Toast used to be the staple application for burning data and media onto discs for the Macintosh, but every digital media management application comes with a burn to disc option nowadays. As the Mac now has disc burning from within the Finder, Toast has a lot more competition than it used to so has had to evolve beyond merely burning to disc.
That process has changed little, but Toast Titanium 8 has undergone a facelift while it conducts familiar tasks. While burning, the whole application window collapses to a graphic that reports on the progress of your burning project with an ‘abort’ button affixed.
Publisher Roxio has combated the threat of obsolescence by bundling Toast with more extras than ever before. The most visible is the floating media browser, a palette that lets you view your digital content by category, be it iTunes tracks, iPhoto images, movies or a file navigator. It’s a neat enough idea, but if you have any more than eight photos or songs in your collection it’s very unwieldy to sift through them all in one long list to find the ones you want to burn.
Where the old versions gave you the choice between writing or copying music or data discs, the dropdown project menu in the application window now has a host of project types and formats. Most notable among them is the video projects on offer. You can burn a video CD, Divx DVD and even collect video and audio .ts files and assemble them into a DVD playable on a standard DVD player. Toast also manages an entire burning project across several discs, prompting you for the next in turn until it’s burnt everything.
It has clever disc reading and compression engines that make smart use of empty space on blank discs, a feature that lets you scale down large amounts of data you’d never think would fit on a single disc. What that means to the average user is that large DVDs can be compressed down to fit on single 4.7Gb discs, previously impossible without highly technical third party compression software.
Burning speeds are limited to the drives in PCs, so don’t expect any great improvements in burn speed. A DVD with almost the full capacity of 4.7Gb took around 14 minutes to burn, more or less standard, and putting a fairly low quality video file onto a disc for playback in a DVD player took over an hour.
Roxio has worked hard to keep Toast an essential part of the Mac users toolkit, and just when the explosion of digital media threatened to destabilise its authority, it’s moved forward again.