ACDSee Pro 8 review: New editing features plus online storage

ACDSee Pro is considered one of the premier photo organizing and editing packages, and for good reason. Although sometimes awkward, it's powerful and "gets it" when it comes to the needs of photographers. Version 8 adds some nice new editing features that "get it," a subscription-based purchase option, and some rather expensive online storage. 

ACDSee Pro 8 fulfills four major functions: organizing images, viewing images, non-destructive editing with filters (called Developing), as well as traditional destructive editing (which alters the original image). That's destructive only upon saving the file--you're always free to undo changes up to that point. The array of filters in both Develop and Edit modes is vast, and includes split-tone editing, perspective correction, lens distortion correction and other modern must-haves.

The edit tools in ACDSee are close to Photoshop's in variety, but easier to find, being nicely labeled and accessed via a pane on the left side of the window rather than from a confusing, icon-only palette. Everything related to file import and export is handled as a plug-in with ACDSee, so you can easily extend the programs capabilities in that area should new cameras or standards appear.

One reason ACDSee has endeared itself to the photographic community is that it makes it super-easy to organize and view large groups of files, as well as edit metadata (date, location, camera settings, etc.). Not only is there an integrated organizer of significant power and utility, but PicaView puts a preview of any image file in the Windows Explorer right-click context menu. Personally, I'd rather it were at the bottom of the context menus rather than the top, as I perform non-image related actions more frequently--but if your computer life is photo-centric, you'll like it. New to version 8 is a background cataloger that searches and adds files while the computer is otherwise idle.

ACDSee Pro 8's new editing features include pixel targeting, i.e. editing only pixels of a specific color or tone. There's also a new fill tool that operates in the same fashion, as well as an edit history window so you can see exactly how your image arrived at its current state. 

With the introduction of the SeeDrive online storage and sharing component, there's now an easy, albeit expensive ($109/ 20GB, $129/40GB, and $199/100GB per annum) way to share your ACDSee work between devices. SeeDrive is seamlessly woven into the main interface, opening as a pane whenever you click on 365 button. That's not particularly intuitive, or even correct--365 is the subscription licensing scheme, which makes for one of those awkward moments I mentioned earlier. One trick ACDSee missed was not allowing you to upload photos to SeeDrive via right-click throughout the program. You can only upload via a file browser opens beneath the SeeDrive pane. It works nicely, but doesn't anticipate epiphanies.

ACDSee's interface thankfully avoids the hordes of hard-to-decipher icons that plague competitors such as Photoshop and PhotoDirector, and the ability to tear off panes and use them as separate windows is handy for multiple display use. But the odd mix of small and large text in the main window leads your eye to the wrong spot too often. Also, Develop and Edit modes are extremely similar in appearance and function which has generated a lot of new-user questions in forums that cover ACDSee. It might be more intuitive to simply toggle destructive and non-destructive editing.

One thing I like about ACDSee is its ability to capture frames from video and add them to your collection--handy when you realize you captured that moment on video, but don't have any good stills. You can do this with a lot of video players, but who wants to jump back and forth between programs all the time Another of those instances where ACDSee gets it.

ACDSee Pro is sold as a discrete, one-time purchase for $100 (version 8 is a $60 upgrade for existing users), as well as a $80 yearly subscription plan, the aforementioned 365, which also lets you use other ACDSee products such as Video Converter and Video Studio. 

Although ACDSee is a sometimes muddled in its approach, once you learn it, it's an facile tool for organizing and editing hordes of photos. The addition of SeeDrive and the new pixel-targeted editing features make it more so. For new users it's well worth a look, but for those who already own it, version 8 is a rather mild upgrade.


Jon L. Jacobi

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