There was a time when CD or DVD burning software simply did that, it allowed you to make a disc and if you were lucky, get to print out a cover for it too. Those days are long gone as both Nero, formerly Ahead, and its main rival Roxio, have sort to add more and more features to their suites in order to entice users to their product.

This is no bad thing, as this offers value for money but increasingly the core function of burning discs has somehow gotten confused. So, while you’ll find support for HD DVD as well as Blu-ray, if your hardware supports either of these formats you can create large capacity discs.

But then again, if you have a media player, such as iPod or PSP, you can convert video specifically to suit. Then there are the tools for editing down content for YouTube and MySpace, or even Nero’s own My Nero.

This can all get a little confusing and in previous versions it did. However, Nero has made a big thing about the new visual look of Version 8 and on first inspection it’s easy to see why: it helps tie the number of features on offer together.

The company has gone for a Vista-style interface, with even it’s on take on the round Start button in the left-hand corner that allows you to peruse and choose which of the many applications Nero comes with to use.

The interface itself is big and bold and makes it easier to find and launch applications. Basic tasks can now be started and controlled, such as simply ripping a disc, from with the SmartStart window and the general feel is one of ease-of-use.

If you use Vista and like the Gadget Sidecar, you can even add a Nero drag-and-drop icon to it, to make burning discs easier. The overall look may not be revolutionary but it works well.

When it comes to other functions, you won’t find them greatly different from Version 7. It’s an impressive roster, with Photosnap for editing digital images, Nero Vision, which allows you to capture and edit video, as well as send it to disc, Soundtrax and Wave Editor for manipulating audio as well tools for editing and converting media files. Interestingly, when you get away from the main interface, many of these tools have a strikingly similar visual look to Version 7, which would imply they’ve not vastly changed from the previous version.

Additionally, there is Rescue Agent, which is a new feature and allows you to try and reclaim data from damaged discs. We tested this feature out and it worked surprisingly well under our artificial tests, so bodes well for future disasters.

Price when reviewed:

Overall, it’s a tough call as to whether there is enough here to warrant an upgrade from Version 7, other that it’s slightly more integrated, but if you have an earlier version you’ll find Nero 8 a great deal easier to use.