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Roxio Toast 8 TitaniumThe venerable video/audio/data burning/authoring/converting utility grows even more venerable-er
Toast has been around for what seems like forever, dutifully providing us fun-lovin' and free-wheelin' Mac users with delicious disc burning goodness throughout all the tumult and upheaval the last decade-and-a-half (or so) has brought to the world of computing. And while that last statement was perhaps a tad dramatic, the point is that Toast is a very mature product which Roxio somehow manages to make more and more useful with every release, and Toast 8 Titanium is no exception.
It seemed like only yesterday that I reviewed Toast 7 Titanium, and while "yesterday" in this case really means just a hair over one year, the fact remains that it hasn't been very long between Toast releases. But don't let the short span fool you?Toast 8 is packed to the rafters with new and cool stuff. If I didn't know better, at the rate Roxio is pumping out Toast versions and applying the famous "near full price" upgrade scheme (which continues to irk me) to each new rev, I'd think that Toast was entering the realm of subscription software (a la iLife). But regardless of the philosophy behind how and why Toast receives a spanking new version number, the matter at hand is what's going on with Toast 8, and the bottom line there is that Toast continues to grow from its humble disc burning beginnings into a general purpose media management utility that appeals to an increasing number of user types.
Before we dive into it, let me outline what this review will be (and what it won't). I'm pretty much going to stick to new and improved features here, since those by themselves are good for a few thousand (or so) words. While that approach may make for a somewhat meandering and unfocused piece, it's probably the best way to cover the significant changes that Toast 8 offers to all of its ever-varied users types. What won't be discussed is Toast in general; the review I did of Toast 7 back in December 2005 is a little broader overview of the product (and is still perfectly valid in that regard), so allow me to avail myself of the twin opportunities to 1) not offer a re-tread of already-published information and 2) shamelessly plug my earlier piece on this particular topic. And with that out of the way, let's start our whirlwind tour of what Toast 8 brings to the table.
Full disclosure: what I can't test
At this point, I'm going to go ahead and cop to something that may cause you to stop reading right now: since I don't have access to either a TiVo box or a Blu-ray burner, I can't actually test two of the biggest new features in Toast 8. But while I can't try them out, I can mention what they do, or at least what they're supposed to do. I'll get to TiVo a bit later during the rundown of the Toast Extras, but as for Blu-ray, it ostensibly works like any other disc format Toast supports (albeit with the advantage of holding much, much more data or video). One useful enhancement inherent to Blu-ray recording within Toast is a feature called Toast Dynamic Writing, which allows you to use a BD-RE disc as an external storage device. Files are added to and removed from the disc simply by dragging and dropping files into and out of the disc icon on the Desktop (regardless of whether or not Toast itself is running). While all that sounds cool, I must reiterate that I wasn't able to try it out for myself, so can't speak to how well it actually works in the real world. So with all that said, let's get into what I could test, which certainly is plenty.
If you've ever used Toast before, the first thing that leaps out at you when firing up Toast 8 for the first time is the completely redesigned interface (fig. 1):
The four main functions (Data, Audio, Video, and Copy) have been moved from the top of the interface to the left-hand side, leaving the main area of the interface uncluttered for the various media management tasks. Beneath the four functions is a contextual panel that reflects the options available to you for a particular task. So, for example, if you select Video CD, the Options panel will present only the options that are relevant to that selection (fig. 2). Roxio has added some gratuitous animation to this panel, sliding it into and out of view as necessary.
In fact, animation is everywhere in Toast 8, from the aforementioned sliding panel to a choppily "morphing" window that serves as the transition between the setup and burning states. All the animation isn't my cup of tea in this context, and fortunately someone at Roxio thought it would be a good idea to have a preference to turn it off, which I did. No judgment here, though?some of you out there will like it, and others won't, so I'm not going to hate on something subjective that can be toggled on and off.
Toast 8 also takes the Media Browser and gives it a floating palette of its very own (fig. 3). New to version 8 are a file browser, a DVD browser (which searches unencrypted VIDEO_TS folders either on a disc or stored locally), and a Spotlight search panel, which is really slick. It's nice to be able to track down a bunch of files spread out over your system using Spotlight and add them to a Toast project without actually having to leave the cozy confines of the Toast interface.
The last bit of info on the interface is the "across the room" burning feature. When Toast goes to write out a disc, the main window transforms into a large-ish feedback window which displays the status of your burn (fig. 4). While the animation is kind of cheeseball, the end result is quite effective: an easily-readable status window that can be walked away from and still remains legible from?you guessed it?across the room. Overall, it's a nice touch.
So that's the new interface. Let's get into the more quick-hits section of the review, as I attempt to call out some of the more noteworthy features present in Toast 8.
Related Keywords:toast, toast titanium, roxio, disc burning