ACDSee Photo Manager 12 is an all-in-one organising, editing and publishing application which performs all the key functions you'll need to enjoy and share your photographs.
The user interface is, at first glance, very similar to that of Zoner Photo Studio PRO 13. The main central portion displays large image thumbnails to help you browse through and search your collection easily, while to the left hand side we find a navigator which can be switched from a folder view to viewing your favourite collections of images. A selection of organisational tools lets you quickly filter images by preset categories, such as shutter speed or author, with a single click. The usual user rating and tagging options are also provided in a separate section.
Unlike many other similar programs, ACDSee uses a database to keep track of the files on your PC, leaving them where they are rather than importing them into a catalogue. This means there is a certain amount of database management to be done - a concept with which the novice user is sure to struggle as it's far from obvious what the database is for or what it contains.
However, this database is certainly fast. ACDSee Photo Manager 12 sells itself partly on its speed of viewing images, the image viewer boastfully noting the loading time of each image onscreen. One of the new features of version 12 is improved support for netbooks: running the software on an HP mini, we found the viewing speed to be entirely usable, even when editing a 23MB RAW file which loaded in under two seconds. Attempting a similar test using Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 was a frustrating experience by comparison.
Free online storage is included in the purchase price which allows you to easily store photos online, much like Picasa's web albums. ACDSee Photo Manager 12 gives you 2GB rather than the 1GB provided by Picasa, although it expires after two years unless backed by an annual fee. If you run a blog or other website, then the built-in FTP uploader makes it easy to transfer images automatically from your PC to your server.
Image editing is restricted to a relatively small but very useful selection of functions, but each is very easy to use and impressively fast even on a netbook. All the most important tweaks are there and work at a very high speed with live previews.