Previously, I reviewed InfraRecorder, a relatively young project that seeks to add a bit of spit and polish to the venerable cdrtools command line programs. At the time, noted that while the interface was lovely, there were a few flaws, notably the hassle of add-on mp3 support, the lack of FLAC support, and limited flexibility.

Another frontend, cdrtfe (cdrtools frontend), was a freeware project that fairly recently opened its source, and I’ve been using it ever since. It hasn’t got the best interface in the world, but it’s one of the most powerful little programs I’ve seen in a long time.

Please note that the version of cdrtfe that I use is 1.3pre1 which is not the stable 1.2x series. Any bugs which I describe should not be ascribed to the stable series, but considered bugs in development until proved otherwise.

Interface

I’m going to get my criticisms with this program out of the way, because they’re mostly superficial. One gripe that I have with cdrtfe is that the options are not organized well. As you can see in the screenshots, there is a button marked “settings” in the right pane which controls options for the entire program: you wouldn’t assume that based on the button’s placement right below the physical device options. In the “middle” pane of sorts, there’s another button marked “Options” which controls project-type-specific options—except when there are other buttons for other options like the disc filesystem…. which is, admittedly, a lot of options and probably deserves its own area. But you may have also noticed the grey or block text to the right of those buttons, which are clickable/toggleable. These are also options, and they are all also available by clicking on the “Options” button, which has both them and other options. Do you see what I mean about an inconsistent user interface?

Believe me, I love having all these options available to me. I hate programs which abstract options so much that the full potential is lost (GNOME, for instance). But I also like sane options layouts (VLC is another example of a bad options design). With a bit of cleanup work, this problem could vanish.

I would also like to see the GUI updated to take advantage of other features that Windows offers. You might have noticed that, except for the top menu bar, none of the internal fonts of cdrtfe take advantage of ClearType (font smoothing), which makes the program look dated and unattractive. I see this every so often, especially with install wizards, and it still rather galls me: ClearType’s been around for 6 years now, and there’s really no excuse not to have your GUI look like it belongs in this century.

Those of you who have used BurnAtOnce will appreciate the spartan output view for cdrtfe: there are no fancy progress bars or animated widgets here: the bottom pane of the program outputs text data about the current operation, and that’s it. For me, that’s just fine: I personally don’t think that widgets are necessary for a good burning program.

Projects

cdrtfe is organized by function with tabs. Unlike programs like InfraRecorder, which have a more or less singular look and one toggles between functions (e.g. audio disc, data disc, &tc.) with a menu click, cdrtfe likes to clearly separate each mode into its own area. For people who never use anything except the Audio Disc and Data Disc functions, this may seem a little much, but rest assured that you never have to click on tabs you don’t need.

Data

The data disc view is fairly self-explanatory: there is a tree view in the left pane, a file view in the middle pane, and device options in the right pane. There’s an option to tweak the filesystem, which you will likely only have to do if (a) you’re a power-user and have specific needs or (b)> you have deeply-nested directories in your project and need an ISO-4 filesystem.

As you can see, cdrtfe also includes a verification option, which has grown to be a must for me: until I switched to Taiyo Yuden optical media, I sometimes had issues with bad burns, and with the verification switch, I would at least know about it.

Audio

The audio disc function is one area where cdrtfe has surpassed Infra Recorder by leaps and bounds. As you may have noticed in the corresponding screenshot, I have three different types of encoded files in my project, namely MP3, Ogg Vorbis, and FLAC. cdrtfe comes with support for all three right out of the box. It doesn’t rely on written plugins like Infra Recorder, but instead comes bundled with codecs (easily swapped with the latest versions, if you like) which handle the files prior to burning.

The playlist interface is another area where cdrtfe has surpassed Infra Recorder, because as of version 0.42.1, Infra Recorder didn’t have support for playlist reordering: when I tried to drag items in the list to a different position, the program would exit silently. cdrtfe has no such problems.

As a warning: I’ve experienced—only once—an event where cdrtfe would error out when trying to decode some mp3s for burning. My guess is that this has to do with the madplay decoder and not the program, but it might still be something that you run into every now and then. I was able to decode the files manually using foobar2000 (one could theoretically use just about anything) and then they burned just fine.

XCD

I don’t have much to say about this function, since I never use it. It’s likely that you never have, either. Ostensibly, it’s a way to squeeze more space out of a regular CD-R by remove a data correction layer. See the Doom9 thread for more details.

CD/DVD-RW tools

This item should be fairly self-explanatory, though I admit I haven’t had to use rewritable discs in quite some time: optical media has become so cheap that I don’t mind making a few coasters. But that’s beyond the point: cdrtfe fully supports erasing rewritable media in both modes: Table of Contents only, and complete (similar to a “quick” or “full” format for hard drives).

CD Info

The underlying libraries of cdrtfe can also give detailed information about both your optical drive and your disk. You can opt to view any of these on the “CD Info” tab, which can be useful when trying to figure out if a disk is a dud or not.

DAE

DAE stands for “digital audio extraction” and it’s a fancy way of saying “CD Ripper.” This is the only part of the program which didn’t work for me, as I was treated to an application error and couldn’t proceed. Hopefully, it will be fixed in later versions, although I must admit that I would likely never use it anyway, as better tools exist for such like (e.g. EAC).

CD Image

Another very useful feature, the CD Image tab gives users the ability to either make ISO images from physical CDs or DVDs, as well as burning both ISO and bin/cue images. If you work with a lot of esoteric file formats (Nero’s NRG, Alcohol’s MDS/MDF, &tc.), then this isn’t for you. But if, like me, the majority of formats you burn are ISO, this is a perfect solution.

(Super) VideoCD

cdrtfe has the ability to burn three different formats of VideoCD (like DVDs, but with regular 700MB CDs): v1.0, v1.2, and SVCD, which requires a differently-encoded MPEG2 file and is of a higher resolution. In all honesty, the age of this format has passed, and it was always much more popular in Asia than it was in the states, but it’s nice, anyway, that the option still exists. Most likely, you’ll be wanting the next option.

Video DVD

This is just what it sounds like: cdrtfe can burn a standards-compliant video DVD when given the right source. It won’t do any sort of encoding for you: you’ll need a special DVD authoring program to create a correctly-formated TS_VIDEO (for instance) directory.

Other thoughts

Like a lot of hobby projects, cdrtfe has its problems and its quirks: likewise, it’s hardly the sort of hand-holding program that will wipe your nose for you while it converts, edits, and burns the entire contents of your hard drive for you. It wasn’t made for that purpose: in grand Unix tradition, it’s a tool which does one thing: it burns stuff to optical media. The fact that it has a few extra features (even if they don’t all work) is just a little bonus.

Take a look at the screenshots: if you like what you see, then cdrtfe might be just the thing for you. If it’s too ugly, there’s always Infra Recorder. If that’s still too difficult for you, well, you can always drop a hundred dollars for crap.

§1860 · July 10, 2007 · Tags: , , , , , , , , ·

1 Comment to “cdrtfe: a powerful cdrtools frontend”

  1. charles says:

    thanks for the review. i think i’ll try it out..

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