It's not possible to review CD/DVD authoring without mentioning Nero, and not just because a version is supplied free with so many optical disc drives on the market today. The initial window shows the various programs available, grouped into categories. You can filter this to show only CD or only DVD programs. Each of the icons in this window has a detailed tool tip explaining what it does.

Nero's slideshow generation works well, with a good range of transition effects and plenty of control over the whole process. Timings and transitions can be set globally, per image or on a selected group of images. Effects can also be applied to images, although there's no easy way to reset this.

Nero isn't limited to displaying your photos. PhotoSnap can be used to edit your photos - cropping and resizing, adjusting exposure and colour balance and red-eye removal are just some of the operations offered.

Drop, click, burn, play

Video DVD creation is equally straightforward. Drop a few videos files on to the NeroVision window and pick menu style and other attributes, including background music. In addition to video files, Nero can grab digital video directly from a camcorder.

This can be saved to hard disk for later incorporation into a project, or written directly to a DVD. Videos can be edited, adding visual and text effects and cutting parts of the movie. Editing doesn't affect the original source video, only what goes on to the DVD.

Chapter markers can be added at this stage - you can do this manually, or let Nero Vision scan the file for scene changes and detect the markers, automatically reviewing them before committing them to the project. After this you've got a choice of whether to create chapter menus on the DVD. Overall, it's a straightforward process, although not quite as slick as rival programs like Roxio's Easy Media Creator.

Caters for all media types

Data CDs and DVDs are as easy to create as selecting some directories, giving the disc a title and pressing Burn. However, it doesn't cope with more than one source directory having the same name, giving an error instead of the option to rename one or combine the two into a single destination directory.

Nero can create backups (full, incremental or differential) and has a restore from backups option, too. The restore option is necessary because, unless you've created uncompressed backups where each file is saved "as-is", the files are saved as Nero BackItUp compressed files.

This also means that you need a copy of Nero available to restore from these backups. Nero includes an option to create a bootable disc, from which you can restore your backups. Scheduled backups are possible too, which may seem an odd choice for a CD/DVD program: after all, you can't be sure the correct disc will be in the drive when the back-up job is run.

In addition, Nero can back up to files on your hard disk to burn to DVD later. Backups can be automatically verified after writing.

Once again Nero shows why it has been a top program for so long.