Mac OS X Help Line, Panther Edition
Book Review

Mac OS X Help Line, Panther Edition
Ted Landau
Peachpit Press
ISBN 0321193873
US $39.99

MacFixit web site founder and author Ted Landau’s newest book, Mac OS X Help Line, Panther Edition, has joined the ranks of David Weeks’ favorite OS X books. Until now, I’ve recommended David Pogue’s OS X The Missing Manual for beginners and intermediate Mac users. The nod for best advanced/expert level book has gone to Mac OS X Unleashed, penned by John and William Ray.

I’ve got to add Mac OS X Help Line (Help Line for short) to the canon of best OS X books. The Ray brothers’ Unleashed is geared more toward the Unix-oriented sysadmin/expert user. In contrast, Landau’s Help Line is written for the sophisticated OS X end user; someone who doesn’t need the plumb the Uniy depths of OS X, yet needs detailed information on complex topics.

Landau has found the right balance: he provides 1144 pages of OS X depth and detail that “normal” people can use. Help Line does sit firmly in the “boat anchor” category (try holding it out at arm’s length for a minute or so), but if there’s an OS X question that you or I could pose, it’ll most probably have the answer.

I could easily list the sections I found most interesting, but this review would swell to three or four pages. Suffice to say that you can find
detailed information on fonts (one of OS X’s least intuitive areas), printing, permissions, and the OS X startup sequence. Each section has plenty of “Technically Speaking” or “Take Note” sidebars to add even more detail to particular topics.

Like almost all OS X books, Help Line covers the basics on the iApps that ship with OS X. Don’t buy Help Line for the cursory coverage it provides on Safari, for example. Buy it for the detailed background information and troubleshooting tips for networking, instead.

Help Line’s production values are very good: the screen shots are clear and legible. Sidebars are set off with background colors that don’t get in the way of legibility. The binding has to hold 1144 pages together; I hope it lasts more than a year or two!

Now, Ted may object to my characterization of Help Line not being a newbie book, saying that he’s written a book accessible to all. I beg to differ. The Mac newbie will probably be scared off by the pages of detail on complex subjects, as she pages through Help Line trying to find out how to just rename a file. Pogue’s Missing Manual will better serve the beginner.

Even so, I can’t speak highly enough of this book. If you want the best work for advanced/expert Mac users who seek to learn more about the guts of OS X, but not from a systems administrator’s standpoint, buy Landau’s Mac OS X Help Line Panther Edition.

MyMac rating 5 out of 5

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