ACDSee is the best image viewer on Windows. ACDSee has the perfect set of instant click tools to automate the loading and adjustment of images from your digital camera. The latest release adds an excellent photo management option. When you use Windows and create a lot of images, look at ACDSee.
I used an old version of ACDSee back when the developer was initially developing ACDSee. There were no digital cameras so the priority was to use a fast, efficient image viewer on Windows. ACDSee had the fastest start up time for an image viewer and did exactly what most people want in an image viewer.
That early version did exactly what I wanted when viewing one image and did exactly what I wanted when viewing directories full of images. That version handled every type of image I used. Later editions added lots of new features.
When I acquired a digital camera, I found myself spending time rotating images taken with the camera in the portrait position instead of the landscape position. ACDSee rotates images with one click. You can scroll through the images in a directory on disk and just click rotate for those images that need adjustment. You can also delete a bad image with one click. Ninety percent of the initial review work is rotating 90 degrees left or 90 degrees right or deleting images that did not work.
The newer versions of ACDSee have an expanding range of simple adjustments to fix images that are nearly viewable and need only a slight tweak. ACDSee also offers a matching image manager that automatically links to ACDSee editing for image adjustment. A free alternative image viewer with some editing features is IrfanView. ACDSee stays ahead of IrfanView on editing features and the ACDSee image manager stays a long way ahead of IrfanView on image management. IrfanView has one advantage, IrfanView can run on Linux. If you are not using Linux, ACDSee is the better choice for easy use and large numbers of images.
Some people spend a lot of time cropping their images during the initial pass. I crop in camera using the zoom lens. If I need more than one selection of the image scene, I may take multiple shots with each covering the right scene area. ACDSee offers easy cropping, as does the most recent Gimp but Gimp still uses an external add on module to handle raw files in an awkward way and does not offer a good image management facility. If your camera is anything other than the most basic consumer camera or you take lots of photographs, ACDSee will make processing easier.
Another common task is to spend a lot of time on an initial pass adjusting colour and contrast levels. I aim to get the exposure and contrast right before I take the picture. Few of my pictures need adjustment afterwards. When they do need adjustment, the adjustment is usually difficult in every image editing tool. Use the tool you find most comfortable. ACDSee is one of the easiest to use for the most common tasks.
When you read the Photoshop tutorials the first recommendation is almost always to use an “unsharp mask”. From what I see of the demonstration images, the Photoshop unsharp mask tool is used in an attempt to fix errors made by the photographer or the Photoshop user or both. There are far better practices than hitting all images with the unsharp mask tool during the initial processing. ACDSee has an unsharp masker which I have not used because I use good photography instead.
The ACDSee Pro edition accepts raw files, which means you can avoid JPEG damage. Buy a digital camera that produces raw files and keep the raw files untouched by Photoshop or any other editor. When you need to edit a file, copy the file to TIFF, PNG, PSP, or whatever is the uncompressed image format used by your image editor. Never use JPEG. Keep the file intact until you have finished editing then save the result in the safe format.
After you have the file saved in an undamaged format, open the file and save a copy as a JPEG. By damaging your images with only one JPEG conversion, you will have a good looking image and will not need the unsharp mask.
Should you be stuck with a camera that produces only JPEG or an image editor that works only with JPEG then the best improvement you can make to your images is to buy a new camera or new editor. Whichever format you choose, ACDSee will display your images. Choose the Pro version for Pro cameras.
ACDSee does a better job of displaying your images than all the Java based image display tools I have tried. The extra speed of ACDSee will save you the purchase price in less than a year.
I try to use open source cross platform tools where possible but image viewing is one area where nobody has written a good alternative to ACDSee. ACDSee is one of a very small number of programs that keep me using Windows instead of Linux.
My time is too precious to put up with the slowness of the Java alternatives and my images too good to suffer the weird distortions performed by some Java image handling routines. Perhaps one day someone will write an alternative to ACDSee using GCC and GTK+. Until then ACDSee is the best choice. IrfanView is a second choice if you have a small number of images and perform less complex adjustments to the images.
If you use Linux, consider some alternatives. F-spot is a free open source image manager for Linux but with fewer features and image adjustments than ACDSee. Shotwell is another free open source image manager for Linux, replaced F-Spot as the default in both Ubuntu and Fedora, but is behind both ACDSee and F-Spot on features.
If you use Windows and edit lots of images, save yourself time and aggravation by buying ACDSee.