ACDSee 16 review
Digital cameras and smartphones have turned us into prolific photographers, and ACDSee 16 is designed to help us keep on top of all those snaps. It's a cut-down version of ACDSee Pro 6, and lacks the advanced, non-destructive editing tools of the more expensive version. However, its photo management, editing and sharing functions are more advanced than free software such as Google Picasa.
There are all sorts of ways to browse the photo library, and the Calendar is one of the best, as you can filter by year, month, day or hour. The monthly view shows tiny thumbnails for each day that contains photos. Meanwhile, the “Catalog” panel can filter by keyword, rating, colour label, camera, lens, ISO speed, aperture, file size and dozens more options. Matches appeared quickly from our 45,000-strong photo library.
It can also plot photos on a map, reading the embedded data from GPS-enabled cameras and smartphones, or letting the user plot them manually by dragging and dropping onto the map. New to this version is the ability to look up map information such as the country, town and even the nearest road, and embed it into the files' metadata. It’s a shame it doesn't include places of interest or UK counties in its tags, but it's still potentially extremely useful. Browsing the map is fun way to explore a photo collection, but simply typing a place name into the Search bar is a much faster way to jump to a particular set. It's just a shame this feature isn't better signposted, as we doubt many users will stumble upon the small Reverse Geocoding button at the top of the map.
Editing isn't up to the same standards as ACDSee Pro or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5, but it's still pretty capable. There's control over white balance and exposure, plus curve-based colour correction. New to version 16 is the ability to apply effects selectively, either using brush strokes or with a gradient tool, which is perfect for brightening in under-exposed foregrounds.
Creative editing is well catered for too. The Blur effect has been upgraded with a new Lens Blur type, with options to create blown-out highlights and a choice of blur shapes such as stars and hearts. It benefits greatly from the new brush and gradient tools for selectively blurring photos. The new Tilt-Shift effect creates a band of sharp detail and blurs either side. Unlike similar effects in other packages that simply fade between sharp and blurred versions, this one uses a progressively stronger blur. The quality of the other creative effects is variable, but there are enough strong examples to let us forgive the weaker ones.
Sharing options include Facebook, Flickr and SmugMug, although they're hidden away in the File menu. The ACDSee Online web-hosting service is more clearly signposted, but it costs £16.61 for each additional year's hosting.
This editor isn't short of impressive features, but the interface is pretty dense for consumer software, and there are quite a few quirks. The lack of non-destructive editing is another concern. JPEGs are overwritten, and although it's possible to revert to a backup of the original, you can't retrace your steps or tweak colour-correction settings. The lack of video support will be an issue for many people, too. Still, if you want to manage and make quick edits to large batches of photos and can't stretch to the cost of Lightroom, it's a solid choice.
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