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Toast 7 Titanium

The disc burning and authoring suite gets all growed up By Kevin Schmitt

Over the years, Toast has changed hands more times than a Christmas fruitcake, yet still manages to remain (arguably, of course) the king of Mac-based disc authoring programs even amid a growing list of alternatives. Now owned by Sonic (yet still distributed under the Roxio moniker), Toast 7 Titanium packs a host of very useful new features and improvements that continue the proud Toast tradition, and despite the inexplicable continuation of what is perhaps the worst upgrade "deal" in the history of software, is still a good value.

I've been using Toast for over a decade, starting out when "affordable" burners ran more than a grand and 550 MB blank CD ROMs were $10 apiece. I'm actually kind of shocked Toast has lasted as long as it has, but it just keeps chugging along. Version 7 continues Toast's transformation from straight-up disc authoring tool to all-around media management utility, packing new features in while still retaining its signature simple interface and famous ease-of use. At $99 (but can be found for much less with a little shopping), Toast 7 Titanium is priced for consumers, but packs features that are essential for pros as well. Let's take a spin around some of the more noteworthy new features and improvements and see what's doin' under the hood.

True to its roots

Historically, chore numero uno for Toast has been burning data discs, which is unsurprising considering the product's name. Burning is still the foundation of Toast 7, but it's now simpler and more flexible than ever. Toast has always been something of a boon to CD and DVD ROM authors for mastering discs (yes, there are still some of us out there), offering Mac-only, ISO 9660 (cross-platform, with optional Windows-friendly extensions), and custom hybrid discs (which show up as native on either platform, with the ability to share content and hide specific files depending on platform). Later, Toast added support for regular hybrid discs (no file masking) and UDF discs (for DVD-ROMs). That's a lot of options, but there's nothing new on that front in Toast 7. What is new, however, is the streamlined way Toast authors custom hybrid discs.

In previous versions of Toast, custom hybrids were a somewhat convoluted process. You had to create a temporary disk partition for the Mac volume, drag that to Toast, then drag the Windows-only files into Toast, and then pick the files from the temporary volume that needed to be shared between platforms. It was not for the faint of heart. In Toast 7, the custom hybrid option has been folded into the Mac & PC settings, offering simple checkboxes to hide or show content for each platform (fig. 1).

Figure 1

Macintosh disc options have also been greatly improved, which comes into play not just for Mac-only discs, but for hybrid ones as well. Anyone who has struggled with the voodoo that was the Mac disc prep process and not knowing what was going to happen when the finished disc was run on a Mac will be thrilled with the new disc settings (fig. 2, top). You can drag in a custom icon, set the default window view (icon, list, or column), choose a color or image as the window background, and set whether the disc window will open automatically when the disc runs (fig. 2, bottom).

Figure 2

In addition to the various disc formats you can burn, Toast can still handle pretty much any disc type you throw at it?CD-R, CD-RW, DVD+-R, DVD+-RW, DVD-RAM, Dual Layer DVDs, and so on. You're pretty much only limited by what your resident burner will support. Actually, that's not even true, as Toast 7 includes the Toast Anywhere feature that lets you share a burner over a network that other Toast users can write to, and with the ability to author discs without burning (which we'll get into a bit later), you don't even have to have a burner on your machine for Toast to still be useful.

The Media Browser

OK, we all know Toast can burn discs. But more than anything, Toast's bag of late is helping you gather and prep your media for burning. Data, music, video, you name it?Toast can help you manage it. The biggest new step in that direction is the Media browser (fig. 3), which is a persistent area that aggregates your Movie folder, iTunes Library, iPhoto Library, and (if you have it installed) your EyeTV Library.

Figure 3

Here's how the Media Browser works: let's say you've recorded a couple of TV shows using EyeTV, and you want to transfer them to a Video CD so you can watch them on a regular DVD player. With earlier versions of Toast, you had to export the shows out of EyeTV, and then drag them into Toast. But since Toast 7 integrates your EyeTV library directly into the Media Browser, it's just a simple drag and drop (fig. 4).

Figure 4

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