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Mac OS X’s optical-disc-burning functionality has improved with every release, but one task remains a hassle: erasing rewriteable discs.

As their name implies, rewriteable discs—more commonly known as CD-RW and DVD-RW discs—can be reused, unlike standard CD-R and DVD-R discs that can be burned only once. However, to reuse a rewriteable disc, you have to first erase it. In Mac OS X, this means inserting the disc, launching Disk Utility, selecting the disc in the list of volumes in Disk Utility, and then clicking the Erase button in the Disk Utility toolbar.

I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like a hassle to have to open Disk Utility to erase a rewriteable disc. After all, I can burn a disc directly in the Finder, so why can’t I erase it? Evidently, Ivo van Willigen agrees, because his free QuickErase 1.5 (   ) lets you erase rewriteable discs without leaving the Finder.

OK, so you actually do leave the Finder—it just doesn’t seem like it. Launch QuickErase and, assuming a rewriteable disc is in your Mac’s drive, you’ll see a dialog asking if you want to erase the disc “Quickly” or “Completely”—these are the same options available when you erase a disc using Disk Utility. (According to Apple, the former “prepares the disc so that you can write over the existing data but it doesn’t actually erase the data.” The latter overwrites the entire disc with zeros—a process that is more complete and secure, but takes significantly longer.) If your drive is empty, QuickErase first asks you to provide the disc you want to erase:

QuickErase dialog

Choose the erase method and click the Erase button; when the procedure is complete, the freshly-erased optical disc will appear in the Finder, ready for use.

What I like best about QuickErase—and what sets it apart from similar utilities—is that it’s designed to be accessed via the Toolbar of Finder windows: Open a Finder window with a visible Toolbar and drag the QuickErase utility into the Toolbar. (You’ll have to hold it in the desired location for a few seconds before it will “stick.”) It’s now available just like the Finder’s own Toolbar buttons—in fact, it looks just like them. Whenever you want to erase an optical disc, simply click the button in the Toolbar, choose the erase method, and...There is no step 3.

QuickErase Toolbar button

(One tangential perk of QuickErase: By keeping users away from Disk Utility, it helps avoid the accidental erasure of volumes other than optical discs. I’m not joking—I’ve been asked several times to help people who’ve selected the wrong volume in Disk Utility, realizing only after their precious data is gone that they’ve erased a second hard drive instead of an optical disc.)

If you work with rewriteable optical discs, QuickErase is a handy utility.

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