MP3 Audio Tunes Up on the Mac

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MP3, the audio format that has gained a huge following on the Web, is tuning up to occupy center stage on the Macintosh. Apple's QuickTime 4 software, which shipped in June, lets you add MP3 audio to QuickTime movies, and Macromedia's recently announced Flash 4 software puts MP3 in Flash animations. Now Casady & Greene (800/359-4920, ) has taken MP3 a step further by offering a $49 program that lets you encode MP3 audio in addition to playing it back.

Sound Jam MP, scheduled to ship by the time you read this, will include a customizable player with controls similar to those found in AppleCD Audio Player. An application programming interface for the player will allow developers to create different looks, including players with large buttons or irregular shapes. Casady & Greene also plans to offer a collection of MP3 songs. A version of the software will be bundled with Diamond Multimedia's forthcoming Rio PMP 500 digital-audio player, the first MP3 player to offer Mac support.

MP3 has become a popular music format for the Web, thanks to its compact file sizes and near-CD-quality audio. You can store as many as 2,300 MP3 titles on an 8GB hard drive. MP3 has raised concerns in the recording industry because it makes it easy to pirate copyrighted music. However, some musicians have embraced the format because they can offer samples of their recordings directly to potential fans, bypassing the music industry's conventional distribution channels.

Along with Sound Jam MP, Casady & Greene has released upgrades to Conflict Catcher and Spell Catcher, as well as two new products, iLiner and Speed Startup. iLiner is a $49 outlining tool that lets you take notes while viewing QuickTime content; it also provides access to the automatic document-summarization features in Apple's Sherlock software. Speed Startup, a $19.95 utility available exclusively through the Casady & Greene Web site, speeds system boot-ups, especially on PowerBooks or Macintosh systems with large amounts of RAM.

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