MacBook for Dummies

MacBook for Dummies
by Mark L. Chambers

Wiley Publishing, Inc.
ISBN 0-470-04859-X, 366 pages
US $21.99, CN $25.99, UK £14.99

My guess is that there are still a few folks out there, stragglers?, who are just now purchasing their first computers. Since you made it a MacBook, congratulations on picking one of the finest machines you can get for your hard earned dollar, euro, yen, or whatever. In the case of switchers, like me, extra congratulations are in order for finally waking up to the ease and fun of using the best processing system in the world. In either case, MacBook for Dummies should be all you need to become fluent in the use of your new MacBook.

The very first thing the reader will find in MacBook for Dummies is a Cheat Sheet. It consists of heavyweight paper colored in “Dummies” yellow so it will last throughout your MacBook learning curve. It contains Finder Keyboard Shortcuts, a comprehensive list of 24 keyed shortcuts, Mark’s Recommended MacBook Maintenance, a list of tasks and when each should be done. Examples are “Task: Empty Trash; Application: Software Update; How Often: Daily.” It also has Startup Keys you will eventually come to memorize. This Cheat Sheet will be invaluable to you as a new MacBook user.

For those of you who have had your MacBook for a while but are still finding some baffling issues you can’t seem to solve by yourself this book can be used to cherry pick, and solve those problems. It does not have to be read cover to cover, but I recommend that if you don’t know a lot about your MacBook this volume can open up possibilities of which you weren’t even aware.

Mark Chambers didn’t write this book for real dummies. After all, if you really were dumb you wouldn’t have a MacBook, now would you? He wrote it to be understood by anyone on almost any educational level. Here he introduces the MacBook and some of its most salient aspects in a way that eschews the classroom language of instruction in favor of plain-speak and often humorous conversation. In other words, it’s fun.

The author’s love of Macs, and of people, I’m willing to wager, comes through as he introduces us to the possibilities and wonders of a gem of a laptop.

After a short introduction Chambers gently sets us up with the simple conventions he uses in the book. This includes how MacBook for Dummies is organized which allows users of the MacBook with different degrees of experience to skip around the chapters as needed as mentioned earlier. He goes slow enough for almost anyone to follow and does not dwell on unnecessary minutia. He starts at the beginning — Unpacking your MacBook. Setting it up. Turning it on. Changing the battery. And a biggy — copying information from a Windows PC.

Mac OS X is the operating system of the beast and Chambers takes little time in getting us to set it up right. Step by step instructions including figures of the open windows are included. He even includes a table which illustrates what can be moved between Windows XP and Mac OS X as well as the application used in Tiger to open those files and documents.

Switchers will be glad that Chambers uses plain English to explain the similarities between Tiger and Windows XP. He shows why and how Tiger is so far ahead of its competition. His words are reassuring and convincing as he explains that truly high powered software has techno-wizards demanding exactly what your new MacBook supplies: reliability, performance, and ease of use.

Chapter 4, Working Magic with the Keyboard and Trackpad, introduces us to Finder, a part of launching and quitting applications, icons, shortcuts, and managing windows in Tiger. Even simple instructions for the proper use of the trackpad are included. “Hey, there’s no right click button.” Sure there is. Just hold down the Control (ctrl) button when you click. See? Easy.

Reviewers Note: On page 56 at the “TIP” our author “tips” us to… “tap the trackpad quickly and your Mac laptop counts that as a click. Two fast taps act as a double click.” When I did this my MacBook sat there looking at me like I was some kind of weirdo. It did not do as the author suggested. I knew that if I clicked the blue apple in the upper left of the screen I could get to “System Preferences,” and that’s how I found out how to set that feature up on my MacBook. It was not set originally as default for my laptop. Chambers could have written a short paragraph explaining this and saved me a little freakout time. But, no harm, no foul.

In just a couple of pages, and in straightforward language, the author demonstrates how to open and quit applications easy as you please. He then gives us a short primer on Icons called “A Field Observers Guide to Icons.” He explains how to easily create an Alias (“shortcut” for Windows nerds) in two simple moves and in two ways. He shows us how to copy items, single or multiple does not matter, from one location, like a CD-ROM, to another, like Desktop.

As with any sophisticated equipment, including MacBook, operating with efficiency takes a little memory work on the part of the user. Chambers suggests memorizing some keys and keyboard shortcuts to that end. He includes a simple “shortcuts” table. With a little practice you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Chambers then gives us some simple operating system problem solvers. He calls them “speeder-uppers.” Stuff like how to analyze your desktop for efficiency, adding time savers to the Dock, using Trash and rescuing from it, using Expose and Dashboard to perform desktop magic, and printing documents. For multiple users of the same computer we are shown how to create a “home folder” for each person which contains all of their personal files and documents. He even shows us how to have every Finder window open automatically within your home folder. Four clicks and you’re there. Easy.

Mark Chambers has been using and writing about computers for more than twenty years. When he shows us his preferences for things like the Desktop and the Dock we should take note. Maybe even follow suit, at least until we find out how we need to be set up. It’s so easy to customize these features that even if you don’t like his preferences we can make our own in just a few short minutes.

The author introduces us to Dashboard and shows us how it’s really an alternative desktop. When I started exploring all the “widgets” available I realized I had barely scratched the surface of this feature just looking around without his help. Wow, what fun. Same thing with Expose. It’s a fun and easy way to save time and energy switching between applications.

In the aforementioned System Preferences, you will find all the tools necessary to customize almost every feature of Tiger, including personal information, hardware, internet, and system (like double tapping the trackpad for double click). For you gamers, Chambers shows how easy it is to switch the characteristics simply and easily. Even though appearances aren’t everything, he shows us how to change the appearance of virtually everything, from buttons, to menus, windows, selected text, drop down list boxes, and more.

With Spotlight and Sherlock, our great guru Mark Chambers shows us once again that with Mac the future is now. For instance, want to find all the data connected with a person including any documents, pictures, emails, or events? In other words,every occurrence of the person’s name inside your electronic PDF documents. Spotlight does all that. And Sherlock, “the best Internet search tool ever,” is thoroughly explained.

You can’t get faster than Safari when it comes to internet surfing. Here MacBook for Dummies takes us through each step to be a real power user on the Internet. This section alone is worth the price of the book. I won’t go through all he details. Trust me, it’s ALL here.

Another great feature of your new MacBook is .Mac. You must subscribe to .Mac in order to benefit from it but the benefits far outweigh the miniscule annual cost. You can try it free for 60 days. Chambers shows how to update our .Mac files, storage, folders, and monitoring and configuring your idisc.

Connecting your printer and scanner to your MacBook is a breeze with the author’s efficient instruction. Even network printers are covered in this chapter.

We’ve all seen the great Mac/PC commercials aired lately. The one where PC is getting his new camera taped to his head is a scream…and true. Your new MacBook comes with its own built in camera and microphone. That means simple video conferencing or live video, or snapshots. Chambers works through how easy it is to use these fantastic features.

In Part IV, Living the Life, our author eloquently covers iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD, and Garage Band. It’s called the iLife Suite and it’s loaded with everything you need to express yourself visually or sonically. Chambers goes through each of these applications as though his life depended on it. By the time you’re done you’ll be the envy of your neighborhood, and beyond. All the different audio formats are explained, happily. And exclusive to Apple is Apple Lossless, a favorite of audiophiles because the compression doesn’t effect the sound quality as in MP3 or AAC files. He even shows us how to broadcast music via the Airport Express base station. Very cool.

Listening to podcasts, listening to CDs, and watching videos are amply covered. Creating playlists becomes a breeze with Chambers’ guidance. Check out “visualization,” or “music for your eyes.” Importing songs or burning a CD is easy as pie.

To avoid writing any more about each and every aspect of the rest of Chambers’ book, and many more remain, MacBook for Dummies is enough information for even the seasoned Mac user to glean new and valuable insights. Want to make movies? iMovie has got you covered. There are even visual effects for you to play with. Need to make DVDs? The chapter on iDVD will have you creating DVDs in a flash. For all you song writers out there, Garage Band is at your disposal. You will learn how to add tracks, vocals with a mike, use MIDI instruments to record into your MacBook, and more. Much more.

Mark Chambers will show you how to share your MacBook with your families and multi-users. Since no computer is completely trouble free there is a great section on troubleshooting and maintenance.

This book is a winner for all of us who need a little help in getting the most fun and use out of our MacBooks. If you can find a better guide to using your new Mac, buy it. But finding it could present another problem that’s not covered in this book. Good luck, and good computing.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


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