There are two tiers of tools to working with digital files. Tier one is the import and organization tier and Tier two tools is the editing and printing tier. Although some Tier one tools include printing and limited editing
Tier one tools cover how do the images get off the card and how do we as photographers sort, store, tag, etc. and decide on the images to be printed or viewed in some manner. The tools that fit in this tier are Adobe Lightroom, Apple's Aperture (new release just announced), Nikon ViewNX, ACDSee Photo Manager Pro, Bibble 5, and others.
These tools may also include varying editing and printing abilities that for a lot of photos are more that adequate. Also, on the MAC and Windows platforms, there are built in organizing tools. Mac has the IPhoto and Windows Explorer and Media Center that serve the organizing and printing function.
The other tier (second tier) of tools include Photoshop CS, Photoshop Elements, CaptureNX, and others. These are full image editors and serve as the heavy lifters if an image requires more handling that the tier one application can handle. These are typically poor at organizing and searching for photos. They are usually used as an external editor to a management application.
Although some like the two Photoshop tools and CaptureNX have a scaled down organizer or browser tool. Photoshop Elements version is a scaled down set of tools found in the CS version. It is often adequate for most needs.
What should be the choice?
Try a tier two tool first (they all offer a trail period). Pay attention to how you would download/organize, tag/rate, search, sort and edit/print/display a card of 100(+) images. Then try one of the tier one tools for the same process.
In the end you will discover what works for the images you take. I have been able to use the Windows Media Center and Photoshop Elements (on the Mac: iPhoto) for my earlier work. This included mostly the scans from film slides and the JPG files I created before I went totally digital. If I shoot images only as JPG files , I can continue to use this combination.
But, since switching to a RAW based image workflow, I am finding that a tier one tools is becoming a necessity to replace Media Center in my workflow. I have been testing Lightroom and plan to test Bibble and one offered by wildlife photographer Moose Peterson.
I hope this helps.
Look for a tools comparison coming soon...