Upgrading to ACDSee 2023

Hints, tips and a little grumble

I’ve just upgraded to ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate 2023 and then needed probably a couple of hours of experimenting, updating my documentation and manual re-entry to get to what I hope is an installation that is customized the way I like it. I’m writing this with two hopes in mind: to help others get their upgrade done more easily, and to suggest that ACDSee developers pay some attention to the upgrade process. You know, if people find it’s a pain in the butt, maybe they won’t upgrade as often.

Timing your purchase of an upgrade

The absolute cheapest way is to subscribe to an annual plan – so long as you want to upgrade every year. I’m not sure what happens if you stop subscribing. Maybe the software stops. The next is to pre-purchase in September. That’s what I did. My theory is that I can choose each year whether to do it or not. The flaw in my plan is that I almost always do. Then there are the summer package deals, which are best if you want to have multiple copies and/or multiple products (like Gemstone). That’s a great deal, but you have to wait a while for the new features, and if you buy that deal, it doesn’t qualify for an upgrade price.


You download a file (for pre-purchase, there is an email to tell you it’s ready) and when that’s run, it downloads the rest and sets up a default installation. Pretty standard stuff. Any previous versions, databases, registry settings etc. are not affected. All your photos stay the same. (But if you don’t have a regular backup routine, I’d do a total backup before that install, as a normal precaution.)

You can run both (new and old) versions independently. However, if you move some folders or images in one version, you’ll create orphans in the other version, so by all means keep the old version for reference, but I wouldn’t DO anything with the old one unless you are clear about what the implications are.

This is the part of the install process where there is a moment of panic, because none of your keywords, categories, options and so on are there. That’s because you’re using an empty database.

The database

I think what would normally happen would be that ACDSee (after asking which folders you want to include) starts to catalog everything in those folders. I don’t let it. Tell it about one insignificant folder to keep it happy, and then go to Tools | database | Convert database and follow the wizard to convert your old DB. Now your database is no longer empty!

Database background

Here’s my understanding of how the database works. ACDSee “catalogs” any folder initially specified, and then any folder you browse to later. Cataloging is copying meta-data in the file and the .xmp “sidecar” files into the database. It also creates a thumbnail. Now ACDSee can do magic with all this data very quickly, because it is reading well organized data in a database, not hunting around, opening image files one at a time.

When you add ACDSee metadata (category, keyword, label etc.) to an image, this is stored in the database. While some metadata may get stored on the file – I haven’t bothered to do a lot of research on which is stored and which not – the proprietary ACDSee data is ONLY in the database UNTIL and UNLESS you embed it back into the image file or sidecar file.

There are several ways to embed metadata. One is: Tools | Metadata | Embed ACDSee Metadata.

Back to your new database

If your old database was good and in sync with all your images, converting your old database will get you where you want to be.

If, for some reason, there were some folders that you dropped from the old database, this information won’t be on the new database, but it could be if you manually catalog those folders or ACDSee automatically catalogs them when they are referenced. Even better, if at some time in the past you embedded the metadata in the dropped files, then that now re-populates the database.

If you didn’t embed data and then told ACDSee to forget about some folders; if your database became corrupted or deleted; if you didn’t convert a previous database and started working on a newly built database, or if you worked on images in two different versions of ACDSee (or the same version in two computers) and probably for some other reasons, then things get more complicated.

Fixing missing metadata problems

I haven’t tried all of these scenarios myself (and hope I never have to), but the answer to many issues is some combination of embedding data (from the old database), converting a database, and allowing or forcing ACDSee to catalog some or all folders onto the new database.

One of these will work if the metadata is in either the files or on the database. The corollary to that is that if you are going to rely on ACDSee metadata, then before removing folders from a database, before moving files to another computer and (to be on the safe side) before upgrading, you have to embed it.

In the case where you have multiple versions of ACDSee and different data in each, you could try embedding the data from version 1’s database and then manually re-cataloging the affected folders using version 2.

In some cases, you may be out of luck, of course. If any files or folders have been moved, then some or all of that will fail. Good luck, I hope with a better understanding of what’s happening, you’ll be in a better position to craft a solution, or at least realize it’s hopeless and stop hoping for a miracle.

Catalog in the wrong place

ACDSee wants to put its catalog in appdata. I prefer to have my data up-front and centre stage, not hidden in the recesses of the OS. I consider appdata to be stuff that can be wiped out when you install a new version, and the catalog is definitely that that. I do back up everything on my PC every week, but true data gets backed up daily. Besides, appdata is on my C drive, which is a solid state drive and not that big, so I want it on the big daddy, D drive. So I have an extra step, which is, of course optional for folk who are not as fussy.

After converting the old database, I shut down ACDSee and copied the db folders from C:\Users\myuser\AppData\Local\ACD Systems\Catalogs to D:\Databases\ACDSeeCatalog\160Ult. Then I restarted ACDSee and went to File | open database and specified D:\Databases\ACDSeeCatalog\160Ult\Default.dbin

Finally I checked tools | options | Database, to make sure it’s using one in D:\Databases and then deleted any database folders in appdata. If you decide to do this, you will want to make sure you have good backups before you start fiddling with this stuff. It would be nice if ACDSee asked where I want my database, though.


New to 2023 is the Import Options wizard. I had seen something about this and was a bit disappointed to find no mention of this is the install process. I had got some way through my list of things I change in a new ACDSee version before I wondered if I had missed something. Apparently I had. The new feature is in Tools | Options | General | Import options    – use it.
You’d think there would be an option to do built in to the install process!

However, this still didn’t catch everything. Some of the things that I had to re-setup were:

Batch export configuration

I have separate definitions to export different types of images. For instance, images I will use in Facebook are a certain size, and get moved to a certain place. Images I will use in a video go elsewhere, and are renamed with the index number at the beginning, because my video editor cuts off the end in the timeline, and so on.

Batch Import

I use a different rename templates depending on the camera. My filename includes the camera name. This comes in handy as a quicker way to check the source during editing, and also means that unless I buy a second identical camera body (which hasn’t happened in the last 68 years) every image is guaranteed a unique file name (even if I take two images at exactly the same time). OK, this is a bit over the top, but it comes from database administration training to enforce unique keys, and I’m not going to change now.  The point is, I lost all my batch import definitions.


My saved workspaces did not get saved. Some sort orders were lost. And I had some trouble getting Second Monitor to stay set.

That’s all I’ve found so far. Luckily, for the last three upgrades I’ve kept extensive notes so that I can re-establish my preferences easily, if not quickly. Maybe my list will help your install.

Bonus tip

For me, the best new feature so far is the advanced search. In my workflow I use the tag to mark images I think I will delete, but I prefer not to delete them immediately, even if the image is imperfect. It may turn out to be the only picture of little Johnny smiling, even if the focus is slightly off. The problem was, when I set a filter to find all of the un-rated or un-categorized images, the tagged ones would be found also. Now I can save a search which finds only untagged, unrated images, in the folder I use for images in process.

To my mind, advanced search could also be called advanced filter, and one might not consider using search for the type of filtering I require. Well, whatever it’s called, it’s very welcome!

4 thoughts on “Upgrading to ACDSee 2023

  1. It is a great blog. Finally a good explanation how to solve the negligent upgrade process programming of ACDSee. It is a shame that such a good big software which BTW every year brings a new version, vould not solve a userfriendly upgrade. I hope they read your blog and listen to. rgds

  2. Regarding the annual plan, you say “I’m not sure what happens if you stop subscribing.”
    If you do not renew your subscription, you lose access to the software! I had a subscription, and had upgraded to the latest version. I let the subscription expire, and I could not longer access my catalog. The older, original purchase could not open the newer database. This forced me to upgrade to the current version!

    1. Thanks Jeff – I suspected the first two parts of what you say, but I don’t think I’d ever thought out the last part about the old s/w not being able to read the DB. I wonder if the older version would read newer embedded metadata… Hmmm.