Instant CD/DVD 8 $49.99 Pinnacle Systems www.pinnaclesys.com 2 CPUs
If Instant CD/DVD 8.0 was a play, I might have walked out before the first act was over. But it's software, and not of the quality you'd expect from a company with Pinnacle's track record of producing easy-to-use digital media software.
Instant CD/DVD bundles a variety of tools for creating and copying CDs and DVDs, including a utility for burning data, audio, and MP3 CDs. There are also tools for slideshow or video disc creation, organizing music, multitrack editing, and audio/video playback. I experienced problems with all of these.
The program's interface is apt to induce computer rage due to its inconsistency and lack of intuitiveness. During some functions, such as creating a DVD slideshow, the screen was dotted with cutesy, unlabeled icons that indicated virtually nothing about their functions. Sometimes a helpful wizard would guide me through a process such as creating an audio CD, but when I wanted to create another later, I was dumped into a more complicated expert interface, and I couldn't find the wizard anywhere.
Other parts of the app seemed equally sloppy. The first time I ran it, the app asked me to register seven times in as many different languages. When an unfamiliar floating window appeared after installation, I right-clicked it and was rewarded with an error message only a programmer could comprehend. Sometimes a new window would appear behind another window, not revealing itself until I'd click the corresponding button in the Taskbar. Occasionally functional buttons appeared grayed out. Here's the best indicator of the interface's funkiness: To get back to the main menu, I had to quit and restart the application.
At this point, I thought the interface had problems but would do pretty well when it came to actually burning discs. Sadly, it didn't. While making an audio CD from MP3 files, the program inexplicably burned some tracks to disc twice. Instant CD/DVD can copy CDs and DVDs, but it won't duplicate copy-protected movies. Trying to copy tracks from one CD to another yielded an "Access violation at address 005D4E9C" error.
Undaunted, I tried to create a video DVD. I started by importing a video file. Scene detection took a long time, but it ultimately worked. I chose a menu for the DVD from a selection of ready-made templates, but when I tried to edit out a scene, the program locked up for 30 seconds at a time. Finally, it looked like it would work, until 30 minutes into the burn (and still only 18% done), the program abruptly wanted to start over. There was no error message or explanation, just a warning that the disc contents would be erased. When I inserted a fresh disc to try again, it resumed burning at 19%, not at the start. Eventually the program crashed with a Visual C++ runtime error.
Each time I thought I was being too hard on the program, I would discover another fatal flaw. The final straw came when I simply tried to watch a DVD with the included InstantCinema application. A few seconds into the movie (and still looking at the DVD's main menu), the screen turned completely green. Restarting the player and rebooting the PC didn't solve the problem.
At this point, I suspected perhaps I had received a bad review unit or the software was conflicting with another application, and I made numerous calls to technical support for help. When I received a reply days later, I was asked for more information about the PC. Five days later, I was still without a solution.
Thus, I installed Instant CD/DVD on another PC with a fresh installation of Windows XP. There were some improvements, as the stream of error messages was gone, but the program did lock up once and some interface problems persisted.
Overall, our review unit looked and acted like a patchwork of applications Pinnacle had lying around. But a patchwork must be bound together to stay cohesive. An all-in-one tool for working with audio and data CDs, VCDs, and DVDs is a great idea, but the execution of Instant CD/DVD was a grave disappointment. Before you buy this program, consider Nero 6 and Roxio's Easy CD & DVD Creator 6.
Reprinted with permission from Computer Power User magazine.