Disc burning under Linux is dominated by one application: K3b. It's favoured by novices and power users alike, so much so that even the staunchest Gnome fans sometimes find themselves reaching for the KDE burning tool.
Nero, then, has a tough road ahead if it wants to win over Linux users, especially as its product is closed source and commercial. Linux and proprietary software don't often make for happy bedfellows, and to succeed, a closed product has to offer something spectacular over the open source competition - some massive feature to tempt fans of free software.
Luckily for Nero, its latest release for Linux has that massive feature: Blu-ray and HD DVD support. This is the first graphical burning tool to support the new disc formats, immediately boosting it ahead of K3b on the feature front, although work is underway on Linux's command-line tools.
Nero offers version 3 as a week-long trial version download from its website - this can be unlocked into a full release by buying a serial number for €20 (£13).
The supported distributions include Fedora 4, RHEL 4, SUSE 10.0, Debian 3.1 and Ubuntu 5.10 (or newer versions of these distros), although as the packages are supplied in both RPM and .deb format, you should be able to coerce it into running on other distributions.
Nero proudly claims that its Linux product provides the same interface and feature set as Burning ROM 7 for Windows. For new Linux convertees seeking out familiar-looking software, this is an excellent strength, and thankfully the app is built around Gtk so it fits in well with modern desktops.
All too often we've seen commercial Linux programs that use Motif or some other chunky widget set that looks totally alien under KDE and Gnome.
Burn baby burn
When started, Nero pops up a New Compilation dialog that sets up the burning session: choose the type of disc, give it a label and you're ready to go. Usefully, Nero lets you tweak various filesystem settings such as Joliet or Rock Ridge support, and go beyond the limits of ISO 9660.
Our only gripe here is that you can't fine-tune the write speed - you're limited to your drive's maximum setting, which is frustrating if you're using cheap media or want a slow burn to be on the safe side.
Creating disc images is blissfully simple: just drag files from the right-hand navigation tree into the disc pane and hit Burn. You're not confined solely to Nero's own file navigator, though, and can drag and drop files from Nautilus or Konqueror windows into the burning pane for a spot of desktop integration.
The program presents a list of recognised burning devices (via the kernel) and lets you create audio, data and mixed CDs, MiniDVDs, video DVDs, combined UDF/ISO DVDs, and the aforementioned Blu-ray and HD DVD images.
When creating audio CDs, Nero can convert MP3s and Oggs into the appropriate format - a small but sweet touch - and can even ping the FreeDB audio CD database to get track details. A handy Expert Features pane lets you tweak potentially risky options, such as overburning and short lead-out.
Other features include multi-session support for updating previously burned discs, a simulation mode to check that settings are correct before burning, and support for blanking rewritable media.
You can even assign sounds to events, such as a trumpet fanfare after a successful burn. For writing existing disc images, Nero happily handles NRG, CUE and standard ISO files, and the program stores its disc layouts in .nlc files built from understandable XML.
Feature-wise, it stacks up well against Burning ROM, its Windows cousin, although Nero hasn't yet ported any other components of its Premium suite, such as Nero Mobile or Sipps.
Sadly, a major stability gremlin reared its ugly head in our testing: massive lock-ups. Now, there are millions of software and hardware combinations in the Linux world, but this was on a vanilla Dell laptop running Ubuntu 7.04 and everything else was fine. If you're an Ubuntu fan and looking to buy Nero, we'd wait for a bugfix or workaround before you invest your money here.
That aside, Nero Linux 3 is excellent value for money, with a polished interface and support for all the essential burning options and tweaks.
If you're a regular Linuxer with a CD/DVD drive, happily running K3b or GnomeBaker, you won't find any incentive to switch at the moment. But if, on the other hand, you've got a shiny new Blu-ray or HD DVD writer in your possession - or you've just moved over from Windows and want a burning program you recognise - it's a must-buy. Expect the open source world to catch up soon, though...