The Mac OS has always done a great job of providing enough software to keep most people happy, as it comes with its own basic disc creation software and if you want to get a little more fancy there is iDVD for creating menus and impressive transitions. However, Toast has long been recognised as the tool you really need if you’re serious about creating and sharing digital content with your Mac.

This version isn’t so much a refresh of the software, more a major overhaul. The interface has a fresh new look and has split opinion as to whether it’s too severe to those who like its minimalist approach. What you can’t deny is that the new streamline approach lets you create the main page the way you want it to look and even includes a floating media viewer, so you can position your favourite tools easily and have them just where you like them.

One of the new features allows you to make photo archive discs. It works with a new tool called DiscCatalogMaker, which is a database application that allows you to catalogue the content of discs and allows you to find specific files even before you’ve located and put the disc in the drive. This is a great tool and if you’ve hundreds of photos, really helps you find that one elusive snap.

Audio functions have now been added, so you can actually record music or edit and incorporate it into your videos with far more finesse. In fact, generally creating DVD menus and effects is a great deal easier, which makes the package ideal for the novice user as well as the more experienced.

If you have a large capacity hard drive and want to back it up to disc, the new disc spanning tool works seamlessly, so you can write to any number of CDs or DVDs. What more impressive is that these discs can now be set to be read by either Mac or Windows, something which wasn’t previously possible. If you haven’t got plenty of spare discs, Fit-to-Disc is a compression tool that will prove handy, as it will crush up to 9GB of data down to fit on one DVD.

We haven’t seen any Blu-ray drives built into Macs yet (you can always add an external unit) but with an eye to the future, you’ll find support for the high-capacity disks built in. There is even support for Lightscribe, which doesn’t seem to have caught users imaginations as much as we thought it would. As you would expect of a tool designed for Macs, you can even rip your video directly to iPod video compatible size and format. It’s worth noting it won’t rip or copy commercial discs, though.

Price when reviewed:

Roxio Toast 8 is a great improvement over previous versions and makes some very sensible changes. True, the interface will split opinion but other than that, we think it’s a worthwhile investment for anyone who has a passing interest in digital photos or video.