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ACDSee Pro 4 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £139
inc VAT

Photo management and raw processing that's both fast and powerful; a handful of niggles keep it from an award

Digital SLR cameras’ raw modes unlock an extra level of photographic creativity, but the raw-processing software that comes with these cameras is often fairly uninviting. Perhaps that’s why many people stick to shooting JPEGs and managing them in the excellent – and free – Google Picasa.

ACDSee Pro is similar to Picasa, handling various tasks including tagging, sorting, searching, optimising, printing and sharing photos online. However, at each stage it offers functions that let prolific, creative photographers achieve more than Picasa allows.

ACDSee sort
ACDSee Pro took just a second or two to search through thousands of photos to reveal all the wide-angle shots taken with a particular camera

Its Manage tab is a case in point. A Calendar panel sorts photos by capture date, and with our library of 37,000 photos it took less than a second to reveal the ones taken on a particular year, month, day or hour. The Organize panel filters by a vast range of other criteria including camera model, focal length and aperture. Most of this data is embedded into files as they’re taken, while other details – Creator, Job Title, Web URL and so on – can be applied in batches using custom metadata presets, a new feature in version 4.

Filtering by multiple criteria simply involves holding down Ctrl and selecting the ones you want from the list. However, it’s not so easy to filter by both date and another criterion, as selections in the Calendar and Organise panels on each side of the screen cancel each other out. A third sub-panel, Group By, provides a workaround but it’s clumsy.

ACDSee Pro 4 takes a cue straight from Picasa with its newfound ability to plot photos on a map. Photos from GPS-enabled cameras are plotted automatically, and it’s easy to drop other photos onto the map manually. The maps come courtesy of Google, but the panel doesn’t fit neatly into the interface’s default layout. There’s ample scope to rearrange the layout of all the panels, and to save and recall layouts, but it shouldn’t be obligatory to have to resort to this sort of customisation.

ACDSee map
Displaying photos’ locations on a map is a fun way to browse collections, particularly if your GPS-enabled camera has done the coordinate plotting for you

A key task for photo-management software is picking the best shots from a large set. ACDSee Pro uses a five star rating system, which is much more useful than Picasa’s single star. However, applying ratings involves grappling with the right-click menu when it deserves prominently-placed buttons. There are keyboard shortcuts to apply ratings more quickly but they don’t work in the Compare Images viewing mode. Another snag is that, while it’s possible to show only the photos with a particular rating, it can’t show all those rated two stars or above, for example.

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Price £139
Rating ****

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