AMITIAE - Tuesday 24 December 2011

ACDSee: Digital Asset Manager for the Mac

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One of the applications that I would often see on my students' PC computers was a graphics program with the catchy name of ACDSee. This was so widespread that it looked to me, from the rose-tinted world of OS X, that this must be the de facto leader in photography sorting software, much like iPhoto is on the Mac.


There have been a number of other graphics programs developed for the Mac from the consumer end. New applications like Analog and CameraBag both do an excellent job of adding effects to images, while others like the excellent Graphic Converter are useful for editing. Workflow software like Apple's Aperture and Adobe LightRoom are higher end applications for organising photographs with some editing tools.

With too much time on my hands over Xmas, while browsing the Mac App Store, I saw the name ACDSee in the free apps section. This was an app called ACDSee Photo Flash which fixed darker photographs, such as the Exposure and Shadows tools in Aperture. I passed on this free app, as I did on another app from the same developer, ACDSee Duplicate Finder: a search tool for $4.99 that (as the name suggests) seeks out duplicate files and allows the user to make decisions as to how these may be dealt with (such as deletion) and perhaps save some disk space.

Along with these apps, was a third ACDSee, a photography application which looked much more interesting to me. The initial sight of the screen shots in the App Store, reminded me of the PC interface as well as the organising screens in iPhoto. I downloaded this $4.99 application and installed it on my MacBook Pro.


In some ways this application is redundant for me. I rarely open iPhoto these days and concentrate almost all my photographic work within Aperture, with some plugins (iWatermark and BorderFX) and some third party software like Posterino and Comic Life as well as some special effects apps (see above).

Version 1.1.004 of ACDSee downloaded fairly quickly and the 4.2 MB application was installed with no delays. When I started it, I was offered the option to sign up for a newsletter, which I usually decline, but accepted this via the ACDSee site as this is a developer I have not seen on OS X before.

The main panel of the application was in three sections. To the left was a Finder like sidebar which listed all folders, drives and accounts it was able to access. I used this to navigate onto the hard disk and then into the other Users section. I was not able to enter any of the folders in User accounts. I returned to the original display in the panel using the left (back) arrow in the top toolbar. The + icon at the bottom of this pane allows us to create a new Folder, while the - icon beside moves any highlighted item to Trash. This tight integration with the Finder may be a risk for some.

A number of images -- as well as my two Aperture libraries and two iPhoto Libraries -- were shown in the main (Manage) panel. This opens with the contents of the user's Pictures folder. There were also folders for several applications and unused libraries. The number of images within a folder were displayed in the left (Folders) panel and as I clicked through some of the others, so the total number of images within each was displayed alongside.

ACDSee was not helpful with the contents of Aperture or iPhoto Libraries due to the way these are organised. However, as a way to examine the contents of a folder this has many advantages. I particularly liked this aspect with regard to the Sites folder, which I use as a mirror for the eXtensions website. As I examined these, I was able to see quickly the pictures within the relevant folders below the top (Sites) level. I was also able to examine text files and any plist (property list) files that were within a folder (pages marked with the html suffix were viewed as web pages) and could view the contents with a tap of the space-bar as with Quick Look, so this has a rather Finder-like feel to it. At the bottom of this Manage panel are several tools for organizing, including a useful Sort button.

The right side panel has two options: Organize and Properties. As initially installed, there are some basic categories for organising images into groups, like People, Friends, Places. There is a plus icon so that the user may add more, which fits with the management role this software has. In this panel is an "Open As" button, so we may allocate an editing program to make any changes if needed.

Below the categories is a section for ratings. This searches for images rated 1 - 5 (and color-coded) as well as unrated images. A user adds a rating to an image via the Edit menu or by using key combinations of Command 1 - 5. Both Aperture and Lightroom use the number keys only. Lightroom also has a color-coding feature.

The Properties section of the right-hand panel displays some basic metadata of the selected image. This seems to be taken from the Finder file Information and is not at all comprehensive.


As well as navigation arrows on the toolbar, there is a button marked Batch. When the application is first opened it has a simple Customize command. Accessing this brings up a panel like the Applescript editor, so a user is able to fine tune the actions. As some users may not be adept at such methods, or may be unfamiliar with Automator, it might be more useful for the developer to provide some actions (such as resize) to give new users a start.

The Toolbar is not editable. Other items available are a Quick Search window and a button to switch between Manage and View. The former is the default main view of all images or folders. View opens selected images in a strip at the bottom of the panel with a single image enlarged for examination. Right at the bottom of the panel are some basic details of the selected image.


The basic tools available here are not about editing but abut managing the image (and folders). The menus reflect this functionality.

Using the About item in the ACDSee menu, it was possible to link to the developer site for an upgrade to ACDSee Pro (currently discounted to $118.99). The Windows version is $95.99 (reduced from $239.99). The Pro version allows adjustments to be made to the images, in much the same way as in Lightroom or Aperture, so this basic ACDSee is a limited version that allows management but not the wider range of changes that a photographer might need when examining a workflow.

As someone who is used to iPhoto and Aperture, I did not find that this was a useful addition to my collection of apps, but if I were managing a specific project and needed batch changes or other management functions, this might have a place.

I would want to access more metadata were I to take such a step. This application might also suit users moving to Macs from Windows as the familiarity of such software would take away some of the learning difficulties that some may face.



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