ACDSee PowerPack 6.0
More Power To The Image Management Process

ACDSee has always been a powerful image management tool for Microsoft Windows users, and the latest version is no exception, but sometimes you need a little more power. That's when you need to kick it up a notch and spend a few extra bucks for the PowerPack edition. ACDSee PowerPack costs $79.99 and includes ACD Systems' FotoCanvas image-editing program and FotoSlate package-printing software, which means you get those two extra programs for just $15 each more than the base price.

The latest ACDSee for Windows is Version 6.0, while the Mac OS X version appears frozen at 1.6. My guess is that many companies are afraid to compete with Apple's free iPhoto software, so Mac heads are left with the old, slow version. Interestingly, the interface for this Windows version features touches that appear lifted right out of Mac OS X, so maybe that's a harbinger of things to come.

When you first launch ACDSee PowerPack 6.0 there is no indication that you have PowerPack installed unless you click the Edit button to see FotoCanvas or Create to see FotoSlate. Images of the Ferrari f-1 team practicing pit stops in what looked like organized pandemonium are displayed on a 17" Planar LCD monitor along with a large, inset image of yours truly "kissing the bricks" at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Photos © 2003, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

Display Options
Any good image management software shows groups of "thumbnails" and stores those files separately, leaving your original images unmolested on your hard drive, CD, DVD, or wherever else they may be stored. ACDSee PowerPack 6.0 displays thumbnails in several different ways including slide mounts, filmstrips, tiles, icons, or as a list. Thumbnails can be displayed in your choice of five resolutions up to 320x240, but this option is only suitable for larger monitors. The program maintains a Master Keyword List and lets you assign keywords to each image file so a specific photograph can be found later.

File Compatibility
ACDSee PowerPack 6.0 is compatible with most popular graphics file formats including JPEG, TIFF, BMP, and PSD but choked on the raw formats popular with most digital SLRs. For Canon's raw images, it displayed blank thumbnails with file names, but did not display any images. ACD Systems told me they're working on a plug-in for Nikon's and Canon's raw files and plan to support Minolta's raw format as well. Likewise, ACDSee PowerPack 6.0 doesn't support Olympus' ORF raw format. So far, Adobe's Photoshop CS, a.k.a. Photoshop 8, and the Mac-only iView MediaPro 2.0, are the only third-party software that work with ORF and iView only displays thumbnails.

Sort Systems
This latest version has more sorting and searching options to help you sort and find your previous photographs using any file related data, including description, date, or ranking. ACDSee PowerPack 6.0's Image Rating system lets you assign a numerical rating which later helps you sort or search to find your "selects." Right-clicking on any thumbnail pops up a menu with different options, including Set Rating. Using "pool ball" icons, you can apply a rating of one through five to your images. Other new features include the ability to use ACDSee's Easy Select and Selective Browsing features to view and locate photos from different folders and categories.

FotoCanvas includes an easy to use Photo Correction Wizard to fix common problems, such as light levels, redeye, and rotation of images to the proper orientation, such as this portrait of 2003 Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher.

Power To The Pixels
The standard ACDSee 6.0 includes Edit Panel, an integrated photo editor with a modest set of editing tools that entry-level users will find helpful. PowerPack bundles FotoCanvas, which includes all the essential image editing and correction tools but no confusing controls. While Photoshop Elements is aimed at this same niche, Adobe's efforts to make it simple have made the interface too complex.

FotoCanvas Controls
FotoCanvas has a Photo Correction Wizard for fixing common problems, such as light levels, redeye, and rotation to the proper (portrait or landscape) orientation. Selection tools let you choose a specific area of your photograph and change it without altering the rest, as well as blending tools and manual controls for image detail. Funky features include the ability to add talk and "thought" bubbles and you can apply more than 40 special effects. FotoCanvas is now compatible with Photoshop plug-ins such as the cool Alien Skin filters.

FotoCanvas lets you make one-click corrections for color, lighting, and sharpness, but if you prefer a hands-on approach, you can use the manual tools for color, lighting, sharpness, and picture angle. You can adjust shadows, mid tones, and highlights, something Photoshop CS just got around to, as well as remove color cast. FotoCanvas lets you remove or add picture noise or use Unsharp Mask to fix those not-quite-crisp-enough shots. As in Photoshop, you'll find a cloning tool and color blend settings to remove or minimize unwanted details. But let's not kid ourselves; it's not Photoshop, but it's better than Edit Panel. What do you want for $15?

FotoSlate, which is part of PowerPack, lets you produce a calendar using your own images in less than a minute.

Get Out Your Slate
ACDSee PowerPack 6.0 supports EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) 2.2 printing to help get better prints from home printers and has a fairly powerful built-in print utility that lets you specify printer properties; control printer rendering; adjust the size and position of the image; and add headers, footers, and captions to an image. FotoSlate takes package printing into an entirely new dimension.

ACD Systems' FotoSlate lets you print photographs in all the popular sizes such as 4x6 and 5x7, but you can also print albums, calendars, simple brochures, and way-cool contact sheets or use any of the 450 built-in templates for printing to many popular paper sizes. On printers that support borderless printing, you can print photos with or without borders. It's fast, too: you can produce a calendar or a set of four pictures in less than a minute. You can catalog a 500-picture photo shoot into contact sheets in about 10 seconds, or faster with the latest computer chips, so ACD Systems claims. If you know how agonizingly slow Photoshop makes contact sheets, you know why I want a Mac OS X version! FotoSlate lets you "cut" your photos into oval shapes, adding text with drop shadows, and adding digital frames. Two insanely cool features are FotoSlate's paper saver and a "Clear IQZ" resampling technology that ACD Systems claims "make a 75 ppi image look like 600 ppi." Maybe not, but it will look a heck of a lot better.

ACDSee supports color management via ICM 2.0 and ICC color profiles. Some of my colleagues at Shutterbug might not call this true color management, but my definition tends to be "anything that helps you make better color prints," so it works for me.

ACDSee PowerPack 6.0 lets you produce HTML slide shows to share via the web or write to a CD/DVD as a stand-alone slide show to view on a computer or convert into a screen saver.

So What Else Is New?
Some of ACDSee PowerPack 6.0's features include CD and DVD burning. If you have a recordable CD or DVD drive, it's just a matter of dumping files into the Image Basket and using the Create Disc (Create>Create Disc) command and following the wizard through three clicks to a finished CD or DVD. You can produce HTML slide shows to share via the web or write to a CD/DVD as a stand-alone slide show to view on a computer or convert into a screen saver. Digital newcomers will also appreciate the Three Step Acquire Wizard that automatically finds pictures and imports image files from digital cameras, scanners, or CDs.

Sharing Pics
ACDSee PowerPack 6.0 lets you send images to ACD Systems' SendPix image sharing service and store them for 30 days. SendPix will e-mail designated recipients and let them view your albums using their favorite web browser. An e-mail sharing plug-in supports Microsoft's Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora, but if you're the least bit e-mail savvy, clicking Microsoft's "paper clip" in Outlook isn't all that hard. Most importantly, there's a built-in Back-Up and Restoration routine that allows for quick incremental back-ups and full database back-ups and restorations.

ACDSee PowerPack 6.0 isn't quite one-stop shopping for all of your digital imaging but it's a great start and represents an incredible value for all its many well-integrated features.

For more information, contact ACD Systems by calling (250) 544-6700 or by visiting their website at