It’s always exciting to across a well featured new software package and it’s even better when you’re offered a free preview in the form of a Beta package. With a launch projected for the autumn ACDSee is giving photographers the chance to take a sneak preview at its upcoming Gemstone software, which delivers an advantage over Adobe Photoshop by including Raw development support, multi document interface (MDI) and layered editing for the images that require more work.

The idea of a Beta of course is that it’s an opportunity for photographers to take a closer look and to deliver crucial feedback to the developers, and it’s an arrangement that generally offers a great deal to both parties. ACDSee receives the benefit of the informed input of the photographic community while those who download the Beta and take part will have a free software package to work with. It won’t be free forever, however, so take it for a spin while you can. In saying that, I should also point out that the program is only available to Windows users at present. Here then is an overview of what it has to offer and my thoughts on how it performs.


My first observation was that Gemstone has a number of features similar to those provided by ACDSee’s Photo Studio editing suite, such as Light EQ, Frequency Separation, Path Text, Pixel Targeting, Colour Wheels, Tone Wheels and the Liquify tool. Beyond that it offers full Raw support for over 500 camera models, so file compatibility is sound here. It also comes with a multiple document interface, so you can work on more than one image at a time. With layered editing included it also has full history recall, auto refined controls on adjustment tools and extensive masking options. What more do we need?

Working with Gemstone’s Tool Tabs

STARTING WITH GEMSTONE’S home screen, left, it’s possible here to see any past projects and edits you’ve created or to find files that you might be looking to import and start working on. Once an image has been selected you’re then taken into ACDSee Raw, where any adjustments necessary can be made (Image 2), which can be anything from exposure and contrast correction through to colour management.

You work using four robust nondestructive develop tool tabs: Tune, Detail, Geometry and Repair. Tune is for exposure/contrast and colour correcting, Detail for sharpening tools, Geometry is where you can crop, change perspective and lens correct while Repair is where you’ll find the clone and heal tools. All work perfectly well as you’d expect and are very responsive.

Colour correcting is made simple and easy using the colour wheels, which is one of ACDSee’s best features – a personal favourite of mine that you can’t find in any other software. If you aren’t familiar with ACDSee Photo Studio and its colour wheel, then I’d recommend getting the Gemstone Beta just to experience this alone. There are also tone wheels to help you explore colour grading (see right), or you can create your own develop presets or go to the presets panel to choose one of the many built-in default options available there, which are designed to make editing easier and more consistent.

Editing Tools

WHEN YOU’RE HAPPY with those adjustments you click open, which takes you to the main multi-document layerbased editing module. There’s lots of tools in the layer adjustments options available to select and apply via different layers and, when teamed with the use of opacity and blend-able features for each, you’re in full control. There’s every editing tool I can think of available here, and the best thing is you don’t have to go searching through lots of other unnecessary tools that you’ll probably never use just to find them. Adjustment Layer options, Skin Smoothing Layer options and below is the Sharpening Layer option.

Here you’ll also find the text overlay or path text tool, which is super handy if you need text on an image. This isn’t available in most editing software, so it’s great this is a feature.


GEMSTONE COULD PROVE itself to be a viable alternative to Adobe Photoshop or even Affinity Photo, as it’s very similar in terms of features. With ACDSee releasing this as a Beta version we can expect to see some changes and updates before the full version becomes available, which could make this one of the most user-friendly photo editing software packages out there.

In my experience of using the Beta everything was fast, responsive, and each tool I used gave very well executed and impressive results. I didn’t come across any niggles or bumps in the road and I’m excited for this to be a contender on the market. With this being a Beta, however, I wouldn’t use this software for client work just at the moment, but I would certainly recommend having a play, and if you find any room for improvement then make sure to let ACDSee know. If it’s ultimately released without a subscription payment model then even better!

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Above : Skin Tone Adjustments, Layers and left adjusting white and brightness balance and above top text overlay.