App of the Week: HandBrake

Every veteran Mac user knows about HandBrake.  This powerful French app is made to quickly and efficiently rip DVD’s (sort of) and convert video files.  HandBrake’s user interface is a little confusing at first, but after the initial shock, you realize that it’s a lot simple than it actually looks.

On top of the screen are the main commands of selecting the video source, starting and pausing the conversion, the conversion queue setting, an activity monitor, along with more settings, and a preview function.  Once you select the video source, you have a variety of options to choose from.  You can edit features in the video type, audio types, the quality settings, the file size, and so much more.  That’s just the basic commands.  If you’re really advanced, you can edit things like the bit- rate, frame rate,

Main window of HandBrake

distortion, and more.  The list goes on and on.  It has the power for video and audiophiles, but the simplicity for people who just want that DVD on their iPod.  Still concerned that it’s not simple enough for your needs?  What if you just want it for a specific device?  In the spirit of Apple, HandBrake has presets for Apple devices, ranging from Apple TV’s, to various iPods, iPhones, even sorting them by various generations.  Of course they have general computer settings, and even Web video optimization.  It can’t be much simpler than that.

Apps can be as simple or as complicated as we like, but if they don’t do the job than what are they worth?  Well, HandBrake doesn’t have that problem.  I’ve converted video files on my computer with minimal, almost unnoticeable quality loss in video.  And audio suffered even less degradation, almost identical to the original video file.  Ripping DVD’s still has some of the best quality of any DVD ripper that I’ve tried so far.  Sometimes it’s close, but I’d say HandBrake edges them out.

This brings up an interesting point about ripping DVD’s.  It is the opinion of many technologists that if you legally bought and own a DVD, then you can rip it for your own personal viewing pleasure.  However, due to pressure, HandBrake cannot directly rip copyrighted DVD’s to your Mac (personal DVD’s, say ones of your last vacation, are not a problem).  However, there is an easy fix: by downloading the free VLC media player, HandBrake will be able to read and rip copyrighted DVD’s.  I do not in any way, shape, form, or fashion advocate ripping of commercial DVD’s for illegal distribution or piracy.

HandBrake is available for OS 10.5, 10.6, and 10.7.  It also works on Linux and Windows (XP or higher).  It is available for free at  You can also download VLC at  If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email me at  You can also check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  Thanks!

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