* Prices may differ from that shown
There never was anything really wrong with Adaptec?s Easy CD Creator 4.0 Deluxe, so why am I now writing about version 5.0 Platinum? Because bloody Windows XP Pro won't work with the older version, that's why! However, it would only be a matter of time before I upgraded my CD-Writer to a newer faster model, and then support for 32-speed models probably wouldn't exist on version 4 anyway, so the enforced necessity of the upgrade isn?t a COMPLETE waste of money. In the mean time, the software is now owned by Roxio, which sounds more like a Spanish cinema chain than a software house, but that's by the by. It was on the support page their web site, www.roxio.com that I ascertained the need for the upgrade. Windows XP only informed me that the old version MIGHT not work. But why buy CD-Burning software when the CD-Writer itself usually comes with its own software package? Because the version supplied is often the 'Lite' version, stripped to bare essentials, and I'm a sucker for a gadget! SO WHAT?S NEW? Well, there's the ability to write to DVD-Rs, for one thing. This gives you up to 4.7gbyte capacity, instead of the punier 650-700mbyte afforded by CD-R and CD-RW format. The suite no longer comes with Take Two back up software, which is a shame because the ability to back your entire C:\ drive up to a series of CD-Rs was very useful. There is also a new front end, called Project Selector, which breaks down your needs into logical steps. However, there wasn't much wrong with the old menu-driven front end, so why these people have to tinker is beyond me, and it only serves to slow down the assimilation process. Presumably to convince you that it's all new, and not something forced on you by circumstances. USING IT The initial menu gets you to choose between making 1.) Music CD, 2.) Data CD, 3.) Photo or Video CD or 4.) CD Copy. 1. MUSIC CD?s <br > This option then breaks down into a) Soundstream - a short cut way of producing an audio CD from existing .wav or .mp3 files. Just follow the prompts - e.g. where are the source files? Where is the recorder? Hit the record button, that kind of thing. However, nestled within this utility are other processes, like Spin Doctor, which enables you to record from analogue sources like a tape deck or a turntable via your sound card. During this process, the software can be set to reduce tape hiss, or vinyl crackles, find the spaces between tracks, and separate them out for transfer to CD (otherwise your new CD from old Vinyl is going to have just two tracks, side A and side B) b) Music CD Project - a more comprehensive means of ending at the same result, and those familiar with Windows Explorer's drag'n'drop methods will probably be happiest here, identifying source files and dragging them to the 'assembly area'. Also, you can carry out various 'professional' effects like overlapping the fade-out/fade-in of tracks. I would still tend to use this means even if all I want is a verbatim copy of an existing CD (I never said that!), since it allows for access to the Internet to fill in the track titles etc. from a web-based database. This then transfers over into the CD label creator, which prints out the inserts both for a CD case and a circular one for the disk itself if you are that fussed. c) Create an MP3 CD - not strictly speaking an audio CD, since the final result is still a CD-ROM, but many of the (strangely-enough) cheaper home DVD players are including mp3 playback in their impressive repertoire of formats, and the ability to put hours of music on one disk must be a very strong pull for avid party-throwers. d) CD Copy - This menu item appears on all menus, since a copy is a copy, sound or data. One tip I have learned over the years, if your are to avoid 'creating beer ma
ts' from your precious CD-Rs, is that even with a separate CD-ROM drive to supply the source data, it is still better to let the software create a temporary copy of it on C:\Drive before burning it to the CD-R. This helps prevent any 'buffer under-runs' as they are known, which lead to yet another coaster being produced! Once set up, it's a hands-free operation that you can walk away from anyway! Many newer CD-writers are now claiming 'burn proof' technology to put a halt to the march of the beer mat. 2. DATA CD a) DirectCD - This offers the ability to use existing file utilities like Windows Explorer or My Computer to drag'n'?drop files to a CD-R or RW as if it's a bloody-great floppy disk. Some prior 'prepping' of the disk is needed, and when ejected, you are also given the option of closing the disk so that it can be almost universally used as a CR-Rom, or leaving it open for the addition of further data, until full. Other routines like saving from your word processor also qualify to use the CD-R, if 'prepped'. b) Data CD Project - This is a very similar concept to the Music version, enabling dragging and dropping of files to an assembly area before committing them to CD. I use this for partial back up of C:\Drive's vital files, (My Documents etc) with the details saved for convenience. This way, I can call up the same disk content next month and make a new back-up copy. c) Data DVD Project - More or less as above but with infinitely greater disk capacity. Pity I haven't got a DVD 'burner'! d) CD Copy - there it goes again! 3. PHOTO OR VIDEO CD To be honest, I haven't had a lot of use for this kind of thing, but here goes. a) Photo Album ? This allows you to transfer digital photo formats to a CD-R complete with the means for creating logical ?Albums? plus the ability to run them as slide shows. This, in the ca
se on Windows XP is slightly superfluous since the operating system itself can do this direct from Windows Explorer. b) Video Postcard - This enables you to assemble video clips (mpeg files, avi files, what have you) to CD-R. So what, you might think, anyone can copy files to a CD-R, but this then creates the ability for the CD to 'auto run' if your Windows settings allow this. If you're not sure what I mean, it's that moment when slotting in a new CD-ROM causes the PC to run whatever software is on the disk. This is very common with software installation disks. I feel the idea here is to make the operation as hands-off as possible for the recipient of the disk, who may not be as computer literate as the sender. c) Video Impression - The need for this somewhat cloudy to me, but it seems to enable the user to incorporate a mixture of still and movie shots into an AV presentation, combined with the ability to alter the running order of items. It allows files to be bundled under one single .exe file for ease of e-mailing, although with all the bad press that file attachments get these days, especially .exe files, I doubt if anyone would open it! d) VCD - VCD is the forerunner to DVD as a domestic picture format. Frankly, it's only about as good as a VHS tape when it comes to picture quality. However, if you can download from a digital camcorder, or you have some other means of movie capture, then you could start putting your holiday videos onto a playable silver disk. Just make sure that your DVD player categorically states that not only does it support VCD (it probably will) but also that it supports 'burned' media like CD-Rs otherwise you are wasting your time. Roxio DO NOT supply the means to manipulate and edit your movie. You would probably use the software that came with your capture device for this, but once you have the .mpeg files. As I implied at the beginning, I don't yet have muc
h use for the above vi deo features, and will probably wait until burnable DVD formats are within economic grasp before delving any deeper. Besides, VCD is a step back, and at the very least you need S-VCD, which is ALMOST the same picture quality as DVD but with 'mere' stereo sound. So there it is, the Platinum version of Easy CD Creator 5.0, an impressive repertoire of abilities and gadgets. How much you use them is up to you. Whether you think it's worth £45 is also up to you, after all, if all you want to do is copy CDs or make compilation albums, then the software that came with the hardware will probably do.
Roxio Easy CD Creator 5 is the upgrade version of what was formerly Adaptec Easy CD Creator, and like it's predecessors this is a very simple to use program. There are several good CD burning packages available, so why choose this one in particular? The answer is quite simply ease of use. On launching the program an interface is presented which gives a choice of CD type from Video or Photo to Data or Music. Clicking on your chosen selection will open an explorer type display for selecting which files you wish to add to your CD, followed by clicking on Create CD and the program will do the rest. The vast array of options also includes formatting a recordable CD for drag and drop file addition, Take Two which will make a complete system backup onto CDs and CD label and insert design. All in all this is a user friendly and high quality CD creation package, a combination which places it well ahead of any competitors.
Being an Easy Cd Creator fan for all my cd-writing life, I was one of the very first to buy the program, as soon as it was released. I must admit though that I was very reluctant at first. The reason for that was that the previous version, hugely dissapointed me. However I decided to give Adaptec another choice and bought the new version. Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum (ECDC5) is a full featured cd authoring program, which can be used to "save" or "burn" data to cd-r's and cd-rw's. ECDC5 can burn data, music, and video cd's, help you make labels for your cd's and cd cases, back up your hard drive and convert wav files or even songs from your old vinyl lp's to mp3 files. The standard version of ECDC is included with many of cd writers sold today, and provides the software to perform the basic cd writing functions, but you will need to upgrade to the platinum version if you want to make video cd's, back up your hard drive, encode mp3's or convert your old vinyl albums to cd's. ECDC5 supports writing to 80 min cdr's, if your cd writer supports 80 min cdr's. ECDC5 cannot be used to make SVCD's, or to burn bin/cue image files. Roxio (a recent spinoff of Adaptec), provides this software and claims ECDC is the best selling cd writing sofware in the world. Roxio's cd writing software will be incorporated into Windows XP. "In the box" you'll find the ECDC5 software on one cd, a 19 page Getting Started guide, and an impressive, well organized User's Guide which is over 300 pages long and has an extensive table of contents and index. HOW IS IT SUPPOSED TO WORK? "Insert the cd into your cd rom drive, and follow the on screen instructions" should get most users through the installation process. After installation, ECDC5 launches whenever a blank cd is inserted into your cd writer, and presents an easy to use menu of cd writing options (make a data cd
, video cd, music cd, or a copy of another cd). INSTALLATION Many users will be upgrading from previous versions, as was I, and unfortunately this did not go well for me. I was prompted to uninstall the previous version, and after I did that, the installation program continued to claim that I needed to remove the previous version. Apparently this has happened to others, as there are tips on the Roxio web site about how to resolve this problem. The solution required renaming system files ("dll") and editing the registry, steps not to be taken lightly. DOES THE SOFTWARE WORK? Yes. I installed the software on on a Windows 98 system including of an Iomega ZipCD 12 X 4 X 20 CD Writer (w/burnproof technology). Once the software was installed, everything worked as advertised. Easy CD Creator 5 is really a package of several programs. After inserting a blank cd into your cd rom drive, ECDC5 launches the Project Selector, a clean interface which allows users to select from the different options possible with this package (create a music cd, data cd, VCD, cd label, hard disk backup, etc) and then launch the correct program to the desired task. Unfortunately, this collection of programs is not always integrated well, and some have a different look and feel. On their own, each works as expected, and the parts which are actually used to create cd's work very well. A brief "review" of each of ECDC5's parts follows. DATA CD's The main function of any cd authoring software is to burn data to cd's. The heart of this package is its namesake program Easy CD Creator, and you'll find yourself using this program more than anything else. This software allows you to easily create data cd's, enhanced cd's (multisession cd's with music in the first session, and data for your computer in the second session), mixed mode cd's (single session cd's that contain music and da
ta), bootable cd's, and mp3 cd's with a playlist. The user interface is explorer-like, with two windows (source and destination). Drag and drop files and directories from the source window, representing your hard drive or another cd, to a destination window that represents your blank cd. An info/status bar at the bottom of the screen visually tracks how full your cd will be, how many bytes are still available, how many files are selected, write method (track at once,TAO or disk at once, DAO), and the file system (Joliet, which suports long file names, or ISO 9660). Once you have finished selecting files, you push the record button, or choose to save an image file of this cd to your hard disk. Image files are single, large files that represent the complete set of data to be burned to a cd, and are stored in Roxio's CIF (CD Image File) format. Later you can record from this image file to one or multiple cd's. The record button brings up a menu listing options for write speed, recorder selected, number of copies, write method and whether you want to test before writing. Testing is recommended if you have made changes to your cd recorder setup. MUSIC CD CREATOR (Music CD's) Music CD Creator will also create music cd's that you can play back in most cd players (some older models won't recognize cdr's or cdrw's). If you are creating a music cd from mp3 or wma (windows media audio) files, ECDC5 will transparently convert these files back to wav files prior to burning on the cd. Music CD Creator allows you to add transition effects between songs (fade in/out), to adjust the gap between songs or fade one song into another. Music CD Creator will also access the Online Music Database to get information about songs on commercial cd's, and can write Universal Product Code (UPC) or International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) information so you can enter data about audio tracks yourself. If you want to create an mp3
cd, ECDC5 will convert wave files to mp3 (32 to 320kbs) or wma (16 to 128kbs) format, although this is a separate step. ECDC5 also includes a integrated playlist editor. If you want to convert mp3's to wma files, you will need to use the Soundstream program also included in this package. Authoring cd's can be a little confusing at times (do I want a mixed mode cd or enhanced cd?) but the ECDC5 online help is very good and ECDC5 can walk users through the needed steps. This software works very well, so well that I can't remember the last time I made a coaster. DIRECT CD 5.0 (Packet Writing) Direct CD formats a cdr/rw so you can treat your cd writer like a hard drive or floppy drive. This allows you to drag and drop files to a blank cd using windows explorer, and even erase files. Erasing a file from a cdr removes the file, but does not free up space, while erasing a file from a cdrw does free space. The Direct CD file system is based on Universal Disk Format (UDF) v 1.5, and uses ~ 100 mb's of disk space, reducing space available for data files. To read UDF cd's on another computer, you must make sure UDF reading software is installed on that computer. Macintosh and Windows UDF software is available free on Roxio's website, and Direct CD installs a version of the UDF reader on each formatted cd, so that when you take it to another computer, you are given the option to install it. The UDF software runs in the background once installed on a computer, allowing those computers to read UDF cd's just as they read any other cd. Direct CD also includes Scandisc, a utility to repair and recover data from bad cd's, an "undelete" utility, and an option that compresses data files as they are saved to a cd. Formatting a cd with Direct CD can take up to an hour. VCD CREATOR (Video CD's for your DVD Player) "A video CD is a disc containing video clips, .... referred to as play items. Vi
deo clips must be stored as MPEG-1 files-an iso standard for compressing video-and must conform to the White Book specification" -- Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum User's Guide. Creating video cd's is one of the key reasons to upgrade from the standard version of ECDC5 to the platinum version. If you want to save video files to a cd to play them back on your computer, just save them to a blank cd as you would any other data. But if you own a standalone DVD player, and if it plays VCD's (most models do), and if it recognizes cdr's or cdrw's (many, but not all models do), you will want to be able to create video cd's that you can play on your DVD player. ECDC5 will painlessly help you create video cd's from your mpg files, by (1) allowing you to add one or more play items (mpg video files) to a cd layout, (2) creating a play sequence, and (3) burning your cd layout to your blank cd. MPG files are made VCD compliant prior to burning. Adding play items and modifying the play sequence is all done through an intuitive, mouse driven interface. You can also playback your VCD layout before you burn it. Creating VCD's using video cd creator is very easy, with almost no learning curve. You do need to start with an MPG file, (not a avi file or quicktime file) and you cannot create SVCD's, which provides better picture quality on the DVD players that support the SVCD format. Fortunately, you can convert avi or quicktime files to the mpg format using the Video Impression software include with ECDC5. If you want to create SVCD's you will need another cd authoring program (and should seriously consider Nero Burning Rom, another well respected cd authoring program). CD LABEL CREATOR ECDC5 now asks if you want to launch Label Creator after each cd is burned. This program allows you to create labels for your cd and cd cases, and provides tools to add as much graphics and text as desired. The program provides about 4
0 "themes" (kids data, rock music, etc) to get you started. Label Creator now includes the ability to read file names and song lengths directly from a cd and add those to the labels, a really nice feature. TAKE TWO (Hard disk backup) Take Two allows you to make compressed or uncompressed back ups of one or more hard disks to cdr/rw's or to another hard disk. Take Two does not allow backing up selected files or recently changed files. Restoration of individual files and folders is possible. Take Two feels like a throw in, it works, but does not offer all the power most users will want. SOUNDSTREAM/SPIN DOCTOR/SOUND EDITOR (Audio capture and editing) Another reason to upgrade from the standard version of ECDC5 is to get the Soundstream Editor and Spin Doctor. These programs help you record analog audio through your sound card, which converts the analog signal to a digital format. In addition, Spin Doctor will remove clicks, pops and hiss from your analog signal. I've found if you only have a few scratches or clicks to remove from a wave file, its better to remove the clicks manually, with the included sound editor program. Using Spin Doctor to automatically remove clicks can affect the sound quality, depending on how aggresively you adjust spin doctor's settings. I've used this software to convert several of my old albums to cd's with very good results. The process is time consuming, and your stereo system must be close enough to your computer that you can run cables from the amplifier outputs to your sound card inputs. The signal output from most turntables and tape decks is not strong enough to connect directly to your sound card, and must be routed through an amplifier. SHOULD YOU BUY THE PROGRAM? If you have the standard version of ECDC, upgrading to the platinum version is recommended if you want to create VCD's or mp3's, or want to digitize music from tapes & v
inyl albums, or create photo cd's. Deciding to upgrade from ECDC4 Deluxe if more difficult, as many of the improvements are incremental. Improvements include the ability to create MP3's and WMA files, and additional sound editing features features. Direct CD continues to become more stable and includes the ability to compress files as they are saved to a cd. The video editing package is different in this version (ECDC4 included Videowave) and now includes a MPG encoder, and the ability to convert pictures, avi files and quicktime files to VCD's. The label creator now launches with one button after a cd is created and picks up the song titles and length, and file names from data cd's, and places these on the label layouts. ECDC 5 is an excellent program and tries to include software to cover all of the expected uses of a cd writer. I have successfully used this program to burn data cd's, music cd's, VCD's, self playing photo cd's, and have converted several of my vinyl albums to cd. Most of the core functions to make data cd's, music cd's and cd labels are integrated well, but some of the other packages (like Take Two) feel more like recent add ons, and are appreciated, but need to be better integrated. (Since I haven't used the VIDEO IMPRESSION (VI) and PHOTORELAY (Video Editing) functions of the program, I wasn't able to write my opinion on them).
Roxio's Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum is the best CD Creation/Writing software that I have come across to date. I discovered it by accident when I was trying to replace my damaged version of Adaptec Easy CD Creator 4. Quite different software altogether! Roxio's product offers so many extras that I did not have before. The Cd creator is so easy to use that my husband can master it (and that is no mean feat!) When launched the 'Select A Project' screen guides you effortlessly to the best application in the package for the task in hand, you can select from: MAKE A CD - Using: ~Soundstream~ to create compilations from your favourite MPs, CDs (if making a CD to play in Hifi of car you should convery any MP3s to .Wav files - using MP3-to-Wave or a similar programme). ~MusicCD~ to create professional music CDs with advanced software features. ~MP3CD Project~ to create a MP3 CD with over 100 songs to enjoy on your PC or MP3 player. MAKE A DATA CD - Using: ~DirectCD~ to format a DirectCD disk - this enables you to drag and drop files from Windows Explorer to a CD. ~DataCD Project~ this facility is used to share or archive computer files such as images , speadsheets, presentaions etc. on a CD in the most compatible format. ~Take Two~ this is one of my favourite functions! It enables you to backup your computer's hard drive on one or more CDs in a few easy steps. A must for anyone who has had to restore their PC from scratch after a HD failure. MAKE A VIDEO OR PHOTO CD - Using: ~Photo Album~ to organize your photos into albumsand save them on CD. ~Video Postcard~ great to save video clips on a self-running CD to share with friends and family. ~Video Impression~ for editing your own videoand saving it to CD. ~Video CD~ to create CDs of your favourite MPEG video clips and view them on a DVD or Video CD Player. And the good old CD COPIER which
does exactly as it's name suggests. No more scratched CDs make a copy for general use and protect the originals (either Music or Data CDs). I apologise for rambling on and on about this package but another handy function is the CD LABEL CREATOR - which allows you to creat front and back covers and CD Labels for Jewel Cases - very handy and easy to use - I use it all of the time! This is a 5 Star product which I would not hesitate to recomment to anyone. For around £40-50 it's a real gem.