Ashampoo Photo Commander 9

In the seven months since I , the product has gone through a major revision, adding a boatload of new features as well as some user interface changes and less prominent tweaks to the way the program used to work. Although the new is a capable tool for quickly doing the kinds of minor adjustments most people will need--for example, automatic red-eye reduction and image rotation--I found a number of flaws that individually don't cause a great deal of trouble, but collectively could create a lot of frustration.

Ashampoo Photo Commander 9 aims to be a soup-to-nuts photo adjustment, creativity, and management tool. It's capable of organizing large collections; generating projects like calendars and panoramic composite shots; or editing, cropping, and adjusting the color and contrast of individual photos or entire directories full of images. Ashampoo supports virtually every common image and video file format, and also can organize MP3 audio files (though I'm not sure why you'd use a photo manager for that). All of the tool's features are organized under tabs labeled Common, Quick Fix, Edit, Create, and Organize.

The "Organize" menu gives you the options to search for images based on EXIF data; find and remove duplicate images; archive files to an external drive, CD, or DVD; and rename, optimize, or manipulate large groups of files as a batch. But Ashampoo Photo Commander 9's features always seem to fall a little short of what I'd expect.

For example, you can rotate a batch of imagesbut even if your camera records its orientation when the picture was taken and puts that into the photo's EXIF metadata, the program doesn't automatically choose the orientation. Instead, you have to manually choose which way to rotate the images. It's a minor annoyance, unless you have a huge directory of photos that need rotation in different directions. Then it's a big nuisance.

Ashampoo Photo Commander 9's "Create" menu lets you generate projects like photo wall calendars, collages, panoramas, an automatically-playing slideshow, Web site photo galleries, and greeting cards. And although it's cool that you can turn your photos into a calendar and add custom dates for holidays or family events, the program doesn't, for example, let you choose which month you want the calendar to start with. If you want to make a calendar to span from birthday to birthday or track a school year, you're out of luck.

The PhotoWizard feature, which gets called whenever Ashampoo Photo Commander needs you to select more than one image on which to perform an action, also has odd quirks. By default, the wizard is supposed to sort files alphabetically by name, but even though the Sort By dropdown menu has "Name (Ascending)" selected every time you open the wizard, the program doesn't actually perform the sort until you go into that dropdown menu and choose a sort option. If you don't notice this, you might have to repeat your work when your batch creations are generated with the images in the wrong order.