Take Control of Customizing Tiger 1.0.1
Posted: 30-Sep-2005

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: TidBITS

B

Reviewer: Halle Winkler $5


Take Control of Customizing Tiger 1.0.1
By Matt Neuburg
eBook in PDF format, 99 pages,
downloadable
June 2005, US $5 (
Free Excerpt)

Introduction
As a digital designer who relies on a certain amount of automation and server-side code, the Unix side of OS X is a pretty big part of my life and I'm always up for learning some new tricks. Conversely, I'm a pretty slow adopter of new features in the GUI side of the operating system, where I generally prefer a boring consistency and a lack of curveballs.

However, this has not really been an option for users of the Mac OS through the last couple of major upgrades, where there have seen some relatively big changes in OS features and, to a lesser extent, the UI. My desire to finally come to grips with at least a few of Tiger's "200+" new features led me to read the PDF "Take Control of Customizing Tiger" by Matt Neuburg and TidBits Electronic Publishing. It is a 99-page-long E-Book guide to customizing Mac OS 10.4 and working with its new features, and it seemed particularly well-suited for new-feature-averse users like myself.

What the Book is About
Take Control of Customizing Tiger is primarily concerned with sharing tips for customizing your work environment to best take advantage of the new features of Tiger. It does not cover the Unix aspect of OS X and is solely concerned with features which are accessed through the GUI.

Target Audience
The book is written in a clear, informal style and avoids jargon whenever possible, while defining terms when necessary, making it well-suited to the new user. It is nicely organized with an eye towards visual clarity in presentation (with cute callouts such as "Bummer!" headlining a description of a broken feature). As a longtime Mac OS user reading it from a somewhat technical perspective, I did not find it oversimplified and would expect that different levels of users could get something out of it.

What to Expect
The book starts off with a rundown of the big changes in Tiger, and offers advice on how to get off on the right foot by customizing a new installation. It then delves into more detailed breakdowns of areas of the OS that a user might benefit from customizing. The following chapters are offered:
  • Customizing Tiger Quick Start
  • What's New In Tiger
  • Customize Your Installation
  • Master the Folder/File Hierarchy
  • See the Windows You Want To See
  • Create Shortcuts and Workflows
  • Fix Your Fonts
  • Customize Status Menus
  • Perform Miscellaneous Configurations
  • Look Up a Configuration Location

Highlights
What I was most looking forward to was the dissection of the Panther/Tiger GUI Trifecta: Exposé, Dashboard and Spotlight. I have been putting off getting Exposé into my workflow for over a year now, and the arrival of Dashboard and Spotlight has only made me more sluggish.

Take Control of Customizing Tiger dedicates several pages to using these three tools and offers lots of good guidance on getting your environment properly set up to reap the maximum benefits from them. This was a definite highlight of the book and while I must admit that while I am still not using Exposé any more than I used to, this book has actually gotten the Dashboard and Spotlight into my workflow. I am especially grateful for having my attention drawn to the fact that it is possible to have multiple instances of a Widget (can't have too many World Clocks!).

Other Observations
There were a couple of things in the book which surprised me; for one thing, the user is advised not to use aliases on the Desktop due to the Desktop's unelaborated-on tendency to "misbehave". I was immediately struck by the fact that if a certain folder were prone to "misbehavior", aliases are pretty much the only thing I'd want in it. Mr. Neuburg then follows up with the advice to take all of the files you would normally keep on the Desktop while working on them, and to instead put them in a folder in your User home folder called "DesktopNot", which you will ostensibly go back to and organize at some point. The book's Editor, Tonya Engst, then turns up to suggest that the reader feel free to use multiple DesktopNot folders, titled "DesktopNot1", "DesktopNot2", ad nauseum. Now, I'm not saying I've never done anything like this myself. Nonetheless, I wouldn't put it in a guidebook as a suggested file management technique. However, wrong notes such as this were rare, and the overall tone of the writing is smart and well-conceived.

Pros
  • Clear, casual tone and presentation
  • Great tips
  • Handy for new and more experienced users
  • A very fair price
Cons
  • I occasionally wished for a bit more detail
  • A couple of dubious tips and omissions

Mac Guild Grade
B (Really Good)

Final Words
By and large, "Taking Control" is a useful, well-written document with an endearing, mild sense of humor, and is more than worth its modest price. I would recommend it for new users and those more experienced users who need a little help getting a handle on Apple's new OS innovations, and I expect to use it as a reference myself from time to time.