Adaptec's Latest Upgrade Does More Than Just Create CDs
Adaptec's stable, capable Easy CD Creator has been winning the race for
market share for years. But with droves of new buyers entering the market
for affordable CD-RW drives (see
Easy CD Creator 4.0's interface is not only easier on the eyes--it's also more intuitive. Gone is version 3.5's tabbed main window. You now create a new layout for your CD by simply choosing the type from the main menu: audio, data, mixed-mode, CD extra, or bootable (for DOS and Windows PCs). Adaptec introduced only one glitch: The disc info gauge at the bottom of the screen flickers when you add files to a data layout.
Easy CD Creator's handholding for inexperienced users has been greatly enhanced with CD Guide, an animated cartoon character that provides context-sensitive help. The only drawbacks to CD Guide are that he stays on top of the screen even if you switch to another program, and sometimes the guidance he provides isn't as topical as it should be.
Some of the more subtle enhancements are most welcome: For example, CD titles are now editable from the main window rather than requiring the opening of a properties dialog. And the bar that separates the selection and layout windows is wider--making it easier to size windows. In addition, Adaptec took care of some long-needed housecleaning by graying out menu options that aren't accessible and by retaining user-selected options from session to session.
Most importantly, Easy CD Creator enhances control over the CD creation process by allowing users to define the length of time between audio tracks, specify 30-character file names for ISO 9660 standard CD-ROM format discs, and force Easy CD Creator to verify a disc after it's created. Version 4.0 also automatically tests your drives to ensure optimal safe write performance.
The online music revolution hasn't escaped Adaptec's attention: Easy CD Creator 4.0 lets you drag MP3 files directly into a CD layout and then converts them to the proper format as they're written to CD. To help you purchase and preview music securely from the Internet, the program ships with Liquid Audio's 4.0 player.
The program also supports CDDB Internet music database: When you load an audio CD, Easy CD Creator automatically searches CDDB to gather song titles and album information, which spares you the drudgery of entering it yourself. This is a great time saver when creating duplicates or compilations of your music CDs.
Adaptec includes a new stand-alone program called CD Spinner for audio CD creation. Although Easy CD Creator itself can handle most jobs, CD Spinner provides more control over file conversion as well as one-button access to Jewel Case Creator and a bundled sound editor that offers basic effects processing and cut-and-paste editing of WAV files.
Once the CD has been burned, the Jewel Case Creator app helps design and print the paper inserts for CD jewel cases. This new stand-alone program offers a host of fresh editing functions plus support for color printers and CD labels. The program has some minor bugs, such as letting text and bitmaps spill over dialog-box borders--but overall it does a good job.
For creating image-oriented CDs, version 4.0 includes PhotoRelay--a handy little program that lets you drag and drop or scan in photos to create slide shows, albums of thumbnail images that display in a Web browser, or "video postcards." Easy CD 4.0 also includes MGI's PhotoSuite II SE and VideoWave II SE for image manipulation. Video CD support in the new version lets you string together multiple low-resolution MPEG files for playback. Creating Video CDs is a snap, although the Add File dialog won't let you add more than one file at a time.
Adaptec also includes its Take Two disaster-recovery utility. This program may not be as much fun as some of the other offerings, but it could save you in an emergency. It works with the company's DirectCD 2.5 packet-writing software--which is now also bundled with Easy CD Creator--to create images of your hard drive on CD-RW. Take Two allows you to span drive images over multiple discs, restore individual files, and create an emergency floppy in case of an operating system corruption or a hard drive crash.