Thursday, 23 June 2011 13:56

Toast 11 Titanium

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The venerable disc burning tool is evolving into a media conversion utility.


At one time, Toast was an almost essential utility for Mac owners who needed to burn more than the occasional DC or DVD. But successive improvements to Mac OS X and the iLife applications meant the need for Toast has faded.

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Toast 11 Titanium still burns discs, but the balance of the package is shifting towards converting video for various devices and services. Predefined export profiles cover AppleTV, iPad, iPhone, iPod, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and more.

Whether you're burning a disc or exporting files, Toast program provides convenient access to your iTunes and iPhoto libraries, plus common video locations (including iMovie projects, the Movies folder and the EyeTV library). The range of file formats has expanded to include Flash and MKV.

The program includes the ability to edit out portions of video clips and set chapter markers, fade audio tracks in and out and apply audio effects. There's a fair selection of DVD menu styles, but I can get excited by any of them.

I find Toast particularly useful for burning Internet videos onto DVD so they can be watched on a TV. That's redundant if your TV, Blu-ray player or other associated device already has Internet capabilities, but if you're a little behind the home entertainment curve it's a handy capability to have. On the subject of TV, Toast integrates neatly with EyeTV.

There's more to Toast, so please read on.



Blu-ray creation is only supported if you also buy an add-on. I have mixed feelings about that: on one hand, why pay for something you won't use; on the other, Toast isn't cheap ($169.95, but $US99.99 or less if purchased directly from Roxio) so you'd expect all the capabilities mentioned on the outside of the box without an additional purchase.

If you're an audiobook fan, Toast has the very handy ability to rip audiobook CDs into files with chapter marks and send the results to iTunes for syncing with an iPod or similar device. In the process you can vary the playback speed - increasing the speed can save time without affecting comprehension - and optionally join multiple CDs into a single file.

What I'd really like to be able to do is convert an audiobook into multiple files that run for about half an hour each, but respecting the original sections and including them as chapter marks. I generally fall asleep at night listening to audiobooks or podcasts, and find that longer files make it harder to find the right spot next time I listen, and they also run down the battery unnecessarily because the iPod keeps playing for longer while I'm asleep.

The package includes several utilities: Disc Cover 3 RE (create disc and jewel box labels), DiscCatalogMaker RE (disc cataloging), Get Backup 2 RE (scheduled backup), Mac2Tivo, Spin Doctor (capture audio from hardware devices or applications - useful, but selecting portions of interest from a recording is finicky, so my inclination is to use an external editor), and Mac2Tivo and TiVo Transfer (for TiVo users).

Part of the problem with Toast is that it's moving in multiple directions, and there's no guarantee that someone interested in burning optical discs will also want the media conversion and portable device capabilities, in which case the package seems expensive.

On the other hand, those who want as many tools as possible might be attracted by the Pro version, which also includes Photoshop Elements 9 (Adobe's iPhoto alternative), FotoMagico 3 RE (slideshow production), BIAS SoundSoap 2 SE (audio noise removal), SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 5 (score music for soundtracks), and the Toast Blu-ray plugin. Not bad for an extra $60, especially when Photoshop Elements usually sells for more than twice that.

 


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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