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Dissing Disco

Rory Prior has some not-so-nice things to say about Disco, and I agree with most of his assessment. While everyone else seems to be jumping on the Disco bandwagon, I'm hopping off. Disco is a CD/DVD burning app that positions itself as a viable, better-looking and much less expensive replacement for Roxio's Toast. After spending a week with Disco, I am once again hungry for Toast.

Rory says Disco is the "triumph of eye candy over usability." That's a good start at what's wrong with it, but the much-hyped "eye candy" itself really proves the point that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To my eyes, this is one ugly app. Its looks actually make it less usable, in fact. Smoke screens and shooting flame effects don't impress me much when the app doesn't do what it is intended to do exceptionally well - and Disco really fails at that task. Disco is a triumph of is hype over deservedness. Let me add that I was one of the many who pre-ordered Disco when it first started it's viral marketing campaign. For $5 I'm not saying I didn't get my money's worth, but I wouldn't have purchased it at any price had I tried the beta demo before handing over the cash.

One of the first things that struck me is that the UI is inconsistent and confusing. The glossy black-and-gray translucent theme is only interesting to look at for the first 5 seconds of the first launch. After that I found myself staring at it and noticing how unappealing it really was. Thinking an app's UI is ugly normally wouldn't dissuade me from using it as long as the app performed well, but It took me a good minute to figure out how and at what point to name the disc I was about to burn, which is not a good sign. In fact, the very first disc I burned ended up being named "Untitled" because I forgot to name it at all. I wouldn't have forgotten if Disco had prompted me at some point or had a visually obvious place for me to have named it. But with all that translucent black and gray everything just looks muddy on my busy desktop and the title field just blends in with the rest of it.

Prior also says he's impressed by Disco's "simplicity and functionality." But I don't see it as being simplistic or functional - at least not in the ways I've come to expect from a media burning application. The second thing to strike me was that Disco didn't recognize my .toast image as an image and instead burned it as a straight data file. Once again, there was no obvious prompt at any point to alert me to exactly what kind of disk I was about to burn. The DMG file I tested was recognized properly and I suspect I could have renamed the .toast file to avoid the first issue, but I shouldn't have to. If Disco is going to compete with Toast in any meaningful way, it should at least recognize Toast images and know what to do with them.

The one feature I do like is the Discography function, which could be very helpful, although I will admit to not having even really played with it yet - but the Spandex feature for spanning data across multiple discs failed miserably for me every time, splitting up groups of data in odd ways, wasted a lot of disc space and didn't allow me to split a single file across multiple CDs.

Before I get flamed to high heaven, I am fully aware that Disco is currently in BETA and it's not a final release candidate. Some of my gripes may be addressed in future builds. The above isn't intended to be an in-depth review, either. But Disco toots its own horn the loudest about the user interface and that's the one feature that makes it hardest for me to use. The visual effects are impressive from a development standpoint but they seem to focus more on form and far less on function. Here's to hoping Disco dances its way into better shape before version 1.0.

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