If there's one thing you can never seem to get enough of these days, it's software. There's always something you want to be able to do with your PC that Windows, despite its myriad of extra bits and pieces, tools and utilities just doesn't seem to cover. And with the explosion in digital audio and video over the past few years, it's something that seems to be happening more and more.
What if you need to burn a disc from an ISO image? What if you want to encode your music files to a format other than WMA or MP3? What if you want to capture and edit audio directly to MP3? What if you want to do more than just look at the photos you've snapped and the video footage you've shot on your DV camcorder on your PC?
The answer is, usually, to hunt down some decent freeware or buy something off-the-shelf to do each job as you need it. But wouldn't it be nice if the tools were just there, ready for you to use whenever you needed them? Enter Roxio Easy Media Creator Suite, which aims to do just that – put all of the tools you need, right at your fingertips.
It certainly does that, but when I looked at version eight of this suite earlier in the year, I was disappointed with the software's stability. Like a decathlon athlete whose body keeps breaking down because of all the demands placed on it, it seemed that the mere act of squeezing all those tools into one place was just too much for it to cope with.
Version nine, thankfully, has been on a fitness drive, and what was once a rather dodgy Dean Macey has turned into a bit of a Daley Thompson. The flakiness has been largely ironed out, leaving a toned, honed and finely tuned piece of software, ready to compete with the best. And with a few thoughtful additions it's beginning to look like a must have product.
Where else for a mere £60 do you get 35 separate applications including video editing with HD support, audio editing, CD and DVD burning facilities, back-up tools, photo editing and media management facilities? The range and variety of tools on offer is so mind-boggling it's hard to know where to start.
I'll begin with what's new. Apart from improved stability and sharper looks, Roxio has added what it calls 'mobile' features to the suite. This includes an extra 'mobile' section in the explorer panel of the Media Manager application that keeps track of any portable devices you might have plugged in. It's there to simplify media transfers to and from your iPod, mobile phone or PSP.
What's more impressive is that you can also set up profiles that automatically convert files that you transfer from your PC to your portable devices. This comes in handy if you ever fancy creating your own ring tones from MP3 files, for instance or you want to use a photo from your digital camera as your phone wallpaper but don't want the file to take up too much space. Even movies can be converted on-the-fly, from AVI files, for example to 3GP format for phones, or MPEG-4 for your PSP or iPod.