I spend a lot of time organising my photos. Tagging them, filing them into folders, editing EXIF and IPTC data. I do this partly because I’m an information geek, but mostly because I like to be able to find my photos. And I love ACDSee. For my money, it’s the most efficient software on the market for organising and managing a large database of photos. But it’s not perfect, and there are a couple of quirks you need to be aware of if you’re going to get the most out of it.
Featured image: That’s the photo that ACDSee couldn’t find – me, posing with my Renault 5 Campus, parked by the side of the wee mad road from Lochinver to Achiltibuie.
First, there’s the file name search limitation. Simply put, while ACDSee claims to search file names, it doesn’t do it very well.
A lot of my photos are titled descriptively. For example, that photo at the top of the page is titled ‘Alex with the Renault’. That’s enough detail to track it down? Surely? I can find it with Windows Explorer: If I open an explorer window and search my photos with the single word ‘Renault’, Windows Explorer finds it instantly.
I can find it with On1 Raw. But ACDSee doesn’t find it at all, because the key search term – Renault – is buried in the middle of the file name.
What seems to be happening is that ACDSee is just searching the first word of the file name. But it isn’t even as simple as that. If I search ‘Melrose’, ACDSee gives me a whole load of results, including two photos taken with my Vivitar camera in 2003. Those photos are titled ‘Melrose Abbey Vivitar ##’.
If I search ‘Melrose Abbey’ with ACDSee – nothing. No hits. It’s like the photos don’t even exist. Again, On1 Raw can find them, Windows Explorer can find them. But for ACDSee, they’re invisible.
That’s okay, I can work with that. Windows Explorer is pretty darn fast, On1 Raw is pretty darn fast, and I’m happy to use either of them if’s the best way to find my photos. But next time you try a quick search using ACDSee, and get no result, don’t assume that you’re doing something wrong.
The second quirk is … annoying. Really annoying. ACDSee encourages the user to tag their photos using keywords. Keywords are great. They make finding stuff easy. If my photos had been tagged with the keyword ‘Melrose Abbey’, ACDSee would have found them as easily as pie. Only thing is, there are ACDSee keywords, and IPTC keywords, and they aren’t the same thing.
By default ACDSee uses its own keywords. That’s cool, and they work very well, but they come with a massive drawback. The only software that can read them is … you guessed it … ACDSee.
If you want keywords that you can search in other programmes such as On1 Raw or Lightroom, or even Windows Explorer, what you need is IPTC keywords.
Some versions of ACDSee will let you create IPTC keywords. Some versions don’t. You need to dig deep into the product descriptions to see the difference. Do that, and you’ll discover that ACDSee Photo Studio Standard doesn’t support IPTC keywords. If you intend using ACDSee permanently, that isn’t a problem. If you think you might shift to another photo organising software at some time, it probably is.
The solution is to use one of the pro versions of ACDSee. That means either ACDSee Photo Studio Pro, or ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate. And once you’re using one of the pro versions, ignore all the workflow around ACDSee keywords. All those simple, easy organising panels. Just ignore them. Instead, go to the metadata panel, and enter your keywords directly into the IPTC fields.
Finally, make sure that metadata is automatically embedded in your photos every time you close the application. ACDSee doesn’t do it automatically, but there’s an option for it in the preferences.
Go to the preferences, and enable that option now. It could save you a lot of hassle. Maybe not today, or tomorrow. But one day, if you ever switch to another digital asset manager, you’ll thank yourself for making the migration easier.