I was surprised a couple days ago to see that a free disc-burning utility for Mac, called FireStarter, was still around. I’d used it a few years ago, but development seemed quite stalled, so I was intrigued to see what, exactly, had changed.
FireStarter FX, to start with, has the absolute strangest interface I’ve ever seen on a Mac application. It’s round. That’s right, round. It’s square in the middle (all the buttons and the rest of the interface), but instead of having a standard toolbar, the window is absolutely round. This is nice, I suppose, since everything outside the square inner portion of the window can be used to drag the FireStarter window, but it’s definitely an odd choice, and one that I’m sure violates every single Human Interface Guideline according to Apple.
Still, it’s never so much about how an application looks, but how it works, that interests me. So I decided to see what kind of features FireStarter FX offers.
As it turns out, this was a little disappointing as well. In my view, unless you’re looking for a program that can perform video/audio encoding as well as burning, there really isn’t much use to purchase a disc burning application for the Mac. The Finder can burn data discs, iTunes can burn audio discs, iDVD can burn movies, iPhoto can burn picture discs, and Disk Utility can burn disc images.
Why programs such as FireStarter, SimplyBurns, Burn or LiquidCD can be handy is because – while they may not offer more functionality than is regularly offered by the operating system – they offer all the tools in one interface.
So I must admit that I was a bit disappointed to see that while Burn is able to burn data, audio and video disks and can burn images as well as copy disks (similar functionality is also offered by LiquidCD), FireStarter does not offer as much.
It’s not bad, but FireStarter still has a ways to go in my mind. FireStarter can copy a disc, burn disc images, burn data discs and erase rewritable media. That’s it. It seems to do all this quite well, as it should, but it’s disappointing to see that FireStarter FX has no built-in support for burning audio discs. Other free and/or open-source offerings include this feature, which should be accessible simply by piggy-backing onto the built-in capabilities of OSX, but for whatever reason FireStarter FX does not offer this feature.
Not so say that FireStarter doesn’t have some nice features. For instance, if you’re picky about the quality of your audio rips, FireStarter supports the paranoia program, which is often viewed as the best ripping program available. FireStarter FX also includes the ability to save your data to either an .iso file, or as a bin/cue set. And the one feature I’m very happy to see included is the ability to automatically split a large chunk of data (a chunk larger than the media you’ll be burning it to), over multiple discs. Automatic spanning, if it works well, can be a life saver, so in this regard, I’m thrilled.
On one hand, I’m glad that development of FireStarter seems to be going strong again. I’m a bit confused by their interface choices, and a little sad at some “missing” features. On the other hand, it’s always nice to have options, and if some of the other burning programs don’t do it for you, there’s the possibility FireStarter FX will be right up your alley. So give it a try; it’s free!