Book Bytes – MyMac Magazine #46

Mac OS8.5 For Dummies
by Bob LeVitus
Dummies Press
ISBN 0-7645-0397-9, 404 pages
$19.99 U.S., $28.99 Canada, £28.99 U.K.

I predict that 99 percent of the people who have already upgraded to Mac OS 8.5 have no intention of looking at any book, ever, to help them get the most out of their favorite System software. At least a third of this huge number of users (plus most of the subsequent “upgraders”) can benefit from studying a book on the topic.

Bob LeVitus is back, and I’m glad he’s holding my hand once again. This latest Mac OS book follows the form and style of his previous Dummies titles. If it ain’t broke…

Mac OS8.5 For Dummies is excellent on the basics and essentials. This book is both a true beginners-delight, and a valuable refresher course for power users. If you don’t believe me, look at Chapter Thirteen: “How to Write an AppleScript in 21 Minutes.”

The book is easy to read and understand. LeVitus’ pages are visually interesting, with ample screen shots and sidebars. New OS 8.5 features are clearly marked with special icons. Tips and warnings enhance most pages.

You want humor? How about a hilarious photo of the author, illustrating the technique for making your own Jigsaw Puzzle replacement image, with Bob wearing shades and wielding a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar, circa 1973!

Certain chapters are particularly useful, such as the ones covering printing and file sharing. Bob’s advice on the Disk Cache should be committed to memory (excuse the pun) — see page 212. My personal favorite section is Part Three, aimed toward experienced readers, in which the System Folder is covered in depth.

Don’t let the title fool you. I RECOMMEND Mac OS8.5 For Dummies, and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED it for new users.

Travel Planning Online for Dummies
by Noah Vadnai
Dummies Press
ISBN 0-7645-0438-X, 323 pages plus CD
$24.99 U.S., $35.99 Canada, £23.99 U.K.

I used to throw a few items into a small backpack, and go… just like that! What a lousy traveler I was. Now I’m older, smarter, and I take plenty of time preparing for every trip and vacation. So should you.

During the last two years, the Dummies series has become mainstream in both content and style. I don’t miss all the cuteness one bit, especially when the topic is as important as my travel time and money.

This book is more than a series of recommended travel site Web URLs. The author knows his subject thoroughly, and anticipates readers’ concerns. Vadnai is as much a teacher as a tour guide. Both text and screen shots are first-rate.

The book contains: city guides, restaurant search sites, resorts of all sorts, accommodations, road and rail travel, plus trip tips for disabled, female, and senior travelers. Mailing lists, newsgroups, and online publications are covered, with much personal experience and guidance from the author.

Chapter Six, “Booking Your Flight Online” is particularly useful, and I plan to try one of the last-minute discount ticket operators this spring. A 30-page mini-directory yellow pages insert is a genuine bonus, and is surprisingly comprehensive. The book concludes with advice for physical and financial health and safety while traveling.

If there is a better book on the subject than Travel Planning Online for Dummies, I have not yet seen it. I intend to use this book and RECOMMEND this title for all beginner and intermediate travelers.

Internet Searching for Dummies
by Brad Hill
Dummies Press
ISBN 0-7645-0478-9, 331 pages plus CD
$24.99 U.S., $35.99 Canada, £23.99 U.K.

What’s going on here? Three Dummies books in a row? Well, I requested them from IDG Books, so let’s keep plugging away in Book Bytes.

In this title we have a subject that is very precious (and time-consuming) for me, and my standards are high. How does Internet Searching for Dummies satisfy my requirements, and those of our readers?

Author Brad Hill begins auspiciously with the theories and concepts inherent in searching the Net, then uses Lycos, Excite, and Yahoo directory services to ease readers into the quest. Next comes extensive material on search Keywords, and how they are handled differently by each engine.

Then, one by one, the major brand-name search sites are covered in depth, including special distinguishing features and preferences. Usenet searching is explained, as is the Deja News site.

The second half of Internet Searching for Dummies is dominated by chapters featuring real world examples of searching within specific broad topics: health, education, news, finances, people, publications, and computer files. A modest, idiosyncratic 20-page yellow pages is in the center of the volume.

I can’t put my weight behind this review, because for some reason I am unable to get excited about this book. Perhaps my personal knowledge is clouding my objectivity. Absolute beginners will definitely find the title to be useful, as will most intermediates. See for yourself, then decide, based on your experience and skill level.

Inside Adobe Photoshop 5 Limited Edition
by Gary David Bouton and Barbara Bouton
and Gary Kubicek
New Riders Publishing
ISBN 1-56205-951-3, 1054 pages PLUS two CDs
$55.00 U.S., $78.95 Canada, £51.49 U.K.

Here’s how it usually works. I receive a bunch of books every month from several publishers, then organize them into groups of eight, for future Book Bytes columns. The books are reviewed in approximately the order received, unless I need to shuffle the sequence to make for more balanced subject coverage.

Occasionally a book arrives that is so unusual it immediately jumps to the next available review spot. Inside Adobe Photoshop 5 Limited Edition is such a book. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is the BIG BOOK. This thick, heavy volume is the only hard-cover computer book we have ever reviewed. With software versions and upgrades changing monthly, New Riders is very courageous to publish this book and two-CD combo in such a substantial package.

Let’s start with the disks. They are loaded with software, demos, images, and text, and each one is truly a custom product. As the authors explain, this book+CDs is intended to be a dynamic learning tool, and they provide their philosophy for learning in a splendid final essay.

Starting at the back of the book, Chapter 25 is huge, with 85 pages of actual techniques for “The Author’s Favorite Third-Party Plug-Ins,” with a “recommended serving of one per day.” This is the final chapter of a book divided into six major sections, taking readers from the basics into advanced Photoshop techniques, including “Publishing and Beyond.”

The first three comprehensive introductory chapters set the helpful tone for the rest of Inside Adobe Photoshop 5 Limited Edition. Greyscale screenshots are plentiful throughout the book, plus two 16-page printed color inserts, and every image produced in color on disk. The illustrations are from Windows NT, but the authors give equal treatment to Mac OS whenever necessary. My personal favorite chapter is “Restoring Heirloom Photographs.” So many old pictures in my life, with so little time left!

Writing is patient, thorough, readable, and sensible. The chapters are extensive and lengthy, with breadth and depth in every topic and component. Pages contain plenty of white space for notes and sketches, and the production quality of the imagery is high. The sequenced lessons are well-presented, and the authors are particularly strong on special Photoshop effects.

Gary David Bouton reminds me, via email:

Although it’s not universally known, if we *ever* discover an error in any of our books, the correction goes up on our website immediately, and remains there until the publisher updates the book. The area is called “Updates” at <>.

The other thing is that we have a 250+ entry glossary on the first CD, in Acrobat format with cross-indices and full color images. It’s a fairly complete product that addresses Photoshop issues but extends to imaging in general with definitions and illustrations of anti-aliasing, resolution, color models, and so on.

Inside Photoshop 5 Limited Edition is a serious, expensive book/CD package, and it is worth every penny for dedicated users. For these people, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this title.

Internet Kids & Family 1999 Yellow Pages
by Jean Armour Polly
ISBN 0-07-211849-0, 724 pages plus CD
$34.99 U.S.

This book opens with highly-recommended “don’t miss hotlist” and “best of the rest of the book” websites, which are sufficient to get every reader immersed for at least an hundred hours of productive browsing. The author aims for her family-oriented yellow pages to be an interactive experience. She provides web addresses for both personal contact and book updates. Bravo!

The Internet Kids & Family 1999 Yellow Pages has the same “real Yellow Pages” look and feel as Osborne’s other directory, by Harley Hahn, which we have previously reviewed and recommended. Ms. Polly uses intriguing boxed Net Files quizzes to stimulate her readers’ thinking and searching, such as: “In what sport would you find the following terms: bump and run, fried egg, and smothered hook?” (They are all golfing terms, with URLs provided.)

Several of her many alphabetical sections are particularly comprehensive, and my favorites include: Astronomy and Space, Health and Safety, History, Holidays, Music and Musicians, and Sports. The site selections and reviews throughout the book are consistently high-quality.

On a personal note, I am currently spending “too much” time following her links for jazz music, Bach and classical music, and swimming websites, so if my phone is busy when you call, I’m on the Internet.

The book is full of educational and practical resources, in every possible subject area. Two huge special sections at the end of the book cover Countries of the World, and Parenting. This area, Parenting and Families, contains an outstanding introduction, plus over 150 selected sites.

Ms. Polly provides a special short course on Search Engines and Directories. Children and families are considered to be smart, savvy, and infinitely inquisitive. There is enough material in Internet Kids & Family 1999 Yellow Pages to keep all children, parents, educators, and everyone else productive (or goofing off) forever. I strongly RECOMMEND this title, and I use it myself on a regular basis.

The author has informed me, via email:

You might also mention that only this particular edition has a CD-ROM with all the URLs on it (older editions don’t). Regarding the updates, FYI we update the current edition all the time, and the updated URLs are found on my home page, where lots of (FREE!) samples from the book may be found: <>. BTW, John, we are an all-Mac shop here. 🙂 The updates occur in a FileMaker Pro database, with CGI hooks into it from the website.

Thanks, Jean.

Getting Started with 3D, A Designer’s Guide to 3D
Graphics and Illustration
by Janet Ashford
and John Odam
Peachpit Press
ISBN 0-201-69676-2, 170 pages
$34.95 U.S., $48.95 Canada

I admit it. This book sat on my “Book Bytes Pending” shelf for half-a-year before I got the courage to examine it. The thought of learning about 3D graphics was intimidating to me, so I kept skipping over this title when selecting books to review.

What a stupid idiot I was. Getting Started with 3D is one of the most pleasant and informative books I have studied in a long time. The authors enjoy their subject, and have put enormous skill and effort into making the reading and learning experience positive for all readers, including total newcomers to the topic (me).

Visually, the book is stunning. The design incorporates a flexible column format, with every page having a special look, within a consistent plan. There are hundreds of gorgeous color illustrations, including both familiar imagery and custom demonstration graphics.

Readers can turn to any page, then fire up their computers and start creating. The nine chapters are rich with information and inspiration, and can be tackled systematically or at random, depending upon the skill and imagination of the artist. From “Getting Started” and “The Basics of Desktop 3D” to “Manipulating 3D Objects” and “Lighting, Viewing, and Rendering,” each chapter is loaded with creative projects.

Sidebars and tips are plentiful, as are diagrams in which 3D objects are analyzed and viewed from several perspectives. The quality of the production is first-rate, from heavy paper stock to rich color graphics. The physical book is a strange shape, being very wide and not very high, so it sticks out from the shelf for easy locating and page-flipping.

If you have ever considered taking the plunge into Getting Started with 3D, do as I say, and not as I do! Find this book, and get going. I especially RECOMMEND this title for beginners and intermediates, due to the authors’ emphasis on the fundamentals, and full-color pictorial overview.

Palm III and PalmPilot Visual QuickStart Guide
by Jeff Carlson
Peachpit Press
ISBN 0-201-35390-3, 252 pages
$15.99 U.S., $23.95 Canada

I have been reading Jeff Carlson’s effusive praise for the Palm platform in TidBITS magazine <>. Now we have a full-service book on the Palm III, formerly known as Palm Pilot. (For simplification, let’s call it the P3, if you don’t mind.)

If ever there was a perfect match between book format and computer topic, here it is. Using a dynamic blend of lessons, tips, screen shots, photographs, sidebars, and illustrated Graffiti strokes, Carlson has put together a superior book for beginner and intermediate users of the Palm platform. Both hardware and software concerns are covered.

Palm III and PalmPilot Visual QuickStart Guide is divided into three major parts, covering essential P3 usage, networking, and organizational techniques and procedures. I was amazed both at the exceptional quantity of things you can do with the P3, and with Jeff’s ability to explain the huge range of applications and attributes in a conversational manner.

Both Mac and Windows synchronization are covered in detail, with screen shots from both platforms when necessary. URLs for recommended third party Web sites are plentiful. Suggestion, Jeff: print the URLs in bold type next time around; the tiny italic font is insufficient.

Carlson responds:

The style of writing URLs in italics can be difficult to read at times. Fortunately, all of the websites mentioned in the book can be found on the Links page at <>. If you’re online already, you can easily jump to that page and then jump to the page of whichever link in the book you’re interested in.

Personal data management is both the Palm’s and the author’s greatest strength. Users can achieve proficiency with a few basic tips, or become a true power user if desired. The chapters on the Date Book, Address Book, To Do List, and Memo Pad are particularly worthwhile. I have yet to see someone access email and the web with a Palm, but armed with Palm III and PalmPilot Visual QuickStart Guide I’m motivated to join the party.

I have already purchased a stack of these books to give as gifts to my Palm-using friends and associates. If you want to get the most out of your P3 or Pilot, this book will make your life much more productive. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Real World Illustrator 8, Industrial-Strength
Production Techniques
by Deke McClelland
Peachpit Press
ISBN 0201-35387-3, 832 pages
$34.99 U.S., $52.50 Canada

Wow! Did you hear that sound? A new “industrial-strength” application book just dropped on my front door step. Deke is back with another winner. How do these major-league authors manage to blast out one giant-size volume after another, several times each year?

My personal knowledge of Adobe Illustrator is limited, but I know a fine book on the subject when I see one. Illustrator is a powerful drawing program, and it deserves a potent book. Although the author uses colorful language and describes colorful imagery technique, the illustrations in the book are in greyscale, to keep the cover price more affordable. My opinion: give us color, and charge a bit more.

From installation to tools, palettes, icons, dialog boxes, and online help, every aspect of the program gets full-service treatment. Pages boldly display new features in Illustrator 8, plus profuse notes, warnings, and tips. The four major parts of the book (Starting, Creating, Changing, and Coloring) each have several chapters devoted to the huge range of techniques available to users.

Artists will already be comfortable with the drawing methods described, and non-artists, such as myself, will want to have the rest of the family disappear for a month or two, in order to have some mental space to try everything. Did you ever have a burning passion for “Adjusting Autotracing Sensitivity” or “Carving Holes into Compound Paths”? You will be satisfied.

I am amazed both at what this application can achieve, and with McClelland’s ability to explain it all clearly. Shortcuts receive full treatment in the Appendix, for versions 6, 7, and 8 of Illustrator.

You get the picture: this book is impressive. Whatever your requirements, I can definitely RECOMMEND Real World Illustrator 8 for every level of user.

•John Nemerovski• <>

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