The popular CD/DVD burning suite, Nero, has been updated to version 9. Nero 9's full suite is loaded with software programs from a CD/DVD label designer, an audio file editor, to a DVD authoring program. Version 9 includes some really nice features, some of which are new, but they include video editing/transcoding, media streaming, computer backup, and DVD/CD burning.
The installation file totals around 1.5GB, so if you want to buy it online and download it, make sure you have a speedy broadband connection. When you install Nero 9, you can choose "custom install", which we recommend because you can manually choose what software in the suite you want to install and what you don't want to install. Once you install it, at the end it will ask you associate file types to Nero's various software components, such as MP3 files and JPEG's. Think about this carefully, because it will change what programs open these common file types and if you can to go back and change them after, you'll have to go through some hoops. The installer also tries to get you to install Ask.com's toolbar, which is annoying especially because of Nero's price.
The main starting interface for Nero 9 is a program launcher called Nero StartSmart, which is essentially a dashboard to every part of the Nero suite. The interface is a duplicate of the previous Nero 8, but that's a good thing. Here you can choose tasks to perform, such as burn a CD, make a movie, edit a sound file, etc. When you click a task, the appropriate Nero program will open and guide you through the task you first chose. You can also choose to open any one of Nero 9's 18 applications if you don't want to choose a specific task. When another program opens, StartSmart will minimize out of the way to the system tray and when you close the opened program, it will pop back up to ask you what you want to do next, which we really liked.
Nero StartSmart allows you to choose common tasks and the appropriate Nero application will open and guide you through what you want to do.
The main component to Nero 9 is obviously CD/DVD creation. You can choose to use either the wizard guided Nero Express, which we really recommend for novice and casual users because it really guides you through step-by-step. If you want more advanced features, like burning an ISO image, you'll want to use Nero Burning ROM, which allows you to do every possible thing when burning a CD/DVD. You have total control over what you want to do. Nero 9 supports creating advanced disc types as well, such as SuperVideo CDs, audiobook CDs, bootable CD/DVDs, and miniDVDs. Nero also supports LightScribe and LabelFlash label burning technologies if you have a drive that features that.
Perhaps our favorite program in the Nero 9 suite is Nero Recode, which allows you to take an existing (non-encrypted) DVD video and compress it down to fit a regular DVD (4.7GB single-layer disc or a dual-layer DVD as well). There are ways to use Nero Recode to make "copies" of commercial video DVD's, but we won't tell you that here, but you can search online to find out how to do that. We really liked the ability to shrink DVDs and recode them in formats to play on the Apple iPod and Sony PSP. Also, a new feature to Nero 9 is the ability to author Blu-ray discs.
Nero Vision lets you create, edit, and author video's and then burn them to a disc or export them to a file on your computer.
Nero's audio programs have also gotten a little bit of an upgrade this version. Nero added Gracenote support for searching for song and artist information and adding that information to your song when you add it to your library. If you want to edit an audio file, you can use Nero WaveEditor for more basic sound-editing and SoundTrax for creating music. SoundTrax is really a neat program because it lets you create mix CDs and use specific effects in the music.
Nero Live is a program that lets you watch live-TV on your computer, provided that you have TV-tuner card installed or a USB TV-tuner in your PC. You can then record shows like a DVR and pause and rewind live TV just like a TiVo or the DVR from a cable provider. The interface is a little quirky and it isn't as smooth and friendly as Windows Media Center, which comes pre-loaded with Windows Vista Home Premium, which we suggest you use if you have it. There is a mini-TV gadget that sits in the Windows Sidebar (on Vista) that lets you watch live TV off the side of whatever you're doing.
Nero Live lets you watch and record live TV just like a DVR from your cable provider or a TiVo.
Other programs include a file backup and recovery program called Nero BackUp and Nero RescueAgent, as well as an image editor and viewer called Nero PhotoSnap. Both of these programs provide basic-to-moderate features that you probably already have on your computer or you can get something a little more advanced for free or cheaper. Nero 9 also comes with a few utilities, such as DriveSpeed, which lets you quiet down noisy disc drives by slowing their start-up and write speeds, DiscSpeed, which tests your disc drive's performance, and InfoTool, which displays system, drive, and media information about your computer.
Nero 9 is not a huge upgrade over Nero 8, so if you have that, you'll probably want to stick to what you already have. If you have, however, an older Nero suite or nothing at all, you might find Nero 9 and all of it's software programs useful. You probably won't use them all, so you can choose what to install and what not to install like we said earlier. If you are interested in burning Blue-ray discs, then you'll definitely want to get Nero 9.