The Mac is Not a Typewriter
Posted: 25-Jul-2003

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: PeachPit Press


Reviewer: Mike Wakefield $11.69

The Mac is Not a Typewriter, 2nd Edition

By Robin Williams
ISBN: 0201782634
Published: APR 21, 2003
88 pages, Price $11.69

What the Book is About
This is a bible for anyone who writes anything. While it may seem obvious that a typewriter has equally sized letters, numerals, and punctuation, the differences that a Mac makes in transitioning to a more typeset-like environment where these sizes may vary are astounding. This book has many practical grammatical and typing rules, phrased simply and with examples that are easy to remember. From a simple letter to major publications, the role of the Mac in bringing all of your best work to each is described in enough detail to set your work far above others.

Target Audience
Since the book deals more with how we use and write the English language on a Mac, and how to make our creations more visually appealing, it makes little difference what level of computer proficiency one has. The grammatical content you may have learned by the eighth grade, or maybe never, based on some of the examples given. The keyboard proficiency is primarily applicable to common text documents, with which anyone with an interest in this book should have adequate experience already.

What to Expect
In reading the book, I learned things that I should have known years ago. I learned that with a Mac you have an infinitely broader palette from which to present the subtle details of documents in a way that brings to them a high level of professionalism. You have choices when you create a document. If you know the subtleties necessary to create a document that will really look good, you might as well make that choice. It will definitely affect the impression it gives people that see it.

There are many highlights in this book. The first thing the book says is don't use two spaces at the end of a sentence! How can this be? I've done it all my life. Well, in typesetting, it just doesn't work. Check out anything that has been professionally published for the last many, many years. It's true.

Remember indent markers and tabs? They never seem to do exactly what you think you are asking them to do. Well, no more! There is an excellent explanation of just exactly how and why they work, and they really do.

Simple things, like all caps, are discussed with some simple logic that works.

Accent marks are always a problem. With the pointers in this book, it's a cinch. The next time you update your résumé, you will know how to add the accents.

Don't use a double return for paragraph spacing. Find the paragraph format control, and add 6 points or so after, depending on the font size. It tightens up the presentation, and doesn't leave excess white space.

Lots of common sense items are included, like don't use both extra space and indents to separate paragraphs. Either one is adequate.

There is a discussion of font selection based on readability and legibility. These criteria don't give the same results.

Don't use five (5) spaces to indent the first line of a paragraph, as we did with a typewriter. Something much smaller, like an em space (the width of the letter M), is adequate.

To be fair, many of the items discussed in the book have an equivalence in the PC world, but since most of my work is done on a Mac, I really don't care.

Mac Guild Grade
B+ (Great)

Final Words
This book is a great reference book, and is actually fun to read.
It is difficult to give this book a letter grade. Many of the books we look to are overflowing with technical details that took the author many hours to develop and to substantiate. Books like that which are done well deserve high marks. This book is fairly simple, yet that may be its strength. If it were 500 pages long, perhaps no one would read it. As it is, it is a fairly easy read, and is a great book to have on your shelf for reference.