With my new computer one of the things I wanted to try was to see exactly how much functionality I could achieve on Windows using only freely available software. Having gotten most things like multimedia playback, word processing and other essentials out of the way I found I needed a decent replacement for Nero. After using ImgBurn for a while, which is workable but better suited for burning and ripping discs rather than building them, I stumbled upon [InfraRecorder]2 on Sourceforge. The software is apparently intended to be an open source replacement for Nero so it seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. Here are my thoughts on it.

Starting in the obvious place, the interface is quite similar to Nero's, except that the layout is split vertically between the file browser and disc builder. Even if you've never used Nero or a similar program before the layout should be easy to figure out and work with. One thing that might be confusing initially is that all the menus and whatnot refer to "Compact Disc" or "CD" even when you're working with DVDs. Just make sure you've started a DVD project (from the File menu) and everything will work fine. This has actually caught me out a few times as the program defaults to starting a data CD project on startup and there's no obvious difference between that and a data DVD.

Burning works fine and is comparable to ImgBurn in terms of time taken. When I burned my first disc IR reported that it was burning at 4.0x which is a lot less than the burner and disc were capable of (16x). Burning the same image with ImgBurn resulted in faster burn rates being reported but it didn't actually take less time to burn. A few other annoyances rear their heads at the burning stage though. First of all, if you have two drives of the same make and model then it's impossible to tell which is which as IR gives you no indication of whether or not there are discs in either drive. Secondly, if you do select the wrong drive (as I frequently do) or there's a problem with the disc then the program goes through the entire process of creating a disc image to burn to disc but then fails and wipes the image, requiring it to be built all over again when you fix the problem. Thirdly, the progress information leaves a lot to be desired – I'd like to know who came up with the idea of having "estimated time of finish" be the only indicator. At first I thought this was "estimated time remaining" or something but, no, it's the actual time that the task is expected to finish. Really, is that useful to anyone? Is is that difficult to subtract the current time to get the length of time estimated? I'd really prefer to have both, along with the time already taken on the task.

Attempting to burn an audio CD exposed a few more problems. The first time I tried to burn a CD I ran into my old friend the "can't tell which drive is which" issue – IR started converting the tracks without issue but then it sat there doing nothing for a few minutes before finally telling me that there was a problem with the disc and it had to be reloaded (the drive was ejected and pulled back before I could do anything) and then it sat there for a few more minutes before I cancelled the operation. Now at this point I discovered yet another dumb usability problem: if I click cancel why on Earth would it report that "the operation was cancelled" and then wait for me to click OK before going back? Yes, to cancel something you click Cancel then OK. Trying to burn the disc again with the other drive (I assume it was the other drive) gave me the other problem: IR was apparently trying to access the temporary files it created beforehand (WAVs from the OGG files I added) and every file came up as "permission denied". Very, very strange. I think it had something to do with IR using Cygwin in the background.

I did finally managed to get the audio CD burned and it appears to have worked perfectly. I would have liked some more information and options for my audio CD though. I couldn't find anywhere to not burn the extra 2 seconds between tracks for instance. There's also no support for CD-Text but this isn't a big deal. MP3 support is not provided in the base package but there's a LAME plugin available to add it in of you desire.

Overall, I'd say InfraRecorder works well enough for creating CDs and DVDs but, perhaps there are lots of small usability problems that I think need to be addressed before it can really be considered a nice piece of software to use and one that's capable of being a true replacement for Nero.