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More Than Just DAM: ACDSee Pro Finally Goes Mac

By Stan Sholik


Professional photographers using Windows-based computers have a variety of imaging software applications at all price points available to them. Mac-based photographers have only a few options available from Adobe and Apple. The release of ACDSee Pro (Mac) provides a new and worthy option for Mac users.

After nearly two years in beta testing with professional photographers, ACDSee Pro (Mac) is now available in version 1.8. While not as feature rich as the Windows version, now in version 4, ACDSee Pro (Mac) is a solid offering with the potential of becoming an essential part of many Mac photographers’ workflows.

To categorize ACDSee Pro (Mac) as a digital asset management (DAM) application is to ignore many of its strengths. It isn’t simply an alternative to Adobe Bridge, although it performs many of the same functions. You can import images directly from your camera or camera card, browse images, videos and other assets anywhere on your computer or network without importing them, add IPTC and EXIF metadata and keywords, and perform file management functions. One of the greatest strengths of the Mac version, as well as the Windows versions that preceded it, is the speed with which it displays thumbnails.

It isn’t simply an alternative to Adobe Lightroom either, although ACDSee Pro (Mac) allows non-destructive global image editing and RAW file conversion, leaving only complex pixel-level editing, masking and layering tasks to Photoshop or similar software. ACDSee Pro (Mac) can view and process JPEG and TIFF files, and the RAW file formats supported by the Mac operating system.

In fact, it is difficult to fit ACDSee Pro (Mac) into any one category because it is capable of doing so much. It may be easiest to think of it as software that will do virtually anything that a professional photographer would need to do with a large image library, from importing digital captures to exporting final files to the lab or your client.

ACDSee Pro (Mac) incorporates a tabbed interface that has a similar look and feel to the Windows version of ACDSee Pro. The three modes, Manage, View and Process, are accessed with tabs in the upper right of the interface.


The ACDSee Pro (Mac) features three operating modes, Manage, View and Process that are accessible through button in the upper right of the interface. The Manage mode, shown, is where you browse your image collection, organize and rate images and assign IPTC metadata.

In the Manage mode you browse, organize and find digital assets. The Manage interface consists of three panes. You can open and collapse the left and right panes at will. To the left of the Manage interface is a Folders tree pane with four drop-down groups that allow you to easily navigate to favorite Places, internal Devices, Removable Volumes and Shared devices on a network.

The File List pane that dominates the central area of the interface displays thumbnails of the media in any folder selected in the Folders tree pane. Selecting a thumbnail and tapping the spacebar or one of the other keyboard shortcuts opens the image in a large Quick Look window. You can move the Quick Look window to a second display, and it also allows for side-by side viewing or a slideshow of selected images.


Tapping the spacebar with an image selected while in the Manage mode opens the image in a large Quick Look window.

The right pane holds tabs for the Organize and Properties sub panes. Here is where you organize images into categories, apply ratings, view EXIF metadata and add IPTC information. Changes you make in the IPTC fields are visible in Photoshop, Bridge and Lightroom.

Double-clicking on a thumbnail opens the image in the second program mode, View. In this mode you can view the image full-screen at various magnifications from 2% to 800%. The Properties pane is also available in the View mode, or you can close the Properties pane so that only a single image is visible in the main window and a filmstrip is visible below.


Double-clicking an image while in the Manage mode opens it in the View mode. The magnification slider allows you to view the image from 2% to 800% life size.

The Process mode is the place where you make non-destructive image adjustments to images in RAW, TIFF, JPEG and other file formats. The Processing Tools pane occupies the left pane of the interface and the three tabs, Tune, Detail and Geometry, provide nearly all of the tools you would use to adjust an image.


The Process mode is where you make image adjustments. Tabs in the Processing Tools pane adjust nearly all of the essential properties of the image. You can save the adjustments as a preset to use in batch processing, or simply copy and paste them to other images.

The Tune tab provides tools for exposure adjustment, white balance, lighting, hue, saturation and brightness. There is also a histogram with levels and curves controls.

The Details tab covers sharpening, noise reduction, chromatic aberration correction and defringing controls.

The Geometry tab provides tools for correcting lens distortion, perspective, vignette removal, cropping, rotating and straightening.

You can make changes in all three Processing Tools tabs and copy and paste the changes to other images or save the changes as a preset and apply it during batch processing.

In fact, the batch-processing tool that is a part of the Manage and View modes is very robust, although it operates differently than most. You create your own batch workflow with a set of actions in the order that you want to apply them, and then save them as a preset. It is easy to create a custom batch workflow to automate tasks that you frequently do, for example renaming files or converting the images to another file format. When creating a custom batch operation, you need to first select the file or files on which to run the batch, then select from a list of eight Actions, adjust and drag the ones you need into the Batch tool, and then save them as a Preset or apply them directly to the images. A somewhat different workflow than you may be used to, but quite easy to become accustomed to.

Since I use the Windows version of ACDSee Pro regularly, perhaps I had an easier time with the Mac version than most Mac users will. I've never been a fan of Aperture, so I use Adobe Bridge and Lightroom when I'm using the Mac. ACDSee Pro (Mac) doesn't have all of the functionality of the Windows version, but it has all of the tools that I routinely use. I have been using it regularly lately and it's becoming a regular part of my workflow.

ACDSee Pro (Mac) is only in its early release stage, so there is room for improvement and growth. I often shoot with multiple cameras, and I need to sort photos by capture time, which isn't possible in ACDSee Pro (Mac). I'd like to have the sliders in the Process made a little easier to adjust precisely. That means being able to adjust them with the arrow keys in small increments or enter numerical values rather than having to drag the sliders and wait for the image to redraw to see if you got it right. It also means being able to double-click on the sliders to reset them to their starting point rather than having to drag them back and forth until you can align them at 0. And finally, I'd like a little more speed out of the adjustments in the Process tool. Browsing is fast, viewing and scaling to full screen 1:1 view is fast, but adjusting the Processing tools needs a speed boost. ACDSee Pro (Mac) is optimized for Mac's 64-bit operating system and OpenGL video cards, but for a program that provides excellent tools for working with large image collections, the lack of speed in the Process mode is frustrating.

Mac users can purchase ACDSee Pro (Mac) for $169.99 directly from ACDSee Systems through their website, A fully functional 30-day demo is also available from the website. 

Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, Calif., specializing in still life and macro photography. He is currently writing his fifth book, “Nik HDR Efex Pro,” for Wiley Publishing.

System Requirements Hardware
• Mac computer with an Intel® processor
• 512 MB RAM, 1 GB recommended
• 100 MB free hard drive space

• Requires Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6