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KELLNER: Toast is a great media software

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009


All it took was the press of a red button, and I saved a piece of history.

Now, the "history" was a bit idiosyncratic - a friend had a role during last week's inauguration and I wanted to put the video on my iPhone. Yes, you can view YouTube files on the device anytime, but you can't save those files.

Except, now you can.

That's one of the side features, but a nice one, of Roxio's Toast 10 Titanium Pro, software that will let you do all sorts of things with multimedia, and do them on your Mac. Oh, and it'll make backups for you, too, if you need or want them on CD or DVD media. Think of it as a Swiss Army knife - or even a Leatherman tool - for your computer.

Oh, you say, but the Mac comes with iLife and iMovie and iThis and iThat. Yes, it does, and those programs are good in many ways. Each has features that Toast doesn't. But, frankly, I just haven't found something as good, as comprehensive and as professional as Toast 10 Titanium Pro, even if the name is a bit gangly. (We get it, Roxio: This is powerful, professional, big-person stuff. Check.) Now, what do we do with it all?

Toast 10, as it shall hereafter be known, is first and foremost a program for burning stuff onto CDs, DVDs and HD-DVDs. (The latter is a bit of a trick so no Mac today ships with an internal HD-disc-writing drive, but more on that in a moment). It'll also copy some disks, without copying encrypted or protected content, capture songs for iTunes and sync up stuff to your iPod, iPhone or even Apple TV. Not bad for starters. It includes the ability to do the big, honkin' backups on disk, as mentioned.

If you think these are trivial things, think again: Your children are doing cute stuff 24/7 - well, much of the time, anyway - and you want to show grandma and grandpa the antics. They may be computer savvy, but 10-minute segments on YouTube may be too little. Burn a disk you say? How? What about the menu? Can mom and dad play it in their DVD player?

Toast 10 takes care of all these things. You drag and drop the files - from the handy-dandy "media browser" - into a work space. You can rearrange those files as you like, and you can make as nice a menu as you desire. Press the button and, as George Eastman once said of his box camera, "It does the rest."

If you're using Toast 10 to preserve old snapshots of the kids, tools supplied with the program can add drama to those photos, or to create an HD slide show. No, I don't know how it all works; it just does. There are also tools to clean up the sound on old recordings (and new ones) as well as to add a soundtrack of your own choosing for videos and slide shows. The latter should be a really popular feature at that new wedding staple, the embarrassing PowerPoint slide show of the groom, complete with the naked-on-the-rug baby picture. I've been there (as a guest) and the image is still burned on my retinas.

I can't say enough good things about this program. If you have a TiVo home DVR, you can stream content from your Mac to the TiVo; I'm just in the process of setting my TiVo up, so I don't know whether the reverse is possible. You can copy nonprotected DVDs, and with a $20 plug-in (free if you buy before Feb. 5), burn HD video on CD and DVD discs, which Roxio claims can be played back in normal HD-DVD players and the PlayStation 3. The pro tools added to the Titanium Pro version more than justify the $150 list price, even before the $20 rebate.

I also should add a note about the backup tools included. While I believe backing up to an external hard drive is today's best method of keeping data safe, having a set of discs might not be a bad "extra" for really crucial items. This program supplies the tools for the job, which is a nice bonus.

If you are planning to make the most of your multimedia, this program deserves to be in your arsenal. It'll make creating and enhancing your own discs much, much easier, and you'll have a ready quiver of tools to make the process not only more fun, but the end product much better. (Information at ucts/toast/titanium/overview.html)

• What are you saving? E-mail Mark Kellner.