Toast 8 Titanium

The first thing that any existing Toast user will notice is the new interface. The familiar Toast interface – which has barely changed since the pre-OS X days of the ‘classic’ Mac OS – now has the same ‘brushed chrome’ look as the iLife suite. It’s not just a cosmetic makeover, though. The familiar row of tabs that used to run across the top of the screen – allowing you to choose between audio, video, data or disk-copying features – has been moved into the ‘tray’ area on the left-hand side of the screen.

When you click on any tab a series of additional options automatically appears beneath in it the lower part of the tray. The Media Browser that used to be part of the tray has been lifted out altogether and now appears as a separate floating palette that can be positioned anywhere on screen.

This redesigned interface does provide easier access to Toast’s main features, and we were pleased to see that the Media Browser now allows you to locate files stored anywhere on your hard disk, rather than just those within the Home folder. It even works with Spotlight, allowing you to locate files by typing in the file name or keywords associated with the file.

We’re jammin’
The next area that has received a lot of attention is audio. Some of the features formerly found in the separate Jam program have now been included within Toast, including the ability to add fades, crossfades and a variety of audio filters to your tracks. Just click on the ‘Fade’ or ‘Crossfade’ button displayed by the name of each track in the main workspace and a small pop-up menu appears that allows you to select preset fade effects or to create custom fades. The good thing about the fade effects is that they’re ‘non-destructive’ – they’re only applied to the tracks that you burn onto CD, leaving the original tracks on your Mac’s hard disk untouched.

Unfortunately, the Toast manual doesn’t explain these features very well. This is a particular problem when trying to create custom fades. Selecting the Custom option opens a separate editing window where you can directly manipulate the audio waveforms. This is all well and good if you’re used to audio-editing software, but there’s not much help here for newcomers.

The same thing applies to the other audio effects. Features such as the 31-band graphic equaliser, dynamics processor, and multiband compressor will be welcomed by experienced muzos, but they just aren’t explained properly for ordinary home users who might be trying out Toast for the first time.

More straightforward are the new DVD features. Toast still can’t compete with iDVD when it comes to creating slick DVD menus, but it’s now easier to quickly grab a bunch of video clips and knock together your own DVD compilation disks. You can change the background image on a DVD menu just by dragging and dropping a new image into the DVD window and can also change the number and colour of navigation buttons with a quick pull-down menu. It’s also easy to copy recordings from a DVD recorder or EyeTV TV tuner without having to worry about the complex file structures normally associated with DVD disks.

Toast 8 sports a few new features for working with data disks. The Catalogue feature keeps a record of all the files that you burn onto CD or DVD and can tell which disk a file is stored on even if the disk isn’t actually inserted in your Mac at that moment. Toast 8 also adds support for the next-generation Blu-ray discs that are just starting to become available.

This is certainly a recommended upgrade for existing Toast users. The updated interface works well, and the new features confirm its position as the best tool for creating audio, video and data disks on the Mac. It’s just a shame that the manual does such a poor job of introducing Toast to first-time users.

OUR VERDICT

Toast 8 is recommended to anyone who wants to make their own compilation audio CDs or video DVDs. Our only complaint is that – as in the past – Roxio’s manual assumes far too much knowledge from first-time users.

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