Book Bytes welcomes O’Reilly Associates to our distinguished list of preferred publishers, joining our regulars: Peachpit, Macmillan, and IDG (plus Osborne from time to time).
I just double-checked my Book Bytes archives, and the July issue was our first anniversary, the same month the Nemo Memo made its debut. My Mac has reviewed dozens and dozens of books since that first humble offering. We have settled on eight books per month as our standard fare, with special bonus sections from time to time. When you have a moment, please let me know your opinion of Book Bytes, and what you would like to see us cover during the next year or two.
PalmPilot, The Ultimate Guide
by David Pogue
O’Reilly & Associates
ISBN 1-56592-420-7, 489 pages plus CD
$29.95 U.S., $42.95 Canada
This is weird. I’m holding a CD containing over 900 programs for the Palm-III, and I have absolutely no way to test them. I’m attempting to obtain a review-copy of this popular handheld computer, but I want readers to become familiar with this book immediately. If someone out there at Palm Computing is listening, please send me a Palm-III right away. Thanks.
David Pogue is one of my favorite authors. His writing consistently jumps off the page with humor, solid facts, and idiosyncratic insights. This book is no exception.
David loves his PalmPilot. Excuse the confusion, but what formerly was called PalmPilot is now called simply Palm, as in Palm Computing, and the latest version is the Palm-III, which I will abbreviate as P3.
Let’s start at the rear of PalmPilot, The Ultimate Guide. In the first appendix, “150 Programs Worth Knowing About,” Pogue pays special attention to the applications he considers the cream of the crop. His top 150 are itemized in alphabetical categories covering 25 pages, ranging through Calculators, Eating and Cooking, Plain Old Fun, gazillions of Games, Utilities, Word Processing, and plenty more.
The author is a certified gadget freak, so Appendix B covers accessories, from practical stylus replacements to the Rhinoskin Cockpit (no kidding, friends): “If this titanium coffin can’t protect your Pilot, nothing can.”
Scanning the book from back to front, we encounter tons of upgrading and troubleshooting tips in Chapters 16 and 15, then a cadre of communications features in Chapter 14, “Paging, Faxing Printing, and Beaming.” Every chapter concludes with an “Executive Tip Summary,” which augments his wit-and-wisdom approach to an otherwise serious subject.
Chapters 13 and 12 were real eye-openers for me, in which I learned how the Palm-III is a breeze for browsing the Web and sending/receiving email. Programmers and hackers will love Chapter 11, which goes right to the heart of writing software for the Palm.
Did you know you can play music, plus paint and draw on the little thing? How does David Pogue know all this stuff? When does he have time to figure it out, then write about it, and always be current in his approach?
The front half of the book is the no-nonsense part, with extensive chapters on setting up the Palm, installing new programs, entering words and data, connecting the P3 to your computer (Macintosh, of course, but it also does Windoze), and using the many versatile built-in programs.
I’m getting VERY frustrated, and am ready to try out this magnificent little computer myself. Enough reading and writing. Get yourself a P3, crack open PalmPilot, The Ultimate Guide and its abundant CD, and send me an email message. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Plus Pack for Palm III: Killer Software CD
Macmillan Digital Publishing USA
(with golf companion, world clock, language translator, picture viewer, pocket drum kit [honest!], electronic flash cards, and Pocket C, to “create and run C applets”)
… and …
Business Plus Pack for Palm III: Business Tools
Macmillan Digital Publishing USA
(contains a special calculator, world clock, project tracker, time tracker, money tracker, screen magnifier, database viewer, and personal info manager)
QuarkXPress 4.0 in a Nutshell
by Donnie O’Quinn
O’Reilly & Associates
ISBN 1-56592-399-5, 525 pages
$19.95 U.S., $28.95 Canada
This book is the first of several we will review here at Book Bytes, in O’Reilly’s “nutshell” series: “comprehensive, quick-reference books, at truly affordable prices, for the sophisticated user.” I agree with this PR description, and it is a pleasure to be able to breeze through QuarkXPress 4.0 in a Nutshell for my initial look at the lineup.
I would not normally consider a 500-page book to be a quickie, but neither is XPress. I am in awe of desktop publishing pros who blast through QuarkXPress on a daily basis. Should they stop work for a moment to purchase this book, then use the darn thing? We’ll see.
Part One covers the multitude of tools available in XPress. These 40 pages are all text, but are highly descriptive. The astounding array of features and commands that derive from the FILE and EDIT menus consume over 125 pages in the next two chapters. There are a few screen shots, but again exhaustive text is dominant.
Next comes equal treatment for QuarkXPress’s STYLE menu used when a *text* box is selected and the Content Tool is active; followed by a similar chapter for the STYLE menu used when a *picture* box containing an imported graphic is selected and the Item Tool or Content Tool is active.
On and on goes the encyclopedic reference approach of QuarkXPress 4.0 in a Nutshell, through the ITEM menu, PAGE menu, then VIEW and UTILITIES menus. Whew! I’m exhausted trying to capture the spirit of this ambitious book in a capsule review. There are countless “Special Notes,” the name for the author’s practical tips.
After all that time spent with menus, Part Three tackles QuarkXPress’s powerful palettes: Measurements, Document Layout, Style Sheets, Colors, Trap Information Palette, Lists, and Index.
The two appendices may themselves be worth the price of admission: Common Techniques illustrate proper use, or “represent the dominant techniques and issues required by an advanced XPress user,” with 100 pages of specific examples! Each feature is presented in the same sequence as in the main chapters, and tips, now called “Notes,” are plentiful and sensible.
Finally, in Appendix B, “XPress Shortcuts,” every single one of them, are listed in mind-numbing detail.
Overall, I am very impressed with QuarkXPress 4.0 in a Nutshell. Donnie O’Quinn and O’Reilly have done a stellar job of giving us a phenomenal quantity of information in an approachable format. These books are now available in most large bookstores, and can be ordered from any bookseller in the world.
I admit that much of this book is beyond my capability, but I am confident that “this reference will prove invaluable to any serious XPress user,” as the book jacket promises. RECOMMENDED.
Word 98 for Macintosh, Visual QuickStart Guide
by Maria Langer
ISBN 0-201-35354-7, 260 pages
$17.95 U.S., $24.95 Canada
Word is here to stay, and so are Maria Langer and Peachpit Books. Yeah! In the first chapter, after a very brief intro, we encounter a large view of “The Word Screen,” with itemized arrows pointing to its nineteen different features and functions. Next, the mighty Microsoft Toolbar is explained in detail. All of the basics of Word 98 are covered in Chapter Two.
Maria appears to have gone overboard, in the best sense of the term, with respect to screen shots, graphics, and tips. The Visual QuickStart format is perfect once again, utilizing outside columns for text and inside columns for the illustrations.
In the subsequent chapters we learn about basic and advanced formatting. The author appears to have left no stone unturned in her efforts to aid readers in getting the most out of this massive application. Word’s extensive AutoFormat options are my kind of feature, and I like the way Maria explains complex operations in straightforward language.
I have always been a complete numbskull when it comes to setting up tables within a Word document. After reading Chapter Ten of Word 98 for Macintosh, turn me loose on your tables and watch the rows and columns fly. The author’s tips in this section are especially valuable, such as: “To insert a row at the bottom of the table, position the insertion point in the last cell of the table and press TAB. An empty row is inserted.”
Here are some of the additional subjects covered in the book:
• Menus, Preferences, and Shortcut Keys
• Envelopes, Labels, and Mail Merge
• Inserting Objects and Multimedia Elements
• Web Pages
Power users may prefer a more substantial text, but most people will be able to maximize their performance using Microsoft Word 98 by allowing Maria Langer into their computing life once again. She has created a companion website, full of examples from the book and additional online resources. Quit monkeying around. If you use Word and want to extend your skill and proficiency, hurry up and get Word 98 for Macintosh. RECOMMENDED.
FileMaker Pro 4 for Windows & Macintosh
Visual QuickStart Guide
by Nolan Hester
ISBN 0-201-69664-9, 321 pages
$17.95 U.S., $24.95 Canada
Each week it seems that more applications are cross-platform. We Macintoshers may ultimately be the beneficiaries of this trend, as software developers and book publishers can consolidate their resources and include us in the process.
Authors usually either provide screenshots for both Mac and Windows, or mix ‘em up equally throughout the text. Both techniques are acceptable. This book handles the cross-platform issue effortlessly, indicating both major and minor distinctions clearly.
FileMaker Pro 4 (FMP4) is a powerful database application, yet its concept of creating and modifying “records” is easy to grasp. As Visual QuickStart Guides go, FileMaker Pro 4 for Windows & Macintosh follows the mold, without breaking any new ground (excuse the mixed metaphor; couldn’t resist).
Beginners and converts from ClarisWorks will appreciate the detail the author puts into the first seven chapters, covering all the essentials of working with FMP4. Experienced users and serious newbies will get right to work in Part Three: “Creating and Designing Databases,” which comprises the bulk of the book. The biggest chunk, over 50 pages, is devoted to creating layouts, which is my personal downfall. (Excuse me, while I read this chapter again. Time out. It is just wonderful.)
Relational databases are new to me, and I look forward to learning how to set them up, thanks to FileMaker Pro 4 for Windows & Macintosh. FMP4’s most outstanding new feature is being able to publish databases on the Web, with either instant or custom Web publishing.
The seven Appendices are the cake’s icing: installing, setting preferences, using the help and tutorial components, plus functions, script commands, keyboard shortcuts, and online resources. I think this one is an easy call. Beginner and intermediate users of FileMaker Pro 4 need this book. Admirable text, screenshots, and price. RECOMMENDED.
Sams Teach Yourself Excel 97 in 10 Minutes
by Jennifer Fulton
ISBN 0-672-31326-X, 205 pages
$12.99 U.S., $21.95 Canada, £10.99 U.K.
Excel 97 is close enough to Excel 98 that I wanted to see if this little book would be helpful for total beginners. Excel’s features are well-suited to a series of mini-lessons, such as Toolbars, Getting Help, Entering Data, and Editing Entries.
I keep thinking that these tiny Sams books will disappoint me and prove to be inadequate, but they consistently surprise me by packing a potent punch within a petite package. For example, working with Charts is one of the most powerful and most misunderstood aspects of using Excel. Teach Yourself Excel 97 in 10 Minutes goes deeper into this topic then I would have thought, and also covers 3-D charting.
If you find yourself quickly needing to learn the basics of Microsoft Excel, this book will do the trick. For a bit more money, though, the following book is a better choice.
Excel 98 for Macs for Dummies
by Greg Harvey and Shane Gearing
ISBN 0-7645-0227-1, 362 pages
$19.99 U.S., $28.99 Canada, £18.99 U.K.
“This book is written expressly for users of Microsoft Excel 98 running under version System 8 of the Macintosh operating system.” Okay, guys, now what? Excel is the ultimate heavy-duty spreadsheet application, but Excel 98 for Macs for Dummies treats it like a muscle-car that needs just the tiniest bit of proficiency to go roaring down the strip at 130 miles per hour. Snappy writing, plentiful screen shots and tips, and sidebars galore.
The approach is very much bottom-up, beginning with 50 pages on the basics: launching Excel, working with cells, and the meanings of the various mouse pointer shapes, all seven of them. Excel’s Toolbar is extensive, so each icon is pictured, named, and explained. Ditto for the Menu Bar features and dialog boxes.
Beginners will appreciate Chapter Two: “Creating a Spreadsheet from Scratch,” including AutoFill, Formulas, Functions, and AutoSum. Chapter Three utilizes the lesson-style of instruction to explain cell and spreadsheet editing, plus custom formatting. Next come plain English explanations on how to change data, then save and print either the working document or finished product.
The authors do users a great service in Parts Three and Four, including five chapters under the headings “Getting Organized and Staying That Way” and “Life Beyond the Spreadsheet.” As the reader’s understanding of Excel’s power grows, Greg and Shane keep the writing friendly and personal. I am no wizard with charts, but “Conjuring Up Charts with the Chart Wizard” took away my feeling of intimidation from the first paragraph.
The book concludes with sections on macros, hyperlinks, and then dozens of common-sense tips and keyboard shortcuts. For newcomers to Excel 98, look no further than Excel 98 for Macs for Dummies. It is enjoyable to read, and it helps you get the job done correctly first time around. RECOMMENDED.
Macworld Office 98 Bible
by Bob LeVitus
Deborah Shadovitz, Edward Jones,
and Derek Sutton
IDG Books Worldwide
ISBN 0-7645-4041-6, 843 pages
$39.99 U.S., $56.99 Canada, £36.99 U.K.
This bible is a monster, so prepare yourself accordingly. I have had more requests to review the Macworld Office 98 Bible than any other book in the history of Book Bytes. What’s the big deal? Well, Office 98 is the biggest deal around, and it requires a massive book.
For openers, every user of Office 98 should memorize Chapter One, which covers installation, setup, and basic features of the suite of applications. Ignore this advice at your own peril. Each chapter concludes with a bulleted summary, plus an itemized list of “where to go next” based on logical links to other parts of the book.
The component units of Office 98 each have a separate chunk of the book devoted to them, beginning with nearly 300 pages for Word 98. I call them books-within-a-book, because they are very extensive. More power users utilize Microsoft Word than any other Mac application, and it warrants full-service handling in the Macworld Office 98 Bible.
Page after page, from templates to text to graphics to formatting, special features, and loads more, Word gets top-drawer treatment in a dozen chapters. It’s all here: keyboard shortcuts, toolbar buttons, tables, outlines, mail merge, indexing, and faxing, plus working between Word and the other Office 98 components. The (dreaded?) Word Macros are explained so even I can understand how to run them.
Chapters Ten and Eleven hold the most interest for many users: desktop publishing and “Word on the Web.” Finally, the “Word Top Ten” addresses the most common concerns users have, in extensive Q&A format.
Yikes, here comes Excel, ranging through another dozen chapters and 200+ pages. Same thing: thorough, well-written techniques for doing it all with Microsoft’s workhorse spreadsheet. Copious screen shots and tips are lucid and logical. Did you ever give much thought to the “Format Painter”? If not, here’s your chance, on page 381.
Macworld Office 98 Bible is consistent in the way each major unit unfolds, facilitating both systematic and task-based reading.
Onward we travel, next with PowerPoint, Outlook Express, and a quick overview of Internet Explorer. I am not doing this book justice with such a sketchy commentary; you must see it for yourself.
The five appendices address installation of Office 98, then Quick Start sections for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and a clever “one-stop shop” on “Customizing Toolbars and Menus.”
I must be honest, readers. Many of you know I’m a ClarisWorks guy, and my needs are satisfied without requiring me to run Office 98. This book truly hits the mark, and makes me secure to use Office 98 with confidence, as the need arises. I predict this Macworld Office 98 Bible will be a best-seller for the authors and for IDG Books.
Researching Online for Dummies
by Reva Basch
ISBN 0-7645-0382-0, 329 pages plus CD
$24.99 U.S., $35.99 Canada, £23.99 U.K.
I have written this book many times in my imagination. Now that it is sitting here on my desk, how does the real thing compare? The librarian-author has a tremendous list of credentials and credits, so she had better be good, right? Reva Basch’s goal is to “convey what it’s like to approach the online world from inside the mind of a virtuoso researcher who truly enjoys her work.”
Chapter Two is our first giant step, “Thinking and Working Like a Researcher.” These fifteen pages are more than most Webheads ever bother to learn, regarding focusing, organizing, conducting, and evaluating an Internet search. Next come Reva’s favorite general and specialty search engines, followed by “subject catalogs,” such as Yahoo and The Mining Company (http://www.theminingcompany.com), which uses guides to “mine the Net for premium resources and haul these resources out, into the light of day.” Neat! I’ll check it out very soon myself.
My favorite section in Part Two, “Tools of the Trade,” is Chapter Seven, covering “ready reference: finding facts fast.” Bazillion libraries are indexed through the sites in her “visiting libraries online” chapter. Gated servers, such as LEXIS-NEXIS, receive extensive descriptions, as do the people-based services, such as DejaNews.
The book gets serious in Part Three: government, business, and the news media are discussed thoroughly and patiently. Researching Online for Dummies concludes with units on copyright, and then, in “The Part of Tens,” special tips and techniques that help users crystallize all the information previously digested.
There are two bonuses. I applaud the inclusion of a 30-page Internet Directory, in Yellow Pages format, which is itself worth most of the cost of the book. The CD contains essential software and specific links to assist users who really want to get the most from this unusual book. I will use Researching Online for Dummies, and you should too. RECOMMENDED.
Windows 98 for Dummies
by Andy Rathbone
ISBN 0-7645-0261-1, 382 pages
$19.99 U.S., $28.99 Canada, £18.99 U.K
A warm-and-fuzzy attitude keeps readers and new users interested, for learning the essentials of Win98. Good value for money, and suitable choice for Windows newbies.
Master Windows 98 Visually
IDG Books Worldwide
ISBN 0-7645-6034-4, 713 pages plus CD
$39.99 U.S., £36.99 U.K.
I have always adored maranGraphics productions, for their blend of illustrations and text. The book is organized in two-page lessons, full of bullets, arrows, and numbered graphics. My personal choice.
Alan Simpson’s Windows 98 Bible
by Alan Simpson
IDG Books Worldwide
ISBN 0-7645-3192-1, 1112 pages plus CD
$39.99 U.S., $56.99 Canada, £36.99 U.K.
A well-designed and written bible, in the tradition of the many fine IDG/Macworld Bibles covering Macintosh products. The text is written in the first person. CD has over 160 shareware programs, which are described in the book. Serious Win98 users will want to sample this book or its heavyweight competitor, listed below.
Windows 98 Secrets
by Brian Livingstone and Davis Straub
IDG Books Worldwide
ISBN 0-7645-3786-7, 1207 pages plus CD
$49.99 U.S., $69.99 Canada, £42.99 U.K.
Very impressive and expensive. Power users with an unlimited budget of time will appreciate the care put into this book. The CD contains 250 MB of software.
Next month we’ll get back to the colorful world of website design and graphics. Bye until then.