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Roxio Toast 10 TitaniumAnother year, another version
In what has become something of a Macworld tradition, Roxio once again used the annual gathering of Apple faithful as the backdrop for the unveiling of version 10 of its stalwart Toast Titanium media management product. As in past years, more features have been added and the upgrade price is still terrible, but this year there's a new wrinkle. Let's dive in to see what's changed this time around.
Before we get into it...
It's continually amazing to me that a product like Toast, originally created to write data to those newfangled CD ROM doohickeys back in the 90s, continues to reinvent itself for the post physical media age. In other words, if CD/DVD burning was taking a back seat in earlier versions, it's pretty much in the trunk now. Sure, we now have a new disc format to deal with -- Blu-ray (or BD), which is wisely a paid add-on in Toast -- but with the explosive growth of networked media which never leaves a hard drive, it's good to see Toast being adept with established and emerging formats alike.
Now, the last version of Toast I reviewed was Toast 8 Titanium two years ago, which means (gasp!) I actually jumped off the upgrade treadmill for a version. In the case of Toast, when new versions come fast and furious, it's highly likely that many of you may have done the same thing, as Roxio's additions from version to version may not represent a compelling reason to upgrade each and every time (especially when you consider the continuation of Toast's strange upgrade pricing, which we'll get into later).
The last thing I'll mention before getting into the new features is that, as with prior versions, there are some features I just can't test. TiVo integration, for example, is improved in Toast 10, but I don't have TiVo. Ditto for an AVCHD camera, even though that's a huge feature here. So while I'll mention all the notable new and improved features, not everything will have been experienced firsthand by your humble reviewer.
Toast goes Pro
Long-time Toast users are well aware of the fact that Toast has traditionally offered a suite of add-on programs which ship with the product (with version 10 being no exception), but the folks at Roxio have upped the ante this time around. For the first time, Toast now comes in two distinct versions: Standard (as I'll call it) and Pro. The Pro version, which fetches a $50 premium over the regular version, isn't so much an expanded version of Toast as much as it is a Toast bundle, adding a handful of select programs chosen to help you get more out of your media. As each of these additional programs are pre-existing, fully standalone products, I'm not going to review each one individually here; however, the HD/BD plug-in is worth a quick rundown and a brief comment. Since Blu-ray players and burners aren't exactly legion on the Mac, Roxio is wisely offering the HD/BD plug-in as a $20 individual add-on in addition to bundling it in with the Pro version. What's notable here, other than the obvious ability to author Blu-ray video discs, is that you can burn video to regular or dual-layer DVDs and play them back on Blu-ray players -- no expensive Blu-ray burner or media necessary. This hearkens back to the days when you could burn DVD-Video to standard CD ROMs, which provided up to TEN FULL MINUTES of DVD-quality video on a single disc! Times have changed just a little bit.
Anyway, the bundled third-party apps in Toast 10 Pro include, briefly:
- SoundSoap - This utility analyzes audio clips and tracks for noise and removes it.
- Sonicfire Pro - A soundtrack maker. Those familiar with Soundbooth's scores will get the gist right away.
- FotoMagico - Slideshow program.
- LightZone - A really nice program for intelligent photo adjustments.
As with any bundle, you're going to have to decide for yourself if the extra $50 is worth the cost. If even two of the items in the Pro version will provide value to you or fill a workflow need not covered by other programs in your arsenal, you'll likely get your money's worth. I will say that, in general, Roxio has partnered with some quality software vendors to add a lot of value to the core Toast product, but value doesn't mean much if you don't need the specific features the bundle provides. Let's move on to Toast proper, which is why we're all really here today.
The Stuff I Could Test
Since it's the first thing one usually sees after launching a program, I suppose it makes sense to discuss the interface first. It's not a huge overhaul from where I last saw it in Toast 8, but it's clear Roxio puts a lot of thought into the interface as the product evolves. Toast 10 streamlines things a bit more, offering the same categorized and tabbed panels mixed with slightly bigger and more legible fonts this time around (fig. 1).
Beside the main window is the familiar Media Browser, which now sports a few neat tricks in version 10. For one, your AVCHD camera will now show up in the Media Browser, which sounds nice, but as I don't have the requisite equipment in this case, I can't attest to how well it works (more on that later). The other big addition, which I could test, is the ability to have Web video show up in the Media Browser. I'm not sure this is entirely legal, but Roxio seems to think it is, so we'll go with it. It works like this: fire up Toast, head over to a streaming site like YouTube, start a clip, and it will show up in Toast's Media Browser (fig. 2) once it has streamed the entire clip to your cache (whether you've watched the whole thing or not). Flash Video sites like YouTube and Vimeo work fine; The Apple trailer site, for example, doesn't work. It may be hit or miss, but if you just have to have The Evolution of Dance or Miss Teen South Carolina talking about "The Iraq" preserved for all posterity on a DVD, this will be a useful feature.
Speaking of DVDs, there are a couple new features of note in Toast 10. For one, Toast 10 now includes a host of new DVD menus, all of which are available in both 4x3 and 16x9 format (fig. 3). We're still talking basic still menus here -- no motion, no video, no fanciness. I have no complaints about the lack of bling here, as motion menus in DVDs have long since worn off as a novelty in my book, but what I will whine about is the continued inability to easily create your own menu themes for use in Toast. I've done a bit of hacking into the Photoshop-based format Toast uses for its DVD menus, and while it's not for the faint of heart, Roxio could create a thriving menu sharing community simply by publishing the specs and providing a little bit of Web space for potential menu makers. I've mentioned this specific idea to Roxio folks during a briefing, and I'm hoping for some kind of movement in this direction. It's long past time to make it at least a little easier for folks to roll their own menus, unless new menus are being specifically saved as features in the yearly revision.
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