Using CSH & TCSH: Type Less, Accomplish More
Posted: 4-Oct-2003

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: O'Reilly


Reviewer: Warren Milligan $29.95

Using CSH & TCSH
Type Less, Accomplish More

By Paul DuBois
1st Edition July 1995 
ISBN: 1-56592-132-1
239 pages, $29.95 RETAIL

What the Book is About
Mr. DuBois begins teaching the reader about the CSH & TCSH shells in the Preface of the book. His overview of the chapters and their content is excellent, and is worth reading a few times before beginning to read the remaining material. In essence, this book is not just about learning to use the CSH and TCSH shells, but learning to use them more efficiently.

Target Audience
I would say that the target audience for this book would be intermediate to advanced users. While there are sections of the book that would assist users new to the shell, I don't think there is enough "basic" information to make this an engaging read for "newbies". For these new users, I would recommend a Google search for "tcsh+tutorial+basics", or that they visit the Mac OS X Terminal tutorials hosted at the O'Reilly website at

What To Expect
I was pleasantly surprised by how useful some of the information in the book was. There were a lot of questions answered for me, including how TCSH processed startup and logout files, and the best way to alter default program paths in the proper way. In addition, I liked (as I always do) that the author often suggested more than one way to accomplish the same task - explaining the subtle differences between the choices. As an added bonus, Mr. DuBois also briefly covered some topics related to shells in general, like the Vi and Pico text editors.

For me, I would say that there were 3 sections of this book that I particularly found useful. In section 3, "Using the Shell Effectively", the author covered using and reusing commands. In section 4, "The Shell Startup Files", he again was thorough, and I found the material insightful and articulate. Again, in section 15, "Job Control", I gained a greater understanding of how Unix treats running processes and programs, and how better to manage their priority and performance. While obtaining, building, and installing TCSH from alternate sources was documented in the book, only experienced Unix operators would want to concern themselves with this information.

Mac Guild Grade
B (Really Good)

Final Words
While I found this book certainly wasn't lacking in style and format, I thought there were certain concepts of TCSH usage that could have had more expanded and informative sections about them. Because TCSH is the default shell for Mac OS X Jaguar, this book can definitely assist users getting their footing in a new shell environment. One thing to note for Mac users is that when Mac OS X Panther is released, it will likely have BASH pre-configured as the default shell. You will find plenty of books about BASH, but for folks who are staying with Jaguar, or are planning on keeping TCSH as their preferred shell, this book is a good information and reference source. With detailed information about how to change your default shell, modify the settings to your liking and use the full functionality built in to TCSH, this book would be a solid addition to your educational/technical library.