Mac OS X: The Missing Manual – Book Review

On January 9, 2004, in Book Review, by Russ Walkowich

Mac OS X: The Missing Manual (Panther Edition)
David Pogue

Pogue Press/O’Reilly Associates
ISBN 0-596-00615-2
Price: US $29.95 CA $43.95 (Check pricing at online sites!)
763 pages

David Pogue has definitely gotten the Missing Manual format down pat. His latest endeavor, the fourth in his Mac OS series, Mac OS X: The Missing Manual (Panther Edition) has built upon his previous versions and takes the reader through the “joys” of OS X Panther. From install to Terminal use, Mr. Pogue walks you through the process of getting down and dirty with Panther.

Starting with what one sees when they first start up Panther, Mr. Pogue takes the reader through the basics of the Mac desktop; folders and windows, organizing things, the Dock, the Sidebar, and how to arrange and rearrange things to suit your own tastes and needs. Experienced Mac and OS X users may find things slow at the beginning, but Mr. Pogue does provide the whys and wherefores of Panther in a well-written, easy to understand manner that does make it a pleasure to read through every section. Mr. Pogue makes excellent use of hi-lighted boxes bearing titles of Frequently Asked Questions, Up to Speed, Nostalgia Corner, Gem in the Rough, Power Users’ Clinic and Troubleshooting Moment to explain and add emphasis to what is being covered in that chapter or section. The screen shots also add to explaining things as you go along.

As you read through the book, you are shown OS X programs, the use of OS 9 in the scheme of things “X”, and then the components of OS X that are available with the software. You are also shown the free programs that come with OS X; Font Book, iCal, iTunes, iSync, Safari, Sherlock, QuickTime Player, to name a few, and how to make use of their capabilities. Want to import pictures from your digital camera to your Mac? Page 288 will show you how, and then show you how to share them, print them and finally email them out to friends and family.

Mr. Pogue then takes you into the technology of OS X and its UNIX underpinnings. Administrator and Standard accounts are shown, their setup and usage, signing in, logging out, Fast User switching, Networking… the list just goes on. Every aspect of the OS is shown and explained, from A to Z. Best of all, Pogue does it with humor, wit and a writing style that doesn’t bog you down or put you to sleep, particularly when you get into the aspects of UNIX. For new users of the Mac or new converts to OS X, Unix and the use of Terminal is geek-speak to the nth degree. Bash, tcsh, pwd, Is, cd, mv, rm, srm, using man; they’re explained and their usage is also shown. While you might not want to use them, it’s good to have the knowledge available just in case you have to use it somewhere down the line.

I was a bit surprised at the amount of little gems that I picked up as I read through the book. Access to the Character Palette, keyboard viewer, storing Apple Software Updates… how many of you know that you can save that Software Update by choosing UpdateÆInstall and Keep Package? Want to play a game of chess but have no one to play with right now? Why not try playing against your Mac by going into your Applications folder, double-clicking on Chess and then choosing new game. Have a microphone available? Try using the voice-recognition feature and tell your Mac what moves you want to make where. Are you a new convert from an older Mac OS and you’ve just switched to OS X and you’re not sure what happened to some of your favorite Mac features? Not to worry as Appendix C provides you with a complete guide as to what stayed and to what disappeared. Oh, and for the new Mac users who have switched from Windows, don’t worry, Appendix D will provide you with a handy-dandy listing of what does what in OS X.

Oh, by the way, when you first open the book, there on the inside cover is a drawing of the Missing CD-ROM that didn’t come with the book and that just saved you $5.00 off the cost. Not to fear, you are directed to go to http://www.missingmanuals.com and click on the Missing CD icon. Once there, you will find links to 22 sites containing additional software that Mr. Pogue covers in the book.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is well written and covers what a Mac user needs to know to work with OS X Panther. As has been stated in the past with Mr. Pogue’s other Missing Manual books- this is what should have come in the box with your Mac. But since it didn’t, run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore or online book seller and get yourself a copy of Mac OS X – The Missing Manual (Panther Edition) This is a definite must-have for Mac OS X users!

Highly Recommended!

My Mac Rating: 5 out of 5

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