Switching To The Mac: The Missing Manual
Book Review

On July 10, 2003, in Book Review, by Wynne Stevens

Switching To The Mac: The Missing Manual
by David Pogue

PoguePress/ O’Reilly and Assciociates, Inc. , Sebastopol, California
434 pages, black and white
ISBN 0-596-00452-4
$24.95 (USA) , $38.95(Canada)

This is the second book John has asked me to review on the subject of switching to a Mac. Perhaps he is trying to tell me something. Believe me, I need no subtle encouragement. My inferiority complex grows daily as I peddle artwork knowing was created on a PC – while all my clients are using Macs. (I have, of course, told no one of my dirty little secret). But ten years ago I needed AutoCad and 3dStudio and there was no support for them on the Mac. So I invested in these programs back when they would run only in DOS and, later, when they converted to Windows, thinking all was okay.

And I spent years trying to master this software and loyally upgraded each time another version was developed. Finally, I figured out how to make a living using AutoCad and, particularly, 3dStudio in combination with Photoshop. Now I’m stuck.

And to make matters worse, AutoDesk, the company who makes AutoCad and 3dStudio, has grown almost as arrogant and insensitive as Microsoft. For example, I skipped an upgrade because, quite frankly, it wasn’t worth it. So now, when I investigate upgrading again, I’m told that I’m out of the loop and have to repurchase the software if I want the latest version! The continual upgrading of software is generally a good thing. However, when one version can’t read the files of another and the developer starts to bully you into buying its upgrade, it’s time to move on and, I guess, that’s where I am now.

Sorry to begin a review with a rant but I never miss an opportunity to whine. It seemed an apropos way of starting. Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual is a good reference book for ex-Windows users who have recently acquired a Mac. The title implies that ex-Windows users need a separate manual to make the transition. Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch – I wouldn’t know. But I’m fairly sure that whatever manual comes with the Mac doesn’t make many comparisons with its Windows counterpart. The Missing Manual does. It’s divided into four sections. The first is a general overview of the interface beginning with differences between it and Windows and progressing into the desktop with all the nuances that make the Mac unique and preferable. Sure, there’s bias here, and probably justified. (Are there any books out there on switching from the Mac to the PC or why PC users should stay where they are?)

The second section of the book describes the process of physically moving one’s computing environment from the PC to the Mac – files, software and hardware peripherals. Included are various ways to move data files and email stuff and how the Mac views and treats this data. The process is explained clearly and simply – definitely valuable information for the Mac converts who might otherwise think he or she would have to start over from scratch. There’s a chapter devoted to numerous programs such as those from Adobe, Macromedia, Intuit, etc. al. with brief descriptions on their functionality on the Mac and ability to read files from either platform. Not addressed are sound editing, CAD, rendering programs or games. Given that the Mac excels graphically and musically, this would seem to be a formidable oversight.

I also found it curious that no mention is made of the financial drain associated with repurchasing all this software – the fact that Mac programs read files created by it’s PC equivalent is well and good, but if you’re going to really put the Mac to its graphical test, you’ll need programs that will do it justice, namely those from Adobe – and they don’t come cheap…

The chapter on hardware seemed scant and, at times, rationalized. There were hints of driver and cable incompatibility that I found a little disturbing, given my antiquated collection of peripherals. I was also left with the impression that scanning would be a bit of a hassle. While solutions and work-around’s are offered, cost was not mentioned.

There is a good section of getting connected on the Web with lots of information on setup, email and so forth. Again, descriptions are with the ex-Window user in mind.

The last section deals primarily the system itself – logging in, preferences, networking, etc., together with descriptions of the programs and utilities that come with the machine. These are well written and easy to follow and present a compelling argument in favor of the Mac over the PC.

While a good supplement for new Mac users – particularly those coming from the Microsoft environment, the book is really limited to that market. Furthermore, it appears to target the relatively unsophisticated Windows user who would have a fairly simple software library. It is probably not the best book for one who is considering a switch other than as a basic overview of the Mac’s capabilities as it does not completely address the issue of new software requirements or hardware incompatibility. All the illustrations are in black and white (makes the book less expensive) but, as such, presents nothing visually dramatic that would distinguish the Mac over the PC. A couple of side-by-side color screen shots as a center supplement to the book would do a lot I would think. Nevertheless, this is a well-documented book full of good information on using the Mac.

MacMice Rating: 3 out of 5


Wynne Stevens

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