The Mac’s built-in CD- and DVD-burning capabilities are great, but they may not be sufficient for burning a lot of CDs or DVDs. For people who demand powerful burning software, there’s Roxio’s Toast.
Toast 5 Titanium (
; July 2001) got high marks from Macworld, and the new version does, too. Roxio has improved the product’s interface and video capabilities, and it has added features for burning via a network. Toast 5 was a fine example of why Toast is the leading application in its field, and Toast 6 secures the application’s top position.
Toast 5’s interface was leaps and bounds better than its predecessor’s, as is Toast 6’s. There are four tabs along the top of Toast’s main window: Data; Audio; Video, which replaces the mysterious grab-bag Other tab; and Copy. Each has format options you can easily access via a new drawer on the left side, with Basic and Advanced settings for each.
Roxio has finally resolved some of our pet peeves about Toast. An indicator that measures used and free disc space now accompanies the record button, in the lower right corner of Toast’s window. Also in the lower right corner is a smaller button that lets you choose from the different burners you have access to — a nicely placed time-saver. The program lets you turn off verification ahead of time, and it lets you eject finished discs or mount them on the desktop.
Video Burning Made Easy
The most impressive of Toast 6’s improvements involves video. Toast 5 could encode video files to MPEG-1 format and burn them to Video CD (VCD). But Toast 6 adds MPEG-2 encoding, which lets Toast create a Super Video CD (SVCD) or a DVD, with simple menus, from any video format that QuickTime understands. Now that Toast can author a DVD, users with external DVD burners — which iDVD doesn’t support — can create DVDs, and quick DVD creation is now easier for everyone. Toast 6 can even take an MPEG-1 file — which has audio and video multiplexed into a single track — and create a DVD from it at the click of a button.
The new Plug & Burn feature lets you capture video from a DV camcorder and burn it to VCD, SVCD, or DVD. In our tests, it captured and burned an SVCD of footage from a Canon Optura 20 DV camcorder flawlessly. Toast encoded 5 minutes of video in about 14 minutes on a dual-867MHz Power Mac G4 at high quality. (The program gives only high or standard video-quality options, with no indication of bit rates, so you can’t fine-tune your compression.) Toast gives you basic trimming functionality for files; when burning, you can choose to insert chapter markers either at timed intervals or at scene breaks.
We were annoyed by Toast’s lack of progress bars to indicate the time remaining for encoding video or burning data DVDs — the two most time-consuming uses of such an application. Also, for drives that burn to both DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW, buffer-underrun protection isn’t currently supported. This should be fixed by the time you read this.
Toast 6 also has several new networking features for burning discs. ToastAnywhere lets Mac users without built-in CD or DVD burners burn to another computer running Toast 6. Toast can use Rendezvous to discover shared burning machines on a local network; it can also burn over the Internet if you enter an IP address. Since you need a fast connection to transfer all the data to the other computer, however, the feature makes sense only on a wired Ethernet network.
Toast It is a nice contextual-menu item that lets you send files or folders to Toast for data backup, and you can now compress and encrypt Mac-only data discs on-the-fly. Since the files become part of an OS X disc image, you don’t need additional software to read them. In our tests, this worked fine, but we achieved only limited compression.
Toast 6 includes four applications that extend its overall usefulness. Motion Pictures lets you create slide shows that pan and zoom. CD Spin Doctor 2 is an updated version of Toast’s digitizing application. Discus RE helps you create labels for your CDs and DVDs. And Propaganda Productions’ Déjà Vu backup software is integrated with Toast 6.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Toast 6 Titanium’s power and flexibility outshine anything you can get from Toast 5 Titanium or a Mac’s built-in burning capabilities. Toast 6 includes every feature you can reasonably expect from this type of app. It’s ideal if you have an external DVD burner that didn’t come with DVD-authoring software, or if you burn a lot of CDs and DVDs.