Despite the fact that Mac's OS X operating system has built-in CD- and DVD-burning capabilities, many Mac users have long found Roxio Toast to be an easier and faster solution. Toast 6.0 Titanium offers a number of improvements, including simplified data disc burning and new audio, image, and video features, as well as the ability to share a CD or DVD burner with other Toast users over the Internet or a local network. Unfortunately, some of the individual tools lack the polish and sophistication of the iLife applications (iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and iDVD) they enhance. Most casual Mac users won't need to spend $80 to duplicate some features that are built into the OS, but we recommend Toast 6.0 Titanium for anyone who routinely uses earlier versions of Toast, wants more options for sharing digital assets, or itches for more control over the burning process.
Installing Roxio Toast 6.0 Titanium is easy: just insert the disc, drag the 167MB folder onto your desktop, and launch the application. Upon the software's initial run, you're required to accept the license, personalize your copy, and choose whether to install a few optional utilities. The whole process takes only a few minutes. Toast 5.0 users, take note: If you still boot into Mac OS 9 and want to be able to burn discs, don't delete the older version; Toast 6.0 runs only in OS X.
Toast's interface hasn't changed much, but there are a handful of refinements that are described in the 121 pages of included printed documentation. Unfortunately, the documentation describes the mechanics of features--"click this to do that"--instead of explaining why they're important or what they're intended for; it also often defers to online help.
Toast's interface is divided into four functions: Data, Audio, Video, and Copy--an improvement over the previous version, which inexplicably lumped many unrelated disc types into a catch-all Other tab. This simplified categorization conceals a wealth of additional features and options accessible in the Disc Settings drawer. We wish Roxio had gone one organizational step further and eliminated the somewhat arbitrary distinction between basic and advanced settings.
Toast 6.0 offers an improved, extremely streamlined approach to copying data.
The most welcome improvements to Toast's interface are the ones you don't see. Toast 5.0 always verified data before and after writing, which needlessly extended the process; it also annoyingly insisted on prompting you to set the write speed, eject finished discs, and save changes. These functions and more are now controlled via preferences, greatly streamlining the user interaction necessary to create discs. If you're a heavy disc burner, these refinements alone justify upgrading.
Every aspect of Toast has received some measure of improvement in this version, but perhaps the best of the software's new features is ToastAnywhere, a unique tool that lets you share a CD or DVD burner with other Toast users over the Internet or a local network. ToastAnywhere requires no additional setup; a shared burner will simply show up in a networked copy of Toast as if it were attached to that computer.
Another handy new feature is the Toast It contextual-menu option that appears in the OS X Finder. This option launches Toast and automatically begins burning selected items to the appropriate type of disc. If you use Toast primarily for burning Mac data, you'll appreciate the new compression and 128-bit encryption options. The backup utility, Déjà Vu, however, lacks many of the features of "--="" rel="nofollow" class="c-regularLink" target="_blank">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Edantz%2Ecom%2Fen%2Fproducts%2Fmac%5Fdesktop%2Findex%2Edtml" target="_blank">Dantz's Retrospect, such as full volume backup, automated file restoration, compression, and filtering.
Audiophiles will appreciate the bundled CD Spin Doctor 2.0 utility that makes it easy to digitize an LP, a cassette, or any other analog source. This app automatically recognizes individual songs and lets you apply filters to remove unwanted noise, then transfer the tracks to Toast. Within Toast's Audio tab, all QuickTime-supported formats (AAC, AIFF, MP3, WAV, and so on) are converted as needed when burning audio CDs, but inexplicably not when creating MP3 CDs.
If you primarily play with pictures or videos, Toast 6.0 has some new features for you, too. Toast lets you quickly burn folders full of images to a slide-show VCD, SVCD, or DVD, but if you want to add soundtracks and apply interesting pan and zoom effects and cross fades, you must use the separate Motion Pictures program. The Motion Pictures interface is somewhat clunky, but the results are good nonetheless. For the family Fellini, Toast can handle almost every video format, extract video from existing iDVD and Toast discs, and import footage directly from DV camcorders with the simple Plug And Burn feature. Toast handles all the necessary converting and encoding (a very time-consuming process) as it creates video discs complete with menus and buttons, if you wish, but as with the slide shows, it offers limited control over the final product.
Toast lacks options for tweaking aesthetics of slide shows and videos, but it handles the grunt work of importing, converting, and encoding content as needed.
Roxio's support is disappointing. The company offers toll-free phone support for installation issues only. Technical calls cost $35 per incident; representatives are available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. When we called Roxio for help, we had to first navigate a simple menu of options, then enter the Technical Support Identification number printed on the Toast CD jacket. Unfortunately, we waited for 17 minutes before being connected to a live representative who took our contact information, assigned a case number, then put us on hold for another 7 minutes before a technician deftly answered our question. Although the time on hold was unacceptably long, for reasons unknown, we were never asked to pay for the incident.
Roxio also provides free tech support via e-mail for 90 days from when you send your first e-mail message; we waited two days to receive an uninformative response to our test. Roxio's Web site provides a FAQ and a searchable database of support articles, but the most useful resource is the free discussion group, where users often help one another and sometimes get rapid responses from Roxio employees, too.