Mac OS X Power Tools
Posted: 29-Sep-2003

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: Sybex


Reviewer: Nathan Holsteen $39.99

Mac OS X Power Tools

Dan Frakes
ISBN: 0-7821-4192-7
607 pages, $39.99 US

What the Book is About
If you don't have ten hours a day to think about new ways to make more efficient use of OS X, or enough time to evaluate various commercial and shareware utilities that could increase your productivity, fear no more! Dan Frakes has already slogged through virtual rain, sleet, and snow to do it for you!

Mac OS X Power Tools
is an exceptional source of help for anyone wishing to understand the way OS X works, and then to make that work more effective.

Target Audience
I hesitate to say that this book will appeal to everyone, because I am sure that there are those in the "godlike guru" category as well as those in the "raw newbie" category that would disagree. However, for the vast majority of us in between, Mac OS X Power Tools could well be the most beneficial computer book I've seen.
If I had to describe the "ideal" reader for this book, I would say it's the person who has used OS X enough to know how to get his/her work done, but is eager to "take the next step".

What to Expect
Mac OS X Power Tools is divided into four parts, together comprising fifteen chapters.

Each part has a very descriptive and fitting title. For example, Part I, entitled "Setup, Startup, and (In)Stalling," includes chapters that help the reader learn how to more efficiently handle Unix permissions and accounts, system and application preferences, the boot-up and login processes, and the installation/uninstallation of software.

Part II, entitled "Files, Finders, Docks, and Apps (including Classic)," covers topics such as managing the finder and its functions, maximizing the capability of the dock, working with applications, and the optimal use of the Classic environment from within OS X.

Part III, entitled "The Internet, Networking, Sharing, and Printing," addresses, as one might expect, strategies for setting up and using OS X on a network and on the internet, the particulars of sharing services, as well as connecting to other computers and printers in a network setting.

Part IV, entitled "Mastering Your Mac-Security, Maintenance, and Unix," explains exactly what it says-the basics regarding securing your Mac, what kind of maintenance you should be performing, and an introduction to the Unix underpinnings of OS X.
As if that weren't enough, Frakes throws in a couples of appendices as well. Appendix A offers tips and strategies for transitioning from OS 9 to OS X (or even switching back and forth between the two Operating Systems!), whereas Appendix B provides useful hints on how to manage multiple disks, volumes, and partitions.
Throughout the book, Frakes offers tidbits of wisdom that will make all but the jaded guru simultaneously thankful for new insight and hungry for more. Simply put, this book offers more horsepower per cubic inch than other books in its class, while exhibiting the road manners of a refined luxury car. This is the kind of book that will make you want to go try out your new-found ideas - right now! So read this book with your Mac handy, or be ready for that delicious angst that comes from finding a new and better way to do something you've done a thousand times, and not being able to try it out until you are back at your keyboard! Don't say I didn't warn you!

There is way too much good stuff in this book to include in a review, but there are certain features that make it stand out among its peers. One such feature is the repeated description of third-party tools that can help you implement a more streamlined and efficient way of performing various tasks. Frakes objectively explains the pros and cons of various tools that can help make your life easier. To offer one example, the chapter on "Developing a Dynamite Dock" explains a number of utilities that can revolutionize the way you launch applications. This sounds trivial, but it may just make you a happier person.
Another feature that sets this book apart is the lack of "fluff." Whereas many books seem to have 13 chapters of mostly useless stuff, with 2 chapters that might actually be worth purchasing, this book delivers in virtually every chapter, addressing things that real people need to do. Indeed, there is such value in this book that Frakes might even succeed in waking me from my skeptical slumbers (my apologies to Immanuel Kante).

Mac Guild Grade
A+ (Awesome)

Final Words
I recognize that I am going out on a limb here with an A+ grade, but I keep coming back to one thought: I am by nature cynical about ANY computer book being worth 40 bucks, yet I am convinced that Mac OS X Power Tools is the exception to that rule. So check it out. I think you'll like it!