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Roxio Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum Edition

Bob Starrett

Roxio Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum Edition
synopsis: Overall, you cannot beat Roxio's Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum Edition for the sheer volume of extras that come with the main application. Whether these applications are relevant to you depends on your needs, and low-level recording functionality is served as well as or better elsewhere. The coolest feature of the long-awaited Version 5 program is the Project Selector, a skin-like front-end that makes it easy for the novice to choose the correct program for undertaking any of the various recording operations that can be accomplished with Creator 5. Creator 5 remains peerless in both its online and print help manuals, and recorder support is first-rate as ever.

price: $99

Roxio, Inc.
451 S. Milpitas Boulevard
Milpitas, CA 95035
Fax 408/957-4544

August 2001 | Roxio really pulled out all the stops on the latest version of its flagship product for Windows CD recording, Easy CD Creator. Like previous versions, the program is more than the Creator application itself. Joining Creator on the disc are DirectCD, Roxio's packet writing application that lets you drag-and-drop files to a Direct CD formatted disc, and CD Copier for DAO disc-to-disc duping, which retains is legacy look. It's a shame CD Copier didn't even make it to the makeover counter, since Creator itself has had quite a facelift.

everybody is a star

But the party guest list doesn't end there. You get CD Label Creator for creating and printing CD labels and jewel-case inserts; Session Selector, which lets you to choose which session on a multisession disc to view; Photo Relay, which lets you create photo albums and slide shows; Sound Editor for editing WAV files; and SoundStream, which Roxio still sells as a separate product and which can come in handy if you need a nice program for quickly setting up audio CDs and manipulating audio content. Also included are Video CD Creator, which makes Video CD creation nice and easy, and the Video Impression application for editing MPEG-1 video.

Finally, there is Take Two, a CD backup program that has thrown Roxio and Windows 2000 users for a big loop. Apparently, when installed on some Windows 2000 machines, the program awakens the dreaded Blue Screen of Death and the machine takes an extremely long time to boot. Some even say it causes the OS to refuse to boot at all. To Roxio's credit, when the company isolated the problem, it immediately offered a workaround, then issued a patch, and offered support 24/7 (albeit on a toll line).

the skin I'm in

The coolest feature of the long-awaited Version 5 program is probably here by necessity. That is the Project Selector, a skin-like front-end that makes it easy for the novice to choose the correct program for undertaking any of the various recording operations that can be accomplished with Creator 5. Experienced users will also find it helpful for quickly getting to the application they need. There are four, large blue buttons on the left side of the window labeled Make a Music CD, Make a Data CD, Make a Photo or Video CD, and CD Copier. Three smaller blue buttons on the right side of the window let you access the Web Checkup application, Roxio's automatic software updater, CD label Creator, and Help. With a mouseover function, this front-end gives you options when you move over the buttons and then takes you directly to the application that you choose.

In the program proper, when you open a new CD project, you get your choice of Data CD, Music CD, MP3 CD, Mixed-Mode, Enhanced CD, and Bootable CD. Choose the CD type and the familiar three-window Creator interface opens up. The top window lists the available drives and files on your machine, the lower-left window shows the disc directory structure, and the lower-right window gives you a place to drop or paste the dragged or copied files you want to record. Although the window layout has not changed since the Easy Creator 4 days, this edition adds some nice new colors–gray and blue–which give the interface a soothing feeling. Now with BURN-Proof and other similar technologies available, we may not need that much soothing, but it helps when you get the occasional buffer underrun on non-BURN-Proof recorders. One new feature in the Data CD window is the Validate Project menu item. Validate Project makes sure that the contents of your CD project have not been moved or deleted or renamed or modified since you added the files to the recording window. With God-knows-what going on behind the scenes of Windows and other programs these days, this is a nice feature to have.

Where Creator 5 really perks up is in the audio recording area. Features include the ability to rip from CD, of course, but newly available in this version are MP3 compression and the ability to decode, play, and record Microsoft WMA (Windows Media Audio) files. When making an MP3 data disc, the program lets you create MP3 playlists so the songs will play in the desired order on the finished disc. The SoundStream application has a "realizer" feature that improves the quality of MP3 files when they are decompressed. It also will normalize files so that they will all play at the same volume level.

Recorder support continues to be first-rate, with all the latest recorders supported; there is even legacy support for the old Philips 522 and Kodak 600. Easy CD Creator supports both Sanyo's BURN-Proof (also used in Plextor recorders) and Ricoh's JustLink technology. And if you haven't used a recorder with BURN-Proof or a similar technology for preventing buffer underruns, look for that feature in your next CD-R/RW drive. It really does work.

The help file is excellent as it always has been, giving the new or experienced user clear, concise explanations of each function. Roxio (at least in the full retail version of Creator) continues to include a full 250-page paper manual, which is nice these days when paper manuals seem to have disappeared altogether from many software packages. And it is of the same high quality that we have come to expect from Roxio's Creator material. What's more, it's not just an updated version of the 4.0 manual, but one that is written completely from scratch specifically for Creator Version 5.0. Also included is a 20-page Getting Started guide and a bonus CD containing some MPEG-1 video clips, some music, and a browser-based application that should hold your interest for a little while. The Bonus CD is more marketing than substance, although if one needed a video clip to practice on it would be useful in that case.

everyday people

Overall, you cannot beat Roxio's Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum Edition for the sheer volume of extras that come with the main application. Whether these additional applications are relevant to you as a user or just clutter on your hard disk depends on what your recording needs are. For the professional or power user, a custom installation would be best, ignoring all but the main application. For the new user, the wealth of programs included are likely to make CD recording an easier and more enjoyable experience; all the tools are here.

When stripped bare to the recording technology component only, Creator is an excellent program. But power users should make sure that they consider alternatives before making their purchasing decision, if their only need is to get audio or data onto CDs. Just as Roxio has progressed greatly with this new version, so has its competition. For professional users who need low-level functionality, Creator is good, but other programs are better, if less visible.

Bob Starrett (bobs@cdpage.com) is a contributing editor for EMedia Magazine, co-columnist for THE CD WRITER, and an independent consultant based in Denver, Colorado. He is the co-author, with EMedia Magazine contributor Josh McDaniel, of The Little CD Audio Recording Book, published by Peachpit Press.

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