When Sonic Solutions—a digital media software company that specialized in the PC market—purchased Roxio in 2004, many users feared it would mean the end of Roxio’s popular Toast software for the Mac. But Toast (and the Roxio brand) have survived, and with Toast 7 Titanium , Roxio has created an even better application with a sharper contrast between it and the built-in CD- and DVD-burning capabilities of OS X and Apple’s iLife apps. Toast 7.0.1 is ideal for anyone who wants more control over burning data discs, audio CDs, and DVD-video discs in one convenient, full-featured package.
The heart of any good burning program is good data backup. Toast has long excelled in this area, but Toast 7’s new Data Spanning feature is an outstanding addition. Data spanning solves the problem of trying to back up files, folders, or applications that are too big to fit on a single piece of optical media (CD or DVD) by divvying up items among as many discs as necessary. It chops individual files that are too big (large disc images or DV files, for example) into multiple pieces, and you can use the small (1MB) Roxio Restore application included on every disc of the series you burn to reassemble such files, copy self-contained files, or restore an entire disc series to your hard drive. The Restore app is very intuitive—it lets you drag and drop or double-click files to restore them—and it even includes a search feature so you can find a single file out of thousands across multiple DVDs. Note that spanning works only with Mac Only-formatted discs, not Roxio’s cross-platform Mac & PC format.
Toast 7 also adds the ability to create hybrid discs with content specific to each operating system—simple checkboxes determine what files or folders will be visible on each platform. Further disc-customization options include Toast’s new Info window, which lets you choose the Disc view (icon, list, or hierarchical) for the disc’s files as well as change the disc’s background color or add a picture to make it unique—cool for software developers or parents sending out CDs of pictures to family members.
Toast 7 includes the functionality of Roxio’s $50 Popcorn 1.0 ( June 2005 ), software that can compress a costly dual-layer DVD movie for backup on a standard blank DVD (for legal reasons, you have to decrypt the DVD yourself before Toast can compress it). On a dual-2.3GHz Power Mac G5, it took 16 minutes and 20 seconds for Toast 7 to compress a 6.75GB movie. The 28 percent reduction in file size produced an excellent-looking DVD with no visible compression artifacts. Toast underestimated the time it would take to burn the DVD by more than a minute and a half, though, mostly because fast burners write data at different speeds on different parts of the disc—not a major fault, but it can be confusing at times.;
For creating DVDs from scratch, Toast 7 adds 10 different menu styles, a new MPEG-2 encoder, and more control over video compression settings and Dolby Digital data rates. And with the inclusion of the DivX Pro 6 codec, you can now encode movies to DivX format (Standard or High Definition) to watch on a computer or compatible set-top DVD player. Encoding is slow—it took 36 minutes to encode a 22-minute DV file to DivX format on the dual-2.3GHz Power Mac G5—but the quality was quite good considering that the file size was reduced by 95 percent. (Toast did, however, leave annoying log files at the root of my hard drive.)
Toast 7 also features a media browser that gives you access to movies, EyeTV programs, iPhoto pictures and albums, and iTunes songs and playlists (note that you can’t use music purchased from the iTunes Music Store anywhere in Toast 7 as the program will not import Protected AAC files).
Toast 7’s native support for open-source Ogg Vorbis and lossless FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) files means you no longer need to convert such files to another format before burning. In my tests, burning a live concert in FLAC format worked perfectly, and the resulting discs contained music that flowed flawlessly from song to song. Roxio also has improved the Music DVD feature, which now lets you create a DVD disc with up to 50 hours of music that will play on most recently manufactured DVD players. This new version allows you to burn more music on one DVD, and gives you the same menus as DVD video discs, shuffle play, and more.
Extras and upgrades
As with previous versions of Toast ( October 2004 ), Toast 7 includes several additional applications: CD Spin Doctor, for digitizing analog tapes and LPs; Discus RE, for making covers and inserts for CDs and DVDs; and Motion Pictures HD, for creating sophisticated slideshows—all useful bonuses.;
Roxio offers a $20 rebate to almost anyone (OS X users, iLife users, Roxio or Sonic customers), but current Toast customers who are interested in upgrading may be frustrated that Roxio still requires a mail-in rebate. It’s time for Roxio to switch to an instant discount for registered users.
Macworld’s buying advice
If OS X’s built-in burning abilities aren’t enough for you, you won’t find a better burning application than Toast 7.0.1. For owners of previous versions, I recommend the upgrade for its data-spanning, inclusion of Popcorn, and its DVD and DivX-burning capabilities—as long as you don’t mind the archaic mail-in rebate process and price.
[ Jonathan Seff is Macworld ’s Senior News Editor, and has burned thousands of audio, video, and data CDs and DVDs. ]Toast’s new Data-spanning feature makes it simple to back up large amounts of data without having to worry about how much will fit on a disc—and it’s just as easy to find what you’re looking for later.Toast’s built-in DivX-encoding feature lets you create high-quality movies at small file sizes. You can even take projects from iMovie HD or Final Cut Pro HD and convert them to HD DivX CDs or DVDs—this is currently the only affordable way to watch burned HD content on a standard television.