Mac OS8 Visual Quickstart Guide
By Maria Langer
ISBN 0-201-69645-2, 281 pages
$17.95 U.S., $25.00 Canada
Last month I reviewed four new books on Mac OS8 (See BookBytes, Issue #33, January 1998). This new book by Maria Langer arrived too late to be included.
I am rapidly becoming very fond of Peachpit’s Visual Quickstart Guide series. Each book combines informative text with outstanding graphics and screen shots on *every* page. They are “reference” books in the absolute sense: I refer to them on a daily basis. The writing is consistently straightforward, the pictures are excellent, and the price is affordable.
Every book’s design has a column of text on the outside of each page, with applicable visual components on the inside. The result is very effective for learning, and for seeing how a particular item looks on the screen.
A detailed table of contents outlines every feature of OS8 covered in this book.The two-page spread, “New Features in Mac OS8,” demonstrates and explains every new improvement at one glance! Chapter One provides a thorough guide to installation and setup of the new System software.
The next chapters cover Finder Basics and Advanced Finder Techniques, plus File Management. As in all of the thirteen chapters, there are helpful tips on nearly every page, supplementing each article. For example, “Tip: If you move a window to the very bottom of the screen, it becomes a pop-up window. I tell you about pop-up windows in Chapter 4.”
Patiently and systematically, Maria escorts her readers into and through Mac OS8. Some other chapter titles are: Customizing Mac OS8, PowerBook Considerations, Networking & Telecommunications, Working with PC Files, and Using Mac OS Utilities.
Where do I keep this book? You guessed correctly: at arm’s length, handy at a moment’s notice. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Beyond the Little Mac Book
By Steve Broback
and Robin Williams
ISBN 0-2041-88666-9, 288 pages
$22.95 U.S., $32.00 Canada
By the time I first saw The Little Mac Book, in 1994, I was “beyond” it myself. What I needed then was this sequel. Robin Williams is back, and this time she has combined forces with Seattle Mac expert Steve Broback, co-founder of Thunder Lizard Productions, the graphic design conference folks.
Who needs this book? You do, if you learn and relate to your Mac in a certain way. I’ll explain.
The authors begin with Know the Hardware, covering all the basics plus expandability, acceleration, and upgrades. Next we have Mastering Your System Folder, which is probably the most important chapter in the book. Some representative headings are: Keepers (Crucial Extensions and Control Panels); Cute Little Gadgets that Don’t Do Much, and The Secret to Using Tons of Extensions.
The writing is lively and personable throughout, utilizing a friendly first-person approach. Each chapter ends with a summary of Important Things to Remember from the preceding text. My notes are full of superlatives: “great descriptions,” “excellent screen shots,” and “graphix = wow.”
Artwork deserves special mention, by Robin: “The delightful clip art is by Dean Stanton, from the Hoopla Collection, available from Image Club Graphics, http://www.imageclub.com.” I agree. The plentiful pictures range from helpful to hilarious, and make every page visually exciting.
If a little knowledge is normally dangerous, the authors have distilled a ton of knowledge into a potent and insightful expert guide to the Macintosh. Steve explains, that “our goal was to provide a way for the basic Mac user to move to power user status” quickly and easily. They succeeded.
Both Apple and third-party software are discussed in the fourteen chapters, including Managing Your Fonts, Disaster Recovery, Maximize Your Memory, and Get Great Graphics.
If you respond positively to focused text and snappy pictures, then this book is required reading. RECOMMENDED.
More Macs for Dummies, Third Edition
By David Pogue (http://www.pogueman.com)
ISBN 0-7645-0267-0, 358 pages
$22.99 U.S., $32.99 Canada, £21.99 U.K.
What can I say about David Pogue’s books? They’re great. He continues to be on my all-star list of columnists and authors. In More Macs for Dummies, we have the latest version of “what to do” and “how to do it,” once you have graduated from his original Macs for Dummies volume (now in its fifth edition). Readers are expected to be familiar with the basic operation of a Macintosh computer.
This book is divided into 24 chapters, within six major parts: productivity (advanced Mac system techniques), Faking Your Way Through … (Word, QuarkXPress, PageMaker, Photoshop, Illustrator, Premier, and several Internet applications), online accounts and the Web, Networks for Nitwits, troubleshooting and problem-solving, plus Great Material That Didn’t Quite Fit the Outline.
It is fair to generalize that in More Macs, we have real-world software and hardware situations described and addressed in a full-frontal manner. Computer books often tread a delicate line between system-wide and application-specific concerns. David plows right in, and we’re glad to be along for the ride (excuse the mixed metaphors, which are consistent with his witty and chatty writing style).
The book is loaded with sidebars, charts, screen shots, tips, tricks, bulleted facts and figures, useful illustrations and cartoons. Please don’t be misled by the Dummies title, or by the cute headings, such as “Down to Beeswax” or “Have a Stroke.” Lurking behind David’s light and lively text is a serious book of helpful exercises and knowledge.
My RECOMMENDATION is to spend a few minutes with this book at your local independent or mega bookstore and decide for yourself. I often give both books in the Macs for Dummies series as gifts, and the recipients use and enjoy them very much.
The Macintosh Bible “What Do I Do Now?”
Book, Third Edition
By Charles Rubin
ISBN 1-56609-095-4, 396 pages
$22.00 U.S., $31.00 Canada
By my estimate, more than half the active Macintosh users are running OS 7.x, and it is for this majority that the “What Do I Do Now?” Book was written in 1994. Author Charles Rubin genuinely covers the hardware and software basics in the first two chapters. Next he addresses Adjusting System Software, with special attention given to Extensions and Control Panels.
Rubin picks up steam in Chapters Four through Seven, in which he identifies, diagnoses, and explains how to repair most common problems.
We are given four pages of enticing System Error Codes, including the exotic number -22: “package 5 not present [Transcendental Functions].”
This book uses an unusual method for troubleshooting. First Rubin presents the Problem, then offers one or more Solutions. Throughout there are dozens of problems/solutions, and all are clearly written and illustrated. Sidebar “FYI” tidbits and tricks add depth to the instructional material. He provides time-saving convenient keyboard-command shortcuts, where appropriate.
“What Do I Do Now?” concludes with special chapters for these applications: Excel, Pagemaker, QuarkXPress, Word, and ClarisWorks, such as FYI: “You can also change CW column widths by holding “option” and dragging with the pointer between two column dividing lines.” Finally, an Alert Message Locator lists alphabetically every problem mentioned in the book, referenced by page.
The advice is valuable, even in a Mac OS8 world. I RECOMMEND this book as an alternative to Ted Landau’s Sad Macs or David Pogue’s Mac FAQs, if you solve OS 7.x problems “one at a time.”
The Macintosh Bible Guide to FileMaker Pro 3
By Charles Rubin
ISBN 0201-88356-2, 436 pages
$24.95 U.S., $34.00 Canada
From the most dynamic power user (you?) to the least (me!), everyone who has FileMaker Pro needs a good guide book. I *know* that FMP4 is out now, but I suspect that millions of Macintoshers continue, as I do, to use FMP3 with satisfaction.
Peachpit calls this book “a clear, accessible guide for people with no time to waste,” and I agree. FMP3 is a popular, flexible relational database application, and it deserves a high-quality book. The author has created a volume worthy of the software covered.
Speaking personally, I don’t use FMP often enough to be totally comfortable with it, but when I do use FileMaker, this book is my constant companion. The style and format integrate text and graphics seamlessly. FMP is a rather complex application, and Rubin is able to explain and illustrate the hundreds of features with clarity. Nearly every page has a helpful screen shot, dialog box, or tip icon.
The structure is predictable, beginning with terms, concepts, and installation, then proceeding through files, fields, records, and layouts. Readers learn how to find and sort their data, plus everything concerning designing, previewing, and printing reports. Do you utilize FMP’s scripting or networking features? Now you can!
My favorite is Chapter 15, with 70 pages on Using Functions, such as: “Abs(number): The Absolute Value (Abs) function converts the value inside the argument into a positive number. Use this function when the calculated value from one or more other fields may produce a negative number, but you’d rather see it as a positive number in the layout.” Do you understand that now?
Every chapter ends with a Troubleshooting section, in which specific problems are solved. Beginners might decide to read chapters “backwards,” to get a feel for the important issues covered.
If you are familiar with FileMaker Pro, and are now using version 4.x, most of this book will still be pertinent, so decide for yourself if you would rather wait for version 4 of Rubin’s book. If you plan to stick with FMP3 indefinitely, and are not an expert, I RECOMMEND this book for immediate purchase and reading.
By Joe Kraynak and Joe Habraken
ISBN 0-7897-1338-1, 682 pages
$29.99 U.S., $42.95 Canada, £27.99 U.K.
I have mixed feelings, most of them positive, regarding this hefty Internet guide book. The “six” categories covered are: Getting Connected, The World Wide Web, E-mail, Newsgroup, Web Publishing, and Web Directory. Here in Book Bytes, I concentrate heavily on the subjects of the Net and the Web, so what are my concerns with reference to an all-in-one volume? Stay tuned.
The book begins with a massive, detailed Contents section, then jumps right into Hardware and Software You Will Need to Access the Web. Here is where my eyebrows begin to rise. Due to the cross-platform nature of the text, the Macintosh OS is considered a less-equal partner to those other folks.
The Mac is given greater emphasis in unpredictable places throughout the book, which is not a big deal for experienced Internetters, but could be confusing for newbies. Most of the screen shots and illustrations derive from the Windows galaxy (or is it universe?).
This book contains basic information on connecting to Internet Service Providers, plus detailed instructions on using America Online. Web browsers, current to Internet Explorer 4, and Opera (of all things!), are explained in sufficient detail, as are the Lycos search engine and the Yahoo Web directory.
The 6-in-1 approach is a bit unusual, but the authors have done a good job, with useful procedures and guided steps for every application. The book is thorough and comprehensive, given the range of material, and is full of accurate, solid information, clearly written. The illustrations are okay, but not remarkable.
The final section, Internet Yellow Pages, contains over 80 pages of recommended Web sites, ranging from Alternative Medicine (http://www.drweil.com, one of my personal favorite sites) to Wine (http://www.winespectator.com, where I’ll go to celebrate once I send these book reviews to our editor).
I RECOMMEND Internet 6-in-1 for smart beginners and intermediate Internet individuals who learn by reading. I suggest buying and reading the book, then giving it as a gift to a buddy who uses Windows and who will loan it you on an as-needed basis.
Push Technology for Dummies
By Bud Smith
ISBN 0-7645-0293-X, 340 pages
$19.99 U.S., $26.99 Canada, £18.99 U.K.
As an experiment, I selected a Dummies book on a subject with which I have no familiarity whatsoever. Being a LEMU (See The Nemo Memo, Issue #30, October 1997), I’m in not in a hurry to clutter up my Internet-life and hard disk with “pushed” information. I am curious about the technology, though, so let’s look at Push Technology for Dummies. (Should I forward this book to columnist Mike Wallinga? I recall he likes being pushed around on the football field, and he has written something about PT in the recent past.)
The introduction has valuable explanations of what push technology is. The author explains, and implores:
As with most Dummies book, illustrations, tips, and warnings are plentiful, as are sidebars, such as “Should you wait for true push?” or “How much Regional News do you need?” Newcomers to PT will benefit from reading about the benefits of push, including saving time, free software, help with your work and life, and adaptability to Intranets and extranets (yep, there’s plenty of jargon to learn).
Alas, there are also problems: overburdening your computer and Internet connection, annoying and distracting you, and some setup and software management hassles. The author gives us straight talk in an accessible tone of voice. He admits there is an emphasis on push for Windows, but explains that push for Mac is coming very quickly, and will be essentially the same in practical usage. Bud Smith worked at Apple for seven years, by the way.
The bulk of the book is devoted to PointCast, Marimba Castanet, BackWeb, and then Internet Explorer 4.0 and “Netscape Netcaster Unveiled,” complete with cool channels for each of the two major browsers. Finally, a glossary offers descriptions for all the new terminology, such as: “PUSH/PULL, in which the user’s computer requests a download and then receives a relatively large amount of information (much more than a typical Web page).”
If you want a pleasant introduction to “the fast way to receive all the latest news from the Internet and the World Wide Web,” I RECOMMEND Push Technology for Dummies.
BMUG Fall ‘97 Newsletter
ISBN 0-201-69653-3, 304 pages
$29.95 U.S., $41.00 Canada
Includes CD-ROM disk
Once again, I think we’ve saved the best for last. The BMUG Fall ‘97 Newsletter is a large (8.5 x 11 inch) book + CD that has a viable lifespan much longer than its “Fall” name suggests. Of all eight books reviewed in this issue of My Mac, BMUG is my personal favorite.
It is a book, plus a well-endowed CD, plus a six-month membership in the Planet BMUG FirstClass BBS. I haven’t logged in yet, but I plan to do so after running my spell checker on this review. BMUG has been having some financial difficulties recently, but I have been told the BBS is here to stay.
In the book, a team of authors and editors first introduce readers to BMUG (Berkeley Mac Users Group) and its BBS (electronic bulletin board system). Then come, under separate headings, chapters full of informational, first-person-experience articles: Reviews, Features, Telecom, Language, Japan News, Healthy Computing, Living With the Mac, and Mobile Products.
A few choice examples are:
• Mac OS 8: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
• Electronic Traitors: Glabalink’s Language Translation Program
• Repetitive Strain Injury: Word to the Wise
• How Scripting Saved My Butt
• The Business eMate
Next come 50 pages of BMUG’s choice products, with descriptions and applicable resource information, including Panamax Surge Protectors (“perhaps the best surge suppressors made”), Sony Multiscan 17sfII monitors (“the best choice for most users”), and DiskFit backup software (“it will encourage you to do the task we all avoid”).
The book ends with a detailed index to every person and product mentioned, and an excellent three-column glossary of computer terminology.
Insert the CD into your Mac, and encounter the entire text of the newsletter in PDF format, plus 20 other folders containing BMUG membership and BBS material, a ton of Apple software current to OS 7.6.1, dozens of commercial and shareware updaters, and 50MB of software in the Newsletter PD Collection!
I definitely RECOMMEND this book + CD + BBS package, and I can’t wait to participate in Planet BMUG and discover the gems on the disk.
Thanks again for reading. I plan to review several different types of Internet books next month.