Toast 8 Titanium

Peter Cohen, Macworld
21 October, 2007
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I don’t envy Roxio. When you’ve got a product that’s as mature and well developed as its CD- and DVD-burning software, Toast Titanium, you run the risk of introducing feature bloat with major new releases — and making an easy-to-use program harder than it should be. Toast 8 Titanium adds features and simplifies the interface in such a way that it’s much better than its predecessors.

Two years ago, TiVo (maker of digital PVRs) introduced a feature called TiVoToGo, which let you move program files from your TiVo box to a portable device or computer. It debuted as Windows-only software, but TiVo promised a Mac version, which failed to materialise — until now.

Now, TiVoToGo is here on the Mac, thanks to Roxio. And you can export those TiVo files to PSP or video iPod formats, or burn them to DVD or DivX discs for later viewing. The timing couldn’t be better, as TiVo digital video recorders are only now beginning to appear in Australia.

Unfortunately, the actual quality and speed of video output leaves something to be desired. I found the quality of video converted and exported by Toast 8 Titanium to be lower than I could achieve on my own with applications like Handbrake — images were often darker and less distinct. Though I could massage it a bit using Toast’s extensive options, I still had a hard time getting results that satisfied me.

Blu-ray, Sony’s high-definition optical disc format, is gaining traction as a consumer product, but it’s also appearing as a computer storage format. Each Blu-ray disc can store up to 50GB of data, compared to 4.7GB of data on a single-layer DVD-R disc. Roxio has extended Blu-ray support beyond the confines of the Toast application. Toast Dynamic Writing lets you see a Blu-ray disc in the Finder, so you can copy files from there as well. Unlike with conventional DVD-R writing, you’re not copying files to a cache or alias location. You’re writing files directly to the Blu-ray disc in real time, as if it were a 25GB or 50GB hard disk drive.

If you use Toast to burn audio CDs, you’ll find a lot of improvements in that area as well — including some you previously had to pay extra for by buying Roxio’s Jam. You can create DJ-style cross-fades and transitions, process audio you import from analogue sources such as vinyl records and cassettes (to remove hisses and pops, for example), normalise volume levels, and trim your tracks.

Toast works better as a file archival and backup system in this new version, too. As before, you can span data across more than one CD or DVD. Toast installs a small Mac OS X- and Windows-compatible application called Roxio Restore alongside the archived data, so when you want to recover files you’ve backed up to CD or DVD, you don’t need Toast to make it happen — you just need the disc itself. Toast now keeps track of which files you’ve stored on which burned discs using the accompanying DiscCatalogMaker RE application, so you can locate content more easily once you’ve offloaded it and put the disc away. And Toast can even recover files from damaged discs — it can read data from CDs and DVDs that the Finder can’t decipher.

With all this new functionality you might expect Toast 8 Titanium to be more difficult to use, but you’d be wrong. Roxio has taken pains to simplify the interface. Scaling text effects inside the Toast window show you what kind of files you can manipulate using the different data, audio, video, and copying features of Toast. The developers have also reworked the interface, removing the clunky drawer motif of Toast 7 and cleanly exposing all of the major features. Instead of the drawers, you’ll now find a Media Browser, a floating window that gives you access to the music, photos, and video content you want to put on disc, showing you the contents of your iPhoto library, for example, or your Movies folder. If you have Elgato’s EyeTV DVR software installed, the Media Browser will also show you TV shows that EyeTV has archived.

Australian Macworld’s buying advice. This program has dozens of enhancements and improvements under the bonnet. With Blu-ray support, TiVoToGo, enhancements, interface streamlining, and feature improvements galore, Toast 8 Titanium is the best value Roxio has offered in years. And the best thing for Australians is that the program finally has a proper Australian distributor for local support — about time.

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