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ACDSee 17 review

ACDSee 16 Tilt Shift
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £21
inc VAT

A disappointing update, but ACDSee 17 still delivers sophisticated colour correction at a reasonable price


OS Support: Windows XP (SP3)/Vista/7/8, Minimum CPU: Pentium III or Athlon, Minimum GPU: N/A, Minimum RAM: 512MB (1GB recommended), Hard disk space: 310MB (1GB recommended)


ACDSee 17 is a photo manager and editor, and a cut-down version of ACDSee Pro 7. The key difference is that ACDSee Pro can perform non-destructive edits, letting you go back and tweak photos to your heart’s content while always working from the original image data. ACDSee 17 forces you to commit to edits, either by overwriting the original file or saving as a new one. It can handle both JPEGs and RAW files but, from our point of view, the lack of non-destructive editing makes it unsuitable for working with RAW files. However, there are lots of people who shoot JPEGs and would benefit from ACDSee’s photo management and editing facilities, which are a significant step up from free software such as Google Picasa.

The company doesn’t endear itself in its online shop, surreptitiously adding a rolling subscription to its photo hosting service (£23.47 per year) and something called download insurance (£10.22 per year) into the shopping basket. These can be removed, but we really don’t expect to see such unscrupulous tactics in the first place.

We like the ability browse to any folder on the hard disk without having to import photos into the catalogue actively. Once the software is aware of them, photos can be browsed and filtered by a vast range of criteria including capture date, camera settings, camera and lens model, map location, user-defined keywords, ratings and labels. Keywords are easy to add, and make it quick to locate photos when you can’t remember the date or folder location. The five-star rating system is extremely useful for filtering large groups of photos to pick your favourites.

^ There are lots of ways to browse and filter the photo library, but it might be a bit bewildering for casual users.

Photo management isn’t without its frustrations, though. There’s no option to reveal a photo in Windows Explorer, for example, which is a feature we use regularly in other photo-management software. It’s possible to filter by multiple criteria, but the Calendar and Folders browsers are separate to the other metadata filters. That means you can’t search for a particular camera between two dates, for instance. Some of the metadata filters have arbitrary fixed values. For example, it’ll show all photos with an f/2 or f/2.8 aperture, but there’s no option to show values in between. There’s a nice big button for uploading photos to ACDSee’s overpriced 365 online hosting service, but uploads to Facebook, Flickr and Smugmug are tucked away in a menu. We weren’t able to get Flickr uploads to work in our tests.

The new management features in version 17 don’t add up to much. ACDSee 17 can save and recall multiple catalogues, which could be useful for people who keep distinct libraries, by perhaps keeping one for holiday snaps and another for more artistic shots. It seems slightly out of place in consumer-oriented software, though. There’s support for the WebP format, which is an alternative to JPEG developed by Google, but we’ve yet to encounter a WebP file in the wild. There’s a new Metadata submenu under the Tools menu for embedding keywords and ratings, but this is of limited use as the embedded data is in a proprietary format that isn’t recognised by Windows, other photo software or hosting services. An “improved interface” is also listed among the new features, but the only difference we spotted was that the metadata browser is now located on the left rather than the right of the screen.

A major new feature in the previous update was the ability to apply effects to limited parts of a photo, with a choice of brush strokes or a linear gradient to define the area in question. For version 17, it’s now possible to use a circular or elliptical gradient too. It’s hardly the greatest technical breakthrough, but it’s a useful feature nonetheless. It’s perfect for helping the main subject stand out with some careful colour correction, and gradually fading the effect out towards the surround area using the Feathering control. An Invert Gradient button lets you choose whether the effect is applied to the outside or inside of the circle.

^ Elliptical masks provide a third way to apply colour correction and effects to limited parts of the frame.

Along with the sophisticated colour correction filters, these gradient and brush tools make ACDSee an excellent choice for bringing out the best in photos’ colours. The lack of non-destructive editing makes it harder to use multiple filters in tandem, and impossible to adjust settings once you’ve committed to them, but that’s a reasonable compromise considering the lower price compared to ACDSee Pro and Adobe Lightroom. Its creative effects, Heal brush for removing blemishes, text support and drawing tools are all relatively crude, and not a patch on Photoshop Elements or PaintShop Pro. Besides, with no support for layers, this editor isn’t really cut out for design-based tasks.

^ Colour correction is more sophisticated than we’re used to seeing at this price.

^ The Heal brush has some funny ideas about how to cover up unwanted elements in a photo.

It looks like very little work has gone into this update, and there’s barely anything to tempt existing users to upgrade. That’s a shame, as its management facilities leave plenty of room for improvement. Even so, for precise colour correction on a tight budget, it’s a solid choice.

System requirements
OS SupportWindows XP (SP3)/Vista/7/8
Minimum CPUPentium III or Athlon
Minimum GPUN/A
Minimum RAM512MB (1GB recommended)
Hard disk space310MB (1GB recommended)
Buying information
Price including VAT£21
Product codeN/A