Easy to install, ACDSee is nevertheless not the quickest off the mark, taking over four minutes to catalogue our set of 1,000 photos. This is easy to forgive, however, because the program's database goes to great lengths to grab all the information about your pictures that it possibly can, which can come in handy, as we'll see later.

The album view is quite boxy and conventional but well structured, giving quick access to folder trees and a preview window on one side of the main thumbnail area, and all the organisational tools on the other. These include clickable checkboxes for ratings of one to five, as well as an unrated option, and categories to which you can add top level or sub-category groups.

Another neat touch is that, apart from the preview window, you're also shown a scaled-up preview of any photo just by letting your mouse cursor hover over its thumbnail.

Photographer's friend

A simple but brilliant Auto Categories feature automatically scavenges all the EXIF information from photo files and then enables you to search your entire collection based on this criteria. For example, you can look for images taken with particular apertures, shutter speeds or ISO settings, or perhaps for just wide-angle or telephoto shots. There's an exhaustive list to choose from and it's amazing just how useful the feature is once you start using it.

The image-editing tools on offer are pretty powerful, too. They're not quite in the same league as Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop Elements, but that's to be expected. Overall, ACDSee is a superb package and for the price is well worth a closer look.