ACD Systems gives digital camera users simple help

by Alan Zisman (c) 2001
First published in Business in Vancouver, Issue #628 November 6-12, 2001, The High Tech Office column

Last week's column looked at digital cameras, suggesting that when purchasing one, buyers should put aside some money for a few accessories: rechargeable batteries, an AC adapter and a larger memory card.

Another thing to think about is software. All digital cameras come with software -- drivers to allow your computer to recognize the camera and some basic applications to organize and manipulate your photos. (By the way, check the contents of the CD that comes with your camera. Often, there is more software on it that shows up in the setup program that launches when you insert the disk.)

Far too often, though, the free software bundled with your camera is worth what you paid for it. And that's created an opportunity that Victoria-based ACD Systems ( has not been shy to exploit. With versions for Windows PC, the Mac and now Palm and Windows CE handhelds, the company's ACDSee is a quick and capable image-viewing program for users of digital cameras and scanners and others who work with lots of images.

The program starts off displaying thumbnail-sized views of a folder-full of images, along with a somewhat enlarged view of the currently selected image. It's easy to get statistics on one or more pictures or to create and view a slideshow. The latest version adds new transition and timing effects, along with the ability to add sounds and text to your slide shows.

A find function lets you search for pictures based on keywords in their description or file name. You can add your own keywords and descriptions to images and even work with images that are buried inside Zip or in compressed file formats. Many will find the ability to output contact-print pages worthwhile, along with its ability to quickly create photo albums for the Web.

The latest PC version 4.0 has packed in additional features. Now it includes basic image-manipulation features, the better to clean up and correct your snapshots before exposing them to the critical public. Don't confuse these features with those offered by a full-fledged graphics program such as Adobe Photoshop or JASC PaintShop Pro, though. ACDSee's aims are more modest. But, then again, so are its learning curve and price.

Also new in version 4 is an almost menu-free interface; nearly all features can be accessed from one of a series of tabbed panes. You continue to view the images at all times. As well, a new activity wizard walks novices through most functions.

You add images directly from your scanner or digital camera, allowing ACDSee to pretty much replace the software that came with those devices. Several popular camera brands are directly supported, in fact, offering additional power beyond the generic features.

As well as supporting a growing list of graphics file formats, ACDSee can also be used to view and catalogue a growing list of multimedia formats: sound and video clips.

Performance is quite snappy, even on somewhat older hardware. The $60 Mac version, currently at version 1.6, offers the basic image viewing and slide show options, but lacks the ability to manipulate images. Still, it's fast at what it does and even plays nice with Apple's new OS X operating system.

ACD Systems is offering the PC version in enough packages to cause some confusion. There's the $75 basic pack, the $105 suite, the $120 powerpack and the $150 powerpack suite, each bundling ACDSee 4.0 with a different set of the company's other graphic utilities. Or, if you just want to view and sort your images, the $52 classic package offers an older, more limited version. Thirty dollars buys the Palm version and $60 gets you the Windows CE version. All can be freely downloaded on a trial basis.

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan