Mac OS X Advanced Visual Quickpro Guide
Book Review

Mac OS X Advanced
Visual Quickpro Guide
Maria Langer

Peachpit Press
ISBN 0-201-74577-1
312 pages
USA $24.99 Canada $37.50

Maria Langer’s Mac OS X Advanced Visual Quickpro Guide is another addition to Peachpit Press’s Visual Quickpro series. The Quickstart and Quickpro series are designed to fill a specific niche: books that tell you how to accomplish specific tasks using short textual explanations and graphics.

If you are the kind of computer user who want a book that will tell how to perform a specific task, and does not want to wade through a 678 page textbook to find the answer, this is the kind of book for you.

Langer covers the fundamentals of OS X with pithy explanations and screen snapshots. She does not waste your time with how to use Mail, Sherlock II, the Apache web server, or any other major OS X applications. She focuses like a laser on using the core parts of OS X.

You’ll get a short description of OS X components, the Classic environment, Unix basics, networking, multiple users, AppleScript, and the various System preferences. The OS X utilities (Disk Utility, etc.) are also covered.

Langer has outsourced the chapters on Unix basics and Applescript to two outside writers. Unix is a fundamental part of OS X, and Langer clearly needs to devote some space to it. Ron Hipschman’s discussion of Unix is the more challenging of the two. Unix can be a daunting topic for those of us who love the Macintosh user interface. Hipschman covers the fundamentals, but he makes it somewhat more complex than need be. I found that he sometimes neglects to define his terms (operand, syntax, etc.), and that made me reach for a dictionary.

But while the power of Unix is undeniable, I find it hard to imagine that the target reader for a Visual Quickpro book would be paging through the section on Unix permissions, and applying Terminal commands in a “cook-book” fashion to try to fix a permission problem. Hopefully, such a reader would realize that a little Unix knowledge can be dangerous, especially when used under pressure (like trying to fix a problem while under a deadline.) If readers truly want to become comfortable with Unix, then they should get a book more suited to learning Unix from scratch.

Ethan Wilde’s AppleScript chapter is easier to digest, partly because the material will be more familiar to the average Mac OS user. His discussion of the power of AppleScript uses useful, real-world examples. These scripts would have been even better if Langer’s companion website had provided the scripts in downloadable form, so the reader would not have to type the script from scratch, with the attendant chance of errors.

Mac OS X Advanced Visual Quickpro Guide is laced with many screenshots, as befits its’ name. Unfortunately, the small size of many screenshots make them difficult to read, especially those that contain text. Larger shots would save the reader much eyestrain.

To this reviewer, one drawback of the Visual Quickstart series is that it is so task oriented. Langer does not provide much background as to why things are the way they are. You learn how to do specific tasks, but you don’t learn how to apply that knowledge to other areas. However, because Visual Quickstarts are small books, you don’t have to spend hours trying to find the right fix for your problem in some OS X book that is big enough to be a boat anchor.

So, if this the kind of computer book for you, Maria Langer’s Mac OS X Advanced Visual Quickpro Guide is one of the better books in the field.

MacMice Rating: 3.5 out of 5

David Weeks

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