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 ACDSee is a powerful photo editor

ACDSee is a powerful, but crash-prone (at least on the two Windows XP Home SP1 / NTFS systems that I use) consumer-oriented digital imaging manager. ACDSee PowerPack bundles the base ACDSee 5.0 image manager with FotoCanvas 2.0, an image editor; and FotoAngelo, a slideshow and screensaver generator. Compared with rival Adobe Photoshop Album, ACDSee is focused on file-level manipulation and organizational processes, while Photoshop Album is more focused on creative projects. Consumers that primarily want to *use* their photographs to create calendars, photo books, video CDs, greeting cards, e-cards, etc., should purchase Photoshop Album. ACDSee PowerPack does not have tools for these sorts of projects. Consumers that place importance on metadata should also consider ThumbsPlus 6.0.

(Consumers should beware the trial version of Adobe PhotoShop Album. The trial version installs Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.1, but is then unable to uninstall Acrobat Reader, which has since been surpassed by Adobe Reader 6.0.)

It is in the use of ACDSee that one acquires an appreciation of the program's file-level management and organizational facilities. Although ACDSee's interface may look complicated at first, its design enables one to manipulate multiple files quickly. Photoshop Album is less skilled at file-level management in part because it abstracts collections of images into a catalog-based user interface. ACDSee's small touches may be easy to overlook, but are appreciated when compared to other programs. CompuPic Pro 6.22, for example, allows Shift-Click mouse operations to select multiple files, but omits ACDSee's keyboard support for similar operations.

Support for metadata in an image manager is important. Pictures may be worth a thousand words, but not always. Without aid, the casual viewer may not understand a picture's content or context. (E.g., What is this a picture of? Who are these people? What the (blank) was I drinking..?!) Even the photographer himself may not remember these things himself ten or twenty years later. Metadata helps by capturing camera setting information and providing a way to embed picture caption information inside the picture itself.

ACDSee does a fair job of supporting metadata. ACDSee can read all, and edit selected (but not all) EXIF metadata fields present in a picture, but cannot add EXIF metadata to a picture if those metadata fields are absent from the picture (i.e, scanned pictures). The program also uses an internal database to store notes up to 4,000 characters, keywords up to 1,000 characters, and category information about pictures. While ACDSee's batch operations support the addition of keywords, category, and database information (these are all to the ACDSee internal database), batch support does not extend to EXIF metadata editing operations.

ACDSee unfortunately does not support the more useful IPTC and XMP metadata standards. (For example, the online photo sharing site Fotki.com automatically displays IPTC title and caption information.) Users with files with IPTC metadata will have to take care in using ACDSee. While ACDSee JPEG filters are IPTC-aware, the program's TIFF filters are not. ACDSee's TIFF filters have a bug - adding EXIF metadata to an 8-bit grayscale TIFF image will mangle the image with some sort of Emboss effect.

Most of ACDSee's competitors do worse at supporting metadata. Photoshop Album truncates metadata caption text to 63 characters, and limits internal database entries to 1,000 characters. CompuPic Pro 6.22 can only read (but not edit) EXIF metadata, and does not have internal notes or keywords facilities. Picasa uses EXIF datestamps to only sort images. ACDSee users can supplement ACDSee's metadata capabilities with freeware programs like Exifer (http://www.exifer.friedemann.info), a EXIF and IPTC metadata editor; and PixVue (http://www.pixvue.com) , a freeware Windows Explorer extension that provides IPTC/XMP metadata handling capabilities. ThumbsPlus 6.0 is a notable exception, supporting both EXIF and IPTC metadata. However, ThumbsPlus' interface is less adept than ACDSee's interface, and not have a Calendar view.

ACD FotoCanvas 2.0 and ACD FotoAngelo 2.0 are very basic programs not worth the extra cost. One would almost be better-off saving money towards the purchase of Photoshop Elements (or Paint Shop Pro) and ProShow, respectively. FotoAngelo's output options are limited to Microsoft Windows executable (.EXE) files and screensaver (.SCR) files. Users that want to share their memories with a wider audience will have to go elsewhere to create video CD's. While FotoAngelo supports captioning, caption text import from embedded metadata (EXIF, IPTC, or XMP) and ACDSee's internal database are all unsupported, so caption text must be manually entered for each image in the show.

As a basic image editor, FotoCanvas is on par with the very basic Microsoft Photo Editor that has shipped with Microsoft Office for several years. The base ACDSee product itself has a far better image rotate tool than FotoCanvas, which splits the tool in two: Rotate and Flip. FotoCanvas, however, does have a far better Crop tool than Adobe Photoshop Elements. FotoCanvas also supports Adobe PhotoShop plug-ins.

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