Migrating Apps — K3B

Next in my app migration list was K3B.

This is one of those apps that few folks pay attention to unless broken. K3B has a long positive history of being an app that “just works.” Many GTK enthusiasts have conceded to the features of K3B. That nobody has taken the K3B core and converted to GTK is a mystery.

The little I use optical disks these days is for testing ISO images and mostly I do that nowadays with USB flash drives. While I have not created some audio CDs in a long time, that remains an interest because my car CD player only recognizes standard audio CDs.

I had not thought much about my criteria for a K3B replacement. I decided on the following:

  • Copy/backup CD/DVD images to an ISO image.
  • Copy/burn ISO images to CD/DVD.
  • Format/erase a CD/DVD.
  • Create/burn an audio CD.
  • Rip an audio CD.
  • Create/burn a data CD/DVD.

I am not interested in Blu-Ray support. Blu_Ray support in Linux is spotty at best. I do not do any video DVD ripping. I do not own many video DVDs and of those, I copied the entire ISO image to disk.

Searching the web indicated only a few replacement candidates that seem still maintained:

  • Xfburn
  • Brasero
  • SimpleBurn

While there are specialty GUI tools for optical disks, such as DeVeDe or ISOMaster, which I use occasionally, I am looking for a generic app.

With audio CDs, a decent app should support normalization, which usually is a good idea to keep the sound level of all songs about the same.


Copying or backing up an optical disk to a hard drive as an ISO image is a common optical disk task. Xfburn does not support this option. While I am capable of using the dd to create an image on my hard drive, for such a basic feature to be missing is a head scratcher.

The file browser tool is void of a toolbar. Traversing folders is cumbersome, requiring the user to always revert to the tree pane to move up or down. The standard gtk-bookmarks file is not supported. Basic shortcuts such as Alt+Up/Down Arrow do not work. The file browser is useful only with a mouse.

Copying an ISO image to CD/DVD is supported.

Formatting/erasing a CD/DVD is supported.

Creating an audio CD is supported. I wanted to know whether the app would convert files on-the-fly. I copied an mp3 file to the Add pane. I received an error message complaining about the mp3 format. Next I tried flac files and did not receive an error message. Likewise with wav files. Xfburn seems broken with respect to adding files with diacritics in the file name. The only work-around is to rename the file. Thereafter the process went without a hitch.

I saw no obvious way to learn whether normalization is supported.

Ripping an audio CD is not supported.

Create a data CD/DVD is supported.

Xfburn is usable. The app’s name seems to indicate the design limitations: burning only.


Brasero seems similar to K3B with respect to depending upon a variety of plugins and external packages. There are a slew of reports on the web alleging Brasero to be buggy and broken.

Copying a CD/DVD to an ISO image is supported. Oddly, the default is not an ISO9660 image but a cdrdao two-file image.

Copying an ISO image to CD/DVD is supported.

Formatting/erasing a CD/DVD is supported.

Creating an audio CD is supported. Normalization is supported through gstreamer tools. The file browser uses the user’s gtk bookmarks file. Basic file browser keyboard shortcuts work as expected.

Brasero does not support converting mp3 files on-the-fly. I was able to add only flac and wav files. Drag-and-drop did not work nor did multiple select. The on-screen instructions inform the user to use the Add and Remove buttons but the buttons do nothing. I could add only one file at a time by double-clicking. There is no support to modify the order of the songs once files are added. The only reprieve is audio CDs contain only about 20 songs.

The process stalled while erasing the disk. I had to manually terminate the process. As the process stalled after blanking the disk, I tried again but first blanked the disk manually with Brasero before creating the audio CD. Despite that effort, Brasero insisted again upon blanking the disk before burning.

I then suspected the stalling was caused by an Xfce configuration to automatically mount removable disks, which possibly caused an I/O conflict with Brasero. Yet the next time I tried again, I noticed the CD had not actually been erased. This time I blanked the disk outside of Brasero performing a full erasure.

In the end I created an audio CD, but I found the process clunky and frustrating. My temper grew short by the time I finished the exercise. The kind of experience that leaves people saying things such as “POS.” The lesson learned is erase CDs with something other than Brasero before attempting to create an audio CD or use another app to burn an audio CD.

Changing the Audio CD file manager view from horizontal to vertical or vice-versa results in any previous efforts being wiped. Additionally, once the file browser dialog appears there is no way to return to the main app interface. The only option is to quit and restart the app.

Creating an audio CD is painful in Brasero.

Ripping an audio CD is not supported in any way I could find.

Creating a data CD/DVD is supported.

Brasero is usable. Audio CD support is horribly designed. Brasero version numbers are not keeping pace with GNOME releases. That might mean unmaintained, might mean nothing, and does not necessarily mean broken. As I am focused on migrating apps to avoid lock-in or dependency, that information might play a role. I do not like overall GNOME 3 design standards. That in itself likely means future versions of Brasero, if ever again updated, will experience an interface overhaul.


SimpleBurn is a GUI front-end to some shell script, which is a wrapper to various command line tools. The most recent update was in early in 2015.

The app does nothing until an optical disk is inserted and detected.

Copying CD/DVD images to an ISO image is supported.

Copying ISO images to CD/DVD is supported.

Formatting/erasing a CD/DVD is supported.

Creating an audio CD is supported. The interface is not intuitively obvious. The solution is to Burn a Directory. Apparently the app detects the file types and determines the type of copy to perform. When the directory is filled with audio files then an audio CD is created.

I do not know whether ripping an audio CD is supported.

Creating a data CD/DVD is supported. While I have not tried to study the respective shell scripts, the trick seems to be that as long as the files are not all audio files then a data disk is created.

SimpleBurn comes with no help at all. The web site is void of help. The interface is utilitarian and not intuitive.


Audio ripping is not supported by these apps. Perhaps mounting a disk might be the easiest way to rip an audio CD. Or perhaps use a dedicated app such as Asunder.

K3B is a one-stop bakery. Apparently with GTK various optical disk related tasks need to be supported by more than one app. That in itself does not bother me, but I find the lack of a quality all-in-one GTK app disappointing. Too bad K3B is not a pure Qt app rather than a KDE app with all of those dependencies.

While I have the experience to work around these apps, I cannot recommend any of them to other people.

While I feel as though I have not fully replaced K3B, I suppose another app migration is behind me.

My next target is KAlarm, but I am going to postpone that migration for a while.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General, Migrate

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