Burn enables Mac desktop and PowerBook notebook computer users to quickly and easily
begin producing audio, data, mixed-mode CDs, and DVDs. Dragon Burn's Multi-Burning
engine allows users to simultaneously write multiple CDs or DVDs. It also fully supports
the newest internal and external drives, including 16x DVD-R drives.
- Create VCD/SVCD from
standard-compliant MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 files
- Create Movie DVD
from Video_TS (.VOB files, etc.)
- Create CD with JPEG
picture files captured by your digital camera
- Supports burning
to DVD+R DL media, with up to 8.5 GB disc capacity
- Improved and enhanced
to support the widest range of CD and DVD burners (Including support for CD and DVD
burners that may not be supported by Apple's own software)
The maker, NTI (www.ntius.com), has many years of experience
with CD recording techniques, but has not played a significant role on the Macintosh
market until they released Dragon Burn for Mac OS X.
If you want to create CDs or DVDs with your data on it, you can choose to use Apple's
built-in CD recording software, which provides basic features, with hardly any control
over the recording process and the way the data is creating on the recordable discs.
Until recently, the only solution that offered more control was Toast, which used
to be the undisputed leader in CD recording software on the Mac ever since CD recorders
became available. Toast, sold by Roxio (www.roxio.com), is a retail product, and so is Dragon
Burn. Both attempt to offer all the extended features that are possible with recordable
discs and which Apple's software does not offer.
Dragon Burn appears to offer all possible recording options. Reading its checklist
of features it sounds to be on the same level as Toast. Dragon Burn's suggested retail
price is about half of what Toast costs. Sounds like a good alternative, but let's
take a closer look at the product.
This review is for v4.1.19, an update to my review of Dragon Burn 4.0 from last year.
Not much has changed from version 4.0.15 to the current one (4.1.19). In fact, I
could not find any information about changes at all: Neither the Readme, nor the
included Help, nor the web site give any hint of what has been fixed or improved.
The only improvement I could detect in this latest version is a new feature for automatic
distribution of large amounts of data over several recorded discs called Disc Spanning.
Disc Spanning is discussed in the "Functionality" section below.
I've re-checked several of the flaws I had described in the original review. To my
disappointment, most of them are still present. In that light, they will all be listed
again in hopes that they will be resolved by the next version release.
The user interface looks nice (complete with fire breathing dragon) and seems relatively
easy to use at first glance, but it is not without its annoyances. The most annoying
thing is that if you started to burn a disc, you can rather easily cancel the burn
process by accident. The problem is that if you click on the Cancel button of the
progress window, Dragon Burn will immediately cancel the burn, without asking you
if you are sure. The real danger comes in two flavors: (a) This Cancel button is
the default button, and a simple pressing of the Return or Enter key can activate
it already, stopping your recording. (b) Suppose the Dragon Burn window with the
Cancel button is in the background and you want to bring the Dragon Burn window to
the front so that you can see how far the progress has come. If you are used to bringing
a window to the front by clicking in it, you might accidentaly click into the window's
area where the Cancel button is located. If you should do this, the Cancel button,
even though it was in a background window, will be activated again, and the burning
process will be aborted. I point this out because this is exactly what happened to
me while I was recording a DVD: I wanted to bring the Dragon Burn window to the front
and Dragon Burn stopped recording the DVD, making the DVD an unnecessary piece of
Dragon Burn main menu
Another slightly dangerous
UI glitch is that Dragon Burn does not precisely follow the requirements for naming
and arranging of buttons in dialogs. When I closed a Dragon Burn window in which
I had prepared a disc for recording (adding files, naming the disc, setting recording
options and so on), it would present to me the common "Save changes?" dialog,
but not with the usual three buttons, only two: "Save" and "Cancel"
(the "Don't Save" button is glaringly absent). The way the Cancel button
should work is to close the "Save Changes" dialog, and leave the main window
open so that I can go back to it, make changes or start the burn (basically canceling
the operation of closing the window). However, if you choose the Cancel button in
this dialog, it performs, instead, the action of the missing third button, "Don't
Save". It discards your changes and closes the window. This also happened to
me during my review. I might expect to see this behavior in a quick-and-dirty freeware
program, but not in a professional retail product. There are very precise rules for
these things, and every experienced Mac has come to expect that from a Mac product.
There are several more problems with handling buttons properly: Sometimes a button
would pulse to show that it's the default button, but pressing the Return key would
not activate it as it should. Similarly, often pressing the Esc key does not activate
the Cancel key. When I drag audio files into a recording window where Dragon Burn
needs to do a conversion into a WAV file, I cannot cancel the process even though
there is a Cancel button shown. This once let me wait for about 20 minutes until
the disk was full so that it would finally stop after I had dragged in a folder with
too many such files.
When preparing a collection
of files for burning, Dragon Burn does show the amount of data it will occupy on
the disc. However, instead of showing the amount in MB (Mega Bytes), it shows the
number of sectors it will use. But who wants to know this? I know that I can fit
about 700 MB on my 80 minute CDs, but I never count the sectors. Of course, I can
use a calculator knowing that a sector takes up 2048 bytes, and that 1 MB equals
1024*1024 bytes, but why doesn't Dragon Burn just do this conversion for me? Most
people don't know how much a sector takes up.
When starting a burn, Toast, and even Apple's software, can automatically open the
disc tray (not applicable to Macs with slot-loading drives, of course), and also
detect when you have closed the tray again. Dragon Burn, on the other hand, is not
capable of this: If you try to start a burn without having a recordable disc inserted,
it will only show you a note saying that you have to insert it. Then you have to
confirm this note with a click and then make another click or keypress to start the
burn again. It even happened to me that inserting the disc without clicking away
the note window first would make Dragon Burn not even recognize the inserted disc
at all - I had to eject and re-insert it to make this work.
When a burn is in progress, a window with a progress bar is shown, indicating the
percent of the total time that has passed already. But what it does not show is what
interests me most: How many more minutes will it take? The fact that I can use the
Preferences to choose the colors of the progress bar does not make this any better.
Finally, when the burn has finished, there is no audible signal to let me know either.
Burn in Progress
I'm a Mac developer, so
I understand the principles of the Mac GUI. I am also a German engineer; hence, I
decided to try the software with German localization. Due to the nature of my first
language, direct translations from English to German usually take up more letters
and thus more space. Dragon Burn has not accounted for this, unfortunately, leading
to the effect that text is cut off and becomes partially unreadable. I suspect that
the same is the case with some other languages that use more space than English does.
- Disc Spanning
- If you want to back up
your entire Music folder to CD-Rs, you can now give the folder to Dragon Burn without
worrying if it fits into a single recordable disc. If you enable the "disc spanning"
option, and preselect the size of your discs, Dragon Burn will tell you how many
discs you will need to store all data. You can then burn disc after disc until all
data has been recorded. The inserted discs do not even have to have matching sizes:
You could start with a DVD-R, and if the rest would fit onto two CD-Rs, then just
insert these for the remaining recordings.
- The files get stored
on the discs in the usual way - Dragon Burn simply helps you fit as much data onto
each disk as possible. This also means that files from a certain directory may be
scattered over more than one disk.
Dragon Burn does not help you find out where certain files got stored. If you use
this feature, I recommend using a CD cataloguing tool such as "CDFinder"
to keep an overview of where which files are stored.
If you use this spanning feature as a backup and restore solution, be aware that
the restore process is not such an easy task as the backup is: When copying back
all files and folders, those folders that exist on more than one of the discs will
have to be opened manually to merge their contents. This can be quite cumbersome
and error-prone if you have a deep directory structures. Advanced users can use the
Terminal instead, using the "cp" command for this merging task. However,
nothing of this is explained in the documentation.
The spanning function has a few more serious limitations:
- No verification is performed
after the recording. To me, the lack of verification makes this spanning function
practically useless, because from my experience, on average, between 1 to 3 out of
ten recordings fail, and some of them are only detected in the verification pass;
thus, I depend on the verification every time I record. You might have better experience
and trust a recording without a verify. If you do, you might get more use out of
this new feature than I do.
- Oversized files cannot
be split up: If a file is too large for any of your discs, it cannot be recorded.
Dragon Burn will inform you about the files that cannot be recorded.
- Recording to several
disk images in the preselected size is not supported. If you use the spanning option,
you can only record to real media.
- Verification features
- When using Toast, I always
let it verify the written disc to make sure that the data on the disc reads back
the same as the original. My personal experience shows that about one in ten CDs
has writing errors (often caused by dust on the disc). Thus, I am glad of having
the verify feature to be sure I have a perfect copy. Dragon Burn can do verification,
too, but more limited than in Toast. While Toast can verify everything but Audio
CDs, Dragon Burn cannot verify many of the standard data formats, such as when the
source is a disk image file, or when creating a Video-DVD.
On the plus side, Dragon Burn has a nice feature that Toast does not offer. It can
verify the written disc by just reading back every disc block without comparing it
to the original. This is useful when you are writing files that may be altered while
the recording takes place. A comparison would always fail, but the simple reading
of the written sectors will still ensure that the disc was written correctly because
each sector has a checksum. If there should be a writing error due to a piece of
dust on the recordable disc, it would be detected by this simpler read test.
- Disk image support
- On the topic of disk
images, there are a few more problems I ran into. I had a few disc images created
by Toast in CD-XA format which use 2056 bytes per sector. When burning a CD from
this image file using Dragon Burn, it would not detect the XA format and generate
a CD that I could not use because of this. Another problem was that while Dragon
Burn would accept even .cue/.bin files, which are common on Windows systems, I could
not drag a simple .img file into Dragon Burn to make a CD from it. Renaming the .img
file to a .iso file solved it, though. Another problem is that Dragon Burn cannot
mount image files. Toast can, and I use that feature quite often to see what is stored
inside an image file. Although some .img formats can be mounted by Apple's Disk Utility,
there are some that Dragon Burn can burn but that were not mountable without the
help of Toast.
- Joliet (Windows &
- The Joliet format, which
is the most common format on Windows systems, has a few restrictions over the Mac's
preferred HFS+ format. One is that names are limited to a length of 63 characters,
and another is that some characters may not be used in a name, such as the colon
and the backslash. If you want to create a CD that you want to hand over to Windows
or Linux users, you would usually choose this Joliet format. Due to these limitations,
some of the file names you attempt to store on the disc may need to be renamed or
shortened. While Toast will warn you in this case and allow you to view the list
of to-be-renamed items, even allowing you to modify them manually, Dragon Burn will
just silently rename them, without giving you any information that it did. This may
be a problem if you tried to copy a set of html files that have links referring to
other files. Some of the links would then not work. If you're not told in advance
by your recording software, you might not notice until it's too late.
- Audio support
- iTunes, as a free software,
offers a simple way to burn your songs to CDs. Dragon Burn can do that, too, giving
you more control over the burn process. For example, while CDs created by iTunes
would not play in my cheap car CD/MP3 player, those created by Dragon Burn (as well
as by Toast) would play just fine. But once again, while I could just drag songs
from iTunes into Toast and burn them away, Dragon Burn made this more complicated.
For one, I cannot drag songs from the iTunes window into Dragon Burn at all. Instead,
I have to either find the files on the disk and drag them over, or export a playlist
from iTunes and import it into Dragon Burn. And when I do the latter, Dragon Burn
only offers to burn the CD as an Audio CD, not as a MP3 CD.
One advantage of Dragon Burn over Toast is that it can convert AAC into MP3 songs
on-the-fly. With that feature, I could create an MP3 CD and add AAC songs to it.
Toast cannot do that. However, there are problems with Dragon Burn's automatic conversion.
It is quite slow - I estimate it's about five times slower than the conversion inside
iTunes. Worse is that it will lose all the AAC's song information, such as full title,
artist, genre, and so on. iTunes would preserve these information tags.
Another neat feature is that you can use file extension based filters when dragging
files or folders into a audio recording window, so that even if you drag your entire
hard disk over, it'll only add files ending with .mp3 (or whatever you like).
- Video support
- Both Toast and Dragon
Burn claim to be able to create Video-CDs (VCD), Super-Video-CDs (SVCD) and DVD-Video
discs. While VCDs use a MPEG-1 file, SVCDs and Video-DVDs use the higher-quality
MPEG-2 video file format. With Dragon Burn, if you have a MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 file,
you can burn either a VCD or SVCDs, respectively. However, you cannot simply create
a Video-DVD from these formats, nor can you create a VCD or SVCD from a Quicktime
movie directly. You would have to use an external program that convert the files
into the proper format first. Toast 6, on the contrary, has MPEG-encoders as well
as DVD-authoring software already included, so that no matter what source of video
format you have, you can choose to create any of the three CD/DVD-formats without
any extra efforts.
NTI Dragon Burn is CD/DVD burning software for Mac OS X. While it is poised to be
a less expensive alternative to Toast, I see Dragon Burn as a still unpolished product
that still has a few annoyances with the GUI. Most of the interface issues are fixable,
but were not addressed with the upgrade to version 4.1. The new spanning feature
may be useful to some, especially as its competitor Toast does not offer such a function
as of now. The half-complete implementation is quite disappointing, however, especially
the missing verify operation.
What Dragon Burn can do, it does mostly well, though. I found it to be an adequate
performing application at a fair price. Those who use Toast will be unlikely to switch
to Dragon Burn in its current state. Dragon Burn does have some features that Toast
does not have, so there is definitely some potential with this product. If you are
interested in CD/DVD burning software, I suggest you check out the free Trial version
of Dragon Burn. It gives you unlimited use for 10 recordings. That way you can not
only make sure that it works well on your hardware, but you can also make up your
own mind about how much you like the product. In my reviews, I try to point out mostly
the things under the hood that an unexperiened users might not notice too easily.
- Relatively low price
compared to competitor Toast
- Drag&Drop filters
provide for quick collecting of files of a certain type
- Can verify by using checksums,
which enables a verify even over files that constantly change
- Can write discs on several
recorders at the same time (e.g. for creating multiple copies)
- Disc spanning makes it
easier to record large amounts of files to several discs
- Trial version available
- Many user interface glitches,
some of which can cause frustration
- Functionally inferior
to Toast (especially regarding Video support)
- Does not provide Verify
for all possible formats
- Incomplete Joliet format
support (for creating disks for Windows & Linux users)
- Documentation is weak
regarding the supported volume formats
- Cannot mount image files
- Disc spanning is only
partially useful because of missing verify and no help with oversized files
3 out of 5 Mice