The developers at Pinnacle Systems must be feeling especially inspired, releasing Instant CD/DVD 8.0 less than a year after version 7.0. Perhaps they couldn't wait to show off the software's greatly improved interface or the new tools for watching videos and organizing music libraries. In any event, Instant CD/DVD 8.0 looks much better than its predecessors. Where version 7.0 was as stodgy and utilitarian as Windows Explorer, version 8.0 has a more attractive, streamlined look. The interface improvements are only skin-deep, however; the way you select files to burn to disc hasn't changed, and we still think beginners will find its many options and windows daunting. Instant CD/DVD hasn't yet overtaken Nero's package
as our CD and DVD burning suite of choice, but this version comes closer. Pinnacle Instant CD/DVD 8.0 contains a handful of tools that you can install all together or piecemeal. On our system, running Windows XP Home, it took just a few minutes to install the whole thing. Version 8.0's best feature is its improved interface, and while it may not be enough to tempt you to upgrade, the new look and feel really make a difference. Where version 7.0 was clunky and confusing, version 8.0 has a sleeker look with larger, more colorful icons that are easier to understand at a glance. Still, we feel that the interface improvements could have gone even further. For example, InstantDisc's interface consists of two panels labeled Projects and two panels labeled Source Files. Huh? It will take newbies several minutes to figure out certain things.
When you first launch Instant CD/DVD, a splash screen prompts you to select the type of disc you want to make. Choose one, and the correct tool automatically opens. It's a helpful touch, as is the pop-up menu that lives in the system tray that lets you call up any of Instant CD/DVD's tools with one click.
The interface launches the correct application when you specify what type of disc you'd like to create.
Pinnacle Instant CD/DVD 8.0 includes new tools to make this already wide-ranging suite of applications even more comprehensive. Clad in an attractive silver skin, the InstantAudio music-file player has play controls and equalizer settings on the left and displays your song library (organized by artist, album, genre, or other category) on the right. It can handle MP3, WAV, AIFF, WMA, and Ogg Vorbis files, as well as audio CDs. Unfortunately, in CNET's tests, the software sometimes flagged when playing songs, even though our 2GHz HP system exceeded the software's minimum requirements. On top of that, InstantAudio has a crowded interface and can't sync with portable music players. We don't think it's much of a threat to Musicmatch
or iTunes for Windows
, both of which run smoothly on our system.
Also new is InstantCinema, which plays DVDs, VCDs, SVCDs, and other video files. It's the first time Pinnacle has included a video player in the Instant CD/DVD suite, and its basic set of controls didn't wow us. The video playback software that came preloaded on your PC is probably just as good. The suite also includes the new InstantWrite tool--a desktop icon that you can drag files onto for quick burning. It's a handy touch, although we found the oversized desktop icon a bit annoying.
Besides these new apps, Instant CD/DVD still offers a solid set of tools for copying discs; importing and editing video; and creating audio, data, and video discs of nearly any type. There is also a WAV editor and the InstantMusic tool, which offers some of the capabilities of a small recording studio. It lets you import music files or clips that you make yourself, arrange them, and add effects.
The InstantWrite feature makes it even easier to burn your files.
Several readers have complained about the stability of past versions of Instant CD/DVD. Version 8.0 never crashed during our testing, but if this is a concern, make sure you buy it from a store with a good return policy.
We're happy to see that Instant CD/DVD's nearly 300-page manual was given an overhaul; the previous version read like a bad translation. This version, on the other hand, is clear and complete.
Unfortunately, Pinnacle hasn't beefed up its free online tech support. You'll need to wade through a fairly basic online knowledge base before you're given a support e-mail address, and an answer can take up to two days to arrive; that's a day too long. Worse, there's no phone support--a huge deficiency. Hopefully, Pinnacle will correct these problems in the next version, which, if it keeps up this pace, may be just a few months away.