The Book of Nero 6 Ultra Edition by Wallace Wang, ISBN 1593270437

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, November 2004
Published by: No Starch Press
Requires: General interest in CD & DVD burning and content creation
MSRP: US$19.95, CDN$27.95

We like software and hardware instruction and training books written independently but fully supported by the publishers and manufacturers of the software and hardware. It makes sense and it often means the book's author has a chance to sit down (in this case) with the software developer in order to create the most accurate guide available. Of course the author will also have a chance to point out flaws and areas for improvement. The end result of such a collaboration should always be better books and better products. Well guess what? Author Wallace Wang and Ahead Software (the developers of Nero) have collaborated on a genuinely thorough guide designed to help users get the very best out of the broadly powerful Nero 6 Ultra Edition.

For those of you unfamiliar with Nero's inner workings and for those of you unfamiliar with CD & DVD burning software in general, it's important to note that Nero and its rivals in the marketplace don't just burn CD and DVD copies. Use this software to do incremental and system backups, create photo slide shows on CD or DVD (complete with background music), author DVDs like a pro complete with menus, create audio CDs and edit the content (remove pauses, reduce hiss and distortion, etc., etc.), play music and video (replace other media players on your computer), design and print CD and DVD labels, and generally manage all the data you've got. Of course you can also quickly burn copies of anything too, create disk images on CD and so on. Powerful stuff, no doubt about it.


The problem is that all the versatility inherent in powerful software sometimes comes at a price in usability. A thorough user interface has to contain controls, buttons and configurations for all of the tasks that can be performed. All those high-powered features can present difficulties for casual, occasional or less technically adept people. Ergo, you need a good book!

The Book of Nero 6 Ultra Edition is 195 pages long. It's organized into twelve chapters, an appendix and a detailed index. The opening table of contents is simply a title & page number listing but there is also a subsequent detailed table of contents which is much more helpful for locating major topics of interest and related subtopics. With the listings in the detailed table of contents and the index I was able to find every item of interest to me including a few somewhat esoteric things such as spinup and spindown times (Nero 6 Ultra Edition has a utility called CD Speed which is designed to test all aspects of your CD and DVD drives).

Nero (the software) began life as an Adaptec Easy CD Creator killer. In the early days of home CD burning, it was easy to knock Easy CD Creator off the top of the heap, mainly because Adaptec's software division apparently did not have the same robust resources of its hardware division (SCSI adapters, RAID adapters and chip sets, etc.). Nero was a breath of fresh air—easy to use, very fast, compatible with almost every CD burner on the market and easy to install. But Adaptec spun off in software division into a company called Roxio which immediately proceeded to improve Easy CD Creator to the point where is began to rival Nero. Not to be outdone, Ahead Software continued its clearly defined development of Nero which to this day remains the most stable, reliable and versatile CD & DVD burning software on the market. But like it competition, Nero doesn't just burn files onto CD & DVD. Integrating the main parts of a media player, a design program, a sound editor and a video editor, Nero makes it possible to create CDs and DVDs that work and that do exactly what you want them to do.

I burn CDs or DVDs almost every day: backups, copies of documents for colleagues, co-workers, research assistants, legal staff, family and so on. I also burn a lot of personal data (music, video and photos) for my own use in the car, during business travel and at home. Floppy disks are useless for these sorts of applications. ZIP disks, Jaz disks, Syquest platters, portable hard drives and USB Keys/Thumb Drives and storage cards are either inconvenient, impractical or inappropriate for a lot of applications. Everything has its place of course. After all, you can't jam a CD or DVD into my Sony Clie TH55 handheld—you need a Memory Stick storage card. But for most other purposes, a CD or DVD has vastly greater capacity than most people need, the disks can be read and used by almost any computer anywhere, and a CD or DVD in a jewel case can be shipped anywhere in the world with little risk of damage or data destruction. You can't say the same for the other portable media. Portable hard drives mysteriously grow legs and walk away when you're not looking, storage cards and USB keys are tiny and have a tendency to be difficult to find unless you're scrupulously well organized, and Zip & Jaz media require special and increasingly rare drives in order to read and use the media. The Book of Nero 6 Ultra Edition assumes you already understand the inherent value of CD & DVD media. The author breaks down the very light usability barriers in a well-designed piece of software and walks you through literally every single important (and most of the not so important) functions.

Cons: The Nero 6 StartSmart interface (a simplified, wizard-like interface which is meant to simplify Nero 6 for inexperienced users) is well covered but I still feel that StartSmart could use an interface re-work by a top drawer UI designer. As with any complex program or suite of programs, unless you are using the software at least weekly to burn CDs or DVDs, this comprehensive book is an absolute must-have. That's a compliment to the book obviously, but a general knock at all of our favorite software evolving and competing in a marketplace which seems to appreciate more and more features for the money even at the cost of an incremental reduction in ease of product use.

Pros: The book reminded me that Nero 6 Ultra Edition includes an integrated virus scanner, handy for doing last minute scans of data prior to burning (preventing awful phone calls from friends or co-workers who load documents, music files or JPGs from the CD you gave them only to find their systems hammered by some virus). The book is well written. The style and language is clear, concise and easy to understand. No Starch Press is a well founded, professional publisher whose titles are distributed in the U.S. by O'Reilly and other companies internationally. The layout of the book is very readable, with lots of white space, well chosen typefaces and consistent editing. The Book of Nero 6 Ultra Edition can lead even the most computer illiterate novice through all of the Nero 6 features and functions in a controlled, informative and productive manner. The book's detailed table of contents and clearly organized index combined with in-depth explanations and step-by-step tutorial in each chapter also combine to provide intermediate and advanced users with an excellent reference text. I can't say enough about the Nero 6 Ultra Edition software and this support book. Buy the book, spend half a day with it, then start using Nero 6 the way it was meant to be used. With the book's guidance, you'll find out how easy it is to protect your data, entertain family and friends and get the most out of the inexpensive and versatile CD & DVD technology available today. Good book. Highly recommended.





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