In this guide, I look at three photo management/organizing packages: ACDSee Photo Manager 9
, Corel Photo Album 6
, and Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006. I'll be comparing these three packages by ease of use, useful features, core functionality, and pricing.
The past few years have seen a rise in digital camera use. Many traditional film companies have slowly faded away; some, such as Polaroid and Kodak, have had to reinvent their companies to keep pace with the new digital age. The prices of digital cameras have continued to drop and the ease of taking an almost limitless amount of photographs has made digital cameras the new choice in photography. Unfortunately, given the simplicity of taking digital photos, this has caused a new problem: managing all of these photos. How on earth do we manage all of them? Luckily, there are software programs that can help.
Ease of Use
All three applications offer an easy way to import your photos from a digital camera or memory card, also allowing you to delete the files from the memory card or to leave them be. Once the photos have been imported, all three packages offer a way to browse through different directories of photographs.
In my opinion, the layout of Corel Photo Album 6 is the best. It is very basic with only the basic buttons and search features in the main window; it is able to achieve a very clean look by hiding the rest of the functions behind tabs. The main tab for most users is the Organize tab. Here you can quickly browse and search through all images by different methods such as Favorite Folders, Collections, Keywords, Search, and Recent Downloads. A few main features are accessible in the Organize tab, such as Print, Quick Show (slideshow), and Backup. For more advanced browsing, additional Enhance, Create, and Share tabs are available. Corel Photo Album 6's layout works great for lots of photos, and is excellent for all users, including non-technical people.
The second best in terms of layout and usability is ACDSee Photo Manager 9. The only reason why it’s in second place is because there simply is too much going on in their user interface. Just looking at the user interface is a bit overwhelming, and I don't even know where I want to start. However, ACDSee Photo Manager 9 is one of the best in terms of organizing. There is a multitude of ways to organize and tag your photos: the normal keywords, date and time, and by using different properties and keywords that you can add yourself. The different calendar views available are also interesting and unique to ACDSee Photo Manager 9.
In last place for its usability is Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006. It is separated into two applications: the Library, for browsing and organizing, and the Editor, which allows the user to edit and create projects with their photographs. The Library's user interface is pretty good and follows the general look and feel of Microsoft Windows' Explorer, but the reason why Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 gets last place in this category is due to its inability to perform a free-form keyword search for your photographs. This means you can't type in "beach" to find your photograph; you have to use their hierarchy labelling system to browse and find your photographs. I didn't like this at all. Combined with the Editor's horrid user interface, which looks like Microsoft Word's old toolbar, I found it much too difficult to navigate around, especially for a new user.
ACDSee Photo Manager 9 and Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 share the top spot for useful features. ACDSee Photo Manager 9’s powerful ways of tagging and editing the properties of your photographs, and then searching for these tags and properties, is something that I really like. ACDSee Photo Manager 9’s editing tools are also very good for photo organizing/managing software; users can perform most basic editing, with some degree of advanced controls. Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 shares the top spot because of the 3000 different templates available for creating projects. Project creation is very intuitive and would be useful for converting your digital images into useful projects such as postcards, calendars, and more! The help and how-to guides that are included in Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 also help bring this product to the top spot. They are very detailed and cover everything that a new user would need to know.
Corel Photo Album 6 is in last place in the useful features included category. Most of the basic photo management/organizing features are included within Corel Photo Album 6, but none were outstanding. There wasn't any extra "oomph"; they were just basic features that one would expect. The how-to guide was very basic and almost useless, and the editing tools are also very limited.
ACDSee Photo Manager 9 is the winner in this category. It is extremely useful to use once you get the hang of it, and if you start tagging and labelling your photographs, the powerful organization tools will allow you to sort your photos with ease. You can have a photo with multiple tags (“beach," “2007," “Miami Beach," “Florida"), and typing any of these keywords will bring up the photo. Other ways of finding your photo includes just your basic date or year search; ACDSee Photo Manager 9 also has automatic categories that allow you to find all photos that were taken at a certain shutter speed, or aperture! The powerful search and management of your photographs with ACDSee Photo Manager 9 makes this product useful even for expert photographers. Double-clicking a photo opens the ACDSee Photo Manager 9 Quick View, displaying your photo and allowing you to perform basic editing right there on the spot. I like ACDSee Photo Manager 9 very much and it does what it should do very well.
In second place for functionality is Corel Photo Album 6. It performs all aspects of managing and organizing your digital images very well. From importing your images to browsing and sharing, Corel Photo Album 6 is a very clean and user-friendly application that doesn't frustrate the user and doesn't require a whole lot of learning to understand how to perform its operations. Additional features and functions would be beneficial for the next release of Corel Photo Album 6 to get it up to par in terms of features to make this product stand out even more.
Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 comes in last place for functionality. It was difficult to use the Editor application to perform basic editing due to the complicated user interface, and for some reason the product also felt the slowest among the three. It took a while for it to load, and scrolling through photos sometimes caused my computer to hang while it was processing. The user experience for editing photos was very complicated and navigating through all the menus to find hidden options was quite frustrating. A better organization system for the Editor application would make for a better future release of this product from Microsoft.
Pricing and Conclusion
A comparison of the pricing of the three packages has ACDSee Photo Manager 9 at $39.99, Corel Photo Album 6 at $29.99, and Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 at $99.95. The pricing of Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 is way too high for this sort of product. At such a high price, it seems like Microsoft is pricing themselves out of the competition. The best price-to-feature ratio goes to ACDSee Photo Manager 9 at $39.99. The powerful search, browsing, and editing features makes this product a super bargain for all digital photographers. ACDSee Photo Manager 9 is an excellent companion for your digital camera and in my opinion, should be bundled with the software that is included with your camera!