How to Do Everything with Mac OS X Tiger, by Kirk McElhearn

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, November 2005
Published by: McGraw-Hill Osborne, ISBN: 0-0-226158-7
Requires: N/A
MSRP: US$24.99, CA$33.95, UK£14.99

When Apple released Mac OS X in 2001, a number of people (well, tens of thousands actually) sat up and took sharp notice almost immediately. The main reason for this excited response was simply that Mac OS X was undeniably refreshing and demonstrably powerful. In fact, there was also nothing else against which to compare OS X. Windows XP was a day late and a dollar short, despite being an order of magnitude more stable than Windows 95, 98 and Me. Windows XP could not boast the naturally integrated (and lovely looking) tools/interface duet which so clearly characterized the OS X design philosophy: attractively blended tools, power, ease of use and good looks all of which are accessible in several ways in order to satisfy the needs or preferences of a huge variety of existing and prospective users. The OS X achievement has not been topped or indeed even approached by successive updates and repairs of Windows XP. OS X has also not been topped by successive improvements and refinements to the various distributions of Linux. But all of the undeniably useful superiority inherent in OS X comes with a single caveat, to wit, without some sort of incisive guidebook, making use of all of the power built into the operating system may not be easy to achieve. Ergo, you need a reference and guidebook!

How to Do Everything with Mac OS X is a 490 page, medium format, clearly organized investigative and explanatory guide to the operating system. Whether you are an experienced Mac user or someone who has just purchased your first Mac, the book will provide you with thorough descriptions and usage examples of every major feature and almost every single minor utility and configuration option and function in OS X. More important than the scope of the book is the combination of detailed Table of Contents and the full referenced, 17 page Index. Above all else, that index will help Mac users from novice to pro find the exact detail needed to understand and use every function, feature, tool and built-in utility or productivity program. That's all very praiseworthy.

I've been using a Mac seriously for about a year as an adjunct to my main Windows workstation. I'm not an OS X novice by any means. But after looking up Automator in the Index and reading the relevant section of the book, I finally figured out how to put the function to work in a way that complements my work. The Automator explanation in the book was the first one to really make sense to me and the examples of simple and complex automations remain exceedingly helpful and explanatory. The book is full of succinctly explained examples of OS X-specific features.

Cons: No coverage of iLife and the omission leaves a rather large gap in the book's otherwise superb coverage of the operating system. While it's true that bundling of the iLife programs (iDVD, etc., etc.) was dropped after OS X v10.3 (Tiger is actually OS X v10.4), the iLife package is sold so often with upgrade copies of Tiger that I feel coverage should have been included. Coverage of Dashboard (little Widgets or mini programs which perform information and utility functions such as weather forecasts, stock tickers, calculators, and so on) is sketchy and does not go into the use of Widgets for productivity tasks which compliment other tools integrated in OS X. Despite the terrific coverage and examples of use throughout the book, there is a distinct absence of technical explanations of general technical computing terms. While those sorts of explanations may be a downer for intermediate and advanced readers, a few term definitions couldn't hurt. The book does not include any sort of Mac or general computing glossary, something I consider to be bit of a serious miss. Here's a decent Mac glossary. Here's the best Mac and general computing glossary available. Everybody join hands and repeat after me: ". . . please Mr. Publisher, give us a true, lay-flat book binding."

Pros: The overall quality and detail in the book overcomes any complaints. Very well done. Author Kirk McElhearn is undeniably one of the most respected Mac experts. Lots of kudos, not the least of which are the sensible organization and extremely thorough index. It's very easy to find what you're looking for. The book is very well written with a style and vocabulary that remains clear and succinct from page one through to the end. Excellent explanations of all major and minor functions and tools. Excellent section on the differences between Panther and Tiger, which provides a very clear understanding of what to expect for anyone who is upgrading. At 490 pages, the book is hefty but not overwhelming. Intermediate and advanced users will appreciate the manner in which explanations of unique OS X features such as Automator and Dashboard provide a launching point for independent exploration of the features. Novices will appreciate the thorough coverage—every section, module, add-on, integrated component, utility program and configuration tool is described, usually with accompanying usage examples. The McGraw-Hill Osborne "How to Do Everything . . ." series has always been a favorite of mine and this entry doesn't disappoint. Recommended.

Comments? Questions? Qualms? Technical problems? Send an e-mail!





© Copyright 2000-2006 All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | hot news | about us | search | store | subscribe


Forums Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe