Mac Guild Review Guidelines

You do not have to be a professional writer to write a review, but you should have a decent command of the English language, and serious intent to spend the time and effort needed to complete the review. Before signing up for a review, please take a look at the reviewer guidelines below.

The review guidelines below are for softare reviews. Hardware and book reviews use a slightly different format which are explained after the software review guidelines. At the bottom of this page are links for downloading HTML templates for the various review formats. If you are not comfortable with HTML, then simply follow the guidelines on this page, and submit your review in a plain text file with each section labeled appropriately.

  • The review should be broken down into the sections as indicated below. 
  • The review should be submitted in plain text. This means no special characters (such as curly quotes), and no hard returns (except between paragraphs).
  • Paragraphs should be separated by a blank line (no indentations), and each section labeled by a section name (e.g., In Use, Summary, etc.).
  • All reviews should have an appropriate number of screenshots. Submit JPEG screenshots as a zipped attachment, and in the text of your review, specify <<insert graphic [filename] here>> (where [filename] is the name of the JPEG or GIF file). 

The overview describes what the software is. Assume that the reader may never have heard of the software, so give a good overview of what type of software it is, what it's used for, and the intended target users. You should not provide your evaluation in this section.

Points to consider:

  • What is the software?
  • What need does this software satisfy?
  • Who is the intended user?
  • Who makes the software?
  • What are the primary features of the software?
  • What makes this software stand apart from other software?
  • How much does the software cost?
  • Is it commercial, shareware, or freeware?
  • What is the URL of the vendor website?

Sometimes there is a vendor description available which sometimes may be appropriate to include. This is optional.

If the vendor provides major selling points, you may list them here, but be sure to rephrase them so that they are concise (not wordy), and remove self-judgement adjectives (since that's the job of the reviewer, not the vendor). This is optional.

Example:

  • feature 1- description of feature 1
  • feature 2- description of feature 2
  • feature 3- description of feature 3
  • feature 4- description of feature 4
  • etc., etc.- etc., etc.
  • [minimum processor]
  • [minimum OS (e.g., Mac OS X v10.4.8 or higher)]
  • [minimum RAM]
  • [and so on...]

List the machine that you tested the software on. If you tested on more than one machine, list all of them.

Example:

  • [mac model and os version]
  • [optional additional test machines]

List the vendor price. You may optionally include a street price, or known discounted prices (if the latter, include a link to the seller).

Describe the process of getting the software setup. Is it one simple installer? Is it multiple CDs? Does it require the CD to be in your CDROM every time you use the software? Are there any necessary configuration options that must be set before using the software? Or can you run it right after installation? Describe the difficulty or ease of installing the software. Are there any necessary configuration options that must be set before using the software?

NOTES: When you receive the software, perform the installation immediately and take notes on the experience.

Introduce the primary interface of the software. Is it intuitive to use the interface? Describe the primary features of the interface. Describe the primary functions of the software. How easy is it to customize the software for personal preference? Include a screenshot (or 2) of the interface.

Write a few paragraphs describing some of the details about the software, and your experience with it. This is the meat of the review, and the more functionality included in the application, the more paragraphs that should be included in this section.

Provide 2 to 4 examples of using the software. For one of the examples, list in detail the process of using the software.

  • What did you use it for?
  • How well did it work?
  • Was it easy to perform the function?
  • Were the results what you expected?
  • How does it compare to other software that does similar function?
  • What are the shortcomings of your experience?
  • What are your delights with the experience?
  • Include screenshots of the interface while doing the examples.
  • Include screenshots of the results (if applicable).

At the end of this section, briefly describe all the features of the product that might be important to other users, but not explored or explained in detail in the above paragraphs.

Final paragraphs within the IN USE section should answer the following questions:

  • What is your descriptive opinion of the software's user interface.
  • What are you favorite features / highlights of the software?
  • What kind of documentation is provided with the software?
  • What kind of documentation / support is offered from the vendor's website / email?
  • Did you have any issues requiring support? If so, describe the results.

NOTES: While using the software, you should take notes and jot down opinions. Don't just skim the product's features. Your review should show some depth in knowledge of the product. Be specific, and give the reader a feel for what it's like to use the software. Sometimes it helps to compare it to other similar titles.

Screenshots of the software in use is always beneficial to the review. Don't be stingy, but also don't get carried away. Think of the primary screens that would be advantageous for the reader to see. In the text of your review, include placeholders for the screenshots. For example:

[include FILENAME.JPG here]

[your image caption text goes here]

Your images should be sent as JPEGs, 72 DPI, average width of 600 or smaller. Put all of your images into a folder, archive (zip) the folder and send the zip file as an attachment along with your review text.

Spend some reflective time on the summary. Re-introduce the software, this time incorporating descriptive adjectives which depicts how strongly you appreciated the software. Provide a summary of the primary functions, the interface, and the drawbacks. Wrap up the summary with the highlights of the software, and who would benefit the most from the software. To whom do you recommend the software? Include any final words you want to say about the software.

NOTES: Your summary should stand alone as a "mini-review", so that if someone only read the summary, they would still get an idea of the product being reviewed, and your opinion of the product. Be sure to summarize all the relevant information.

Using short and brief phrases, describe the highlights of the software that stand out in your mind. Think of the aspects of the software that you really liked, as well as aspects which make it stand apart from other software.

Example:

  • pro 1
  • pro 2
  • pro 3
  • pro 4

Likewise, list aspects of the software that caused you a hindrance, or you think could use some improvement.

Example:

  • con 1
  • con 2
  • con 3
  • con 4

NOTES: All pro's and con's should already have been described in detail somewhere earlier in the review. If you think of a pro and con that has not been mentioned, go back and edit the review to add the details (versus deleting the pro or con). A good list of pro's and con's usually has about 4 bullets each. Each point should be relevant and important. Some of the more polished software titles may have fewer con's.

Rate the software from 2 mice to 5 mice. Use the following ratings guideline:

2.0 = "Mediocre" - A number of significant flaws in the interface and/or functionality; works, but it works poorly; missing/broken features; flaws hinder enjoyment/usefulness of software.

2.5 = "Potential" - Great potential for this product, but overall unremarkable; bugs need to be worked out; features are missing; recommend waiting for the next release.

3.0 = "Good" - Interface needs polishing; not user-friendly; some bugs and limitations; however, it provides needed functionality and/or strenths outweight weaknesses.

3.5 = "Solid" - Some limitations to this product, but for what it does, it does it well; useful; fun; recommended.

4.0 = "Great" - Great product; just a few insignificant problems; easy to use; fun; highly recommended.

4.5 = "Excellent" - Meets all of user's needs; hard-pressed to find fault with; great interface; intuitive; lots of fun; highly recommended.

5.0 = "Awesome!" - Superb product; does everything it should without flaw; easy to use; polished interface; the right price; awesome user experience; a blast; a "must have".

The format for hardware reviews is similar to software reviews almost entirely, except where data may not be applicable. For example, there may not be specific requirements for the hardware. Instead of discussing installation, you should discuss the set up of the hardware (the "out of the box" experience). If the hardware does not come with software, there is no need to discuss an interface, and there would be no screenshots. However, you should at least provide photos of the hardware being reviewed.

In addition to software reviews, the Mac Guild posts book reviews for books related to the Mac and/or computer-related technology. The book review format is much different from software reviews, and much simpler. Please use the following guidelines for book reviews.

For book reviews, answer the following questions using 1 to 2 paragraphs each:

  1. What was the book about?
  2. What level of reading is the book? (novice, experienced, expert, or combination thereof)
  3. What did you get out of the book?
  4. What do you consider the highlights of the book?
  5. What is your overall impression of the book? (summarize)
  6. How do you grade the book? (use the rating scale below)

Book ratings use a letter grade rather than the mouse ratings.

A+ = "Awesome!"

A = "Outstanding"

B+ = "Great"

B = "Really Good"

C+ = "Good"

C = "Decent"

D = "Poor"

  1. Select a book which is related to the Mac or other Apple technology.
  2. Contact the review editor to find out if the book has already been reviewed or not.
  3. Read the book (take notes).
  4. Write a review of the book using the above guidelines.

NOTE: If you want to review a book that you don't already own, you may be able to get the book for free. Contact the review editor to make arrangements (be sure to provide the name of the publisher, and the book's title and ISBN number).

The following publishers are affiliates to the Mac Guild, and have provided us review copies of books in the past. Start with these links if you are looking for a book to review.

O'Reilly
http://www.oreilly.com/

McGraw-Hill/Osborne
http://www.osborne.com/

PeachPit Press
http://www.peachpit.com/

Sams
http://www.samspublishing.com/

Sybex
http://www.sybex.com/

TidBits
http://www.tidbits.com/