Manage," "View," and "Edit." Management is the clear focus of the app with half a million (slight exaggeration) ways for tagging, keywording, batch converting, renaming, labeling, organizing, or sending. The main panes of the Management app--such as Folders, Search, Calendar, Preview, Task Pane, Map, and Properties--are all dockable, floatable, hideable, and rearrangeable, making it simple to customize the work environment to your precise liking. The FIFO "Image Basket" lets you quickly draft new albums or collections on the fly, and the similar "Burn Basket" lets you queue up a set of photos for burning to CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray.

The Edit tools are fairly rudimentary but well focused on the tasks that most digital photo enthusiasts use--red-eye and blemish correction; basic tasks like rotating, flipping, cropping, and resizing; exposure and color adjustment; and detail filters like blur and sharpen. A nice set of text, drawing, and effect tools offer scads of creative potential for birthday cards or posters.

What about publishing? Aside from its own proprietary ACDSee Online experience, the program also provides direct uploading to Flickr and SmugMug, with the possibility of expansion to other photo-sharing and publishing sites. Printing options are basic put include presets for all the common sizes--3"x5", 4"x6", 5"x7", 10"x8"--and the ability to add caption, header, or footer text.

We experienced some occasional unusual sorting blips when testing out ACDSee 15, particularly with folders that had very large numbers of images. It would also be nice to have file filtering based on multiple facets--i.e. sort by Date A-Z, then Size Z-A, etc.--and we did have to opt-out of "Special E-Mail Offers" when registering the product and signing up for ACDSee Online. With all the available tools on hand, the interface can sometimes seem cluttered, but again, ACDSee 15 makes it easy to Auto-Hide and arrange those panes as users see fit. Aside from those very niggling details, it's hard to find much to complain about with ACDSee 15. It's excellent software for taking your digital photo collection to a higher level of quality.

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