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ACDSee 8 Photo Manager

The new ACDSee 8 continues to occupy the app's niche as a high-end image-management solution. Professionals and prosumers will appreciate the sophisticated management features, and they may now find the program sufficient for many image-editing tasks they would have otherwise turned to Adobe Photoshop for. Though newcomers to digital imaging might not necessarily feel lost with the program (thanks to the welcoming face of the new Quick Start Guide), ACDSee's detailed level of control is probably overkill for novices.

Most image organizers can erase your camera's memory card once you've transferred the photos to your hard drive. ACDSee 8, however, provides several incremental levels of erasure. You can designate a percentage of the card's memory to be freed up, indicate the number of new photos you want to make room for, or automatically delete photos older than a specified date. You can also create an individualized profile for each camera in your arsenal. This near-fanatical attention to detail extends to most other areas of the program.

Though ACDSee 8 has undergone an overall facelift since version 7, it still can't match the graphically elegant approach that Photoshop Album, and now Photoshop Elements, bring to the task of applying keyword tags to images. But ACDSee does offer a full and robust complement of image-browsing and searching features. Type a word or name into the menu bar's new Quick Search field and ACDSee scours the names, captions, and keywords of your images and quickly displays all matching photos.

For what is essentially an image-management program, ACDSee 8's image-editing features are outstanding, offering a bounty of professional tools for enhancing photos. Remaining from version 7 are histogram-based Levels and Curves commands, color-cast controls, red-eye removal tools, an Unsharp Mask command, image resizing, and lossless JPEG rotation. New features include 21 additional image effects and a text tool with drop-shadow and bevel options. The new healing and cloning tools aren't quite as polished as their Photoshop Elements counterparts, but they are effective at touchups nonetheless. If ACDSee 8 had layers and selection tools, it would merit consideration as an image editor in its own right.

Options for sharing are good enough. The SendPix feature lets you create a shareable photo album and upload it to the company's Web site, where it can stay for 30 days free of charge. There are the three basic Web gallery templates (though all prominently feature the ACD Systems logo). Integration with Snapfish (the leading online photo finisher) is good. The new Video CD creation wizard offers typical ACDSee control and attention to detail.

All told, casual users are probably better served by Photoshop Elements, which is more approachable and powerful enough. But more serious photographers who fear they'll outgrow Elements will want to commit to ACDSee.

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