Take Control of Customizing Panther
Review

On January 2, 2004, in Book Review, by David Weeks

Take Control of Customizing Panther
by Matt
Neuburg
TidBITS Electronic Publishing http://www.tidbits.com/takecontrol
US $ 5.00 online purchases only

Veteran writer and long-time TidBITS contributor Matt Neuburg has penned the second installment in the Take Control series of e-books. In case you’re not familiar with this series of online-purchased e-books (See here and here), just know that they’re great short instruction manuals for learning about specific areas of Mac OS X.

With each succeeding release of Mac OS X, Apple packs more features under the hood. Unfortunately, the average user may not be able to find how to access these new features, let alone understand how to take best advantage of them. Take Control of Customizing Panther (TCCP for short) will show you how to make Panther look and feel just the way you like.

Neuburg starts with a concise explanation of how to set the default view for new Finder windows; something that’s unfortunately less than intuitive. His discussion of the Sidebar, one of Panther’s best new features (in my humble opinion) has a great tip about how to resize the width of the Sidebar itself. That little tip (you’ll have to read it for yourself!) saved me hours of fiddling.

Once you’ve mastered the Sidebar and Toolbar, TCCP leads you through Exposé, another Panther innovation whose settings may be a bit confusing. Exposé is a radical new method of window management, and it gets rave reviews from most Panther users. Again, it’s highly configurable, and each option gets a clear explanation from Neuburg. Now that I understand Exposé, I just need to get my brain and fingers to use it! Old user interface habits die hard.

Neuburg is former Classics professor, so he’s spent many hours fighting with font issues, especially those relating to non-Roman scripts. If you need to understand Font Book, the OS X application for font management, TCCP will get you on your way. After reading the Font Book section, I came away glad that I don’t mess with my fonts. Font Book has to be one of Apple’s most-poorly crafted applications. Part of the complexity of “whose font is doing what to which application” is due to OS X, but much of the confusion must be laid at Font Book’s feet. Publishers of competing font management software probably rejoice at how complex font management has become. TCCP’s coverage of Font Book will at least get you up and running. But Suitcase, a major competitor, is not aware of UniCode fonts and cannot preview them, so it has troubles of its own.

TCCP has a very complete discussion of keyboard shortcuts. Panther’s ability for the user to easily define their own keyboard shortcuts is a welcome addition. TCCP will show you how to customize the keyboard to best suit your working style. You may very well find that you don’t need to purchase third-party keyboard utilities after reading TCCP’s coverage of keyboard shortcuts.

The Take Control crowd may never sleep; Customizing Panther has already been revised. Version 1.1 incorporates new sections about third-party utilities, display profiles, Internet helper applications, the Classic menu, Services, Safari, and Terminal. A new final section, written by Tonya Engst, lists customizations you can make in System Preferences and Finder Preferences.

After several readings of Take Control of Customizing Panther, I found little to criticize. It covers each topic in the appropriate amount of detail; you’ll come away with a grasp of the basics, but you won’t be an expert. The tips (nicely highlighted in a contrasting background color) make the extra-special bits stand out for easy reading. References to software from third-party publishers are hyperlinked (one of the advantages of e-books) for easy Internet browsing.

Conclusion
Take Control of Customizing Panther is a must for Panther users who want to quickly and easily get OS X running just the way they like. Your $5.00 will be well spent. Highly recommended!

MyMac rating 5 out of 5

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