Mac OS X: The Missing Manual
Posted: 25-Oct-2005

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: O'Reilly


Reviewer: Diane Love $29.95

Mac OS X: The Missing Manual
Tiger Edition

By David Pogue
1st Edition July 2005
847 pages, $29.95 US

What the Book is About
The aim of the Missing Manual series is to be "the book that should have been in the box." This Tiger edition is the successor to previous OS X Jaguar and Panther editions. The banner at the top of the cover says "The #1 bestselling Mac Book".

Target Audience
This book is intended for all types of Mac users: from those who are new to computers, those who have moved to OS X from Mac OS 9 or from Windows, those who are experienced OS X users, and, particularly of course, those who have moved up to Tiger.

What to Expect
This book contains an introduction and six main parts.

The introduction begins with a useful summary of what's new in Tiger and, after a note on conventions used in the book, sets the stage for complete novices by naming and defining the controls that make up the user interface.

Part 1, the Mac OS X Desktop, covers folders, windows, icons, desktop, dock and toolbars. New in this edition is a complete chapter on Spotlight.

Part 2, also called the Mac OS X Desktop, deals with applications, documents, Expose and Dashboard, Classic, moving data between documents, Macs and PCs, Automator and Applescript.

Part 3, the Components of Mac OS X has chapters detailing each preference and free program. A separate chapter is devoted to CDs, DVDs and iTunes.

Part 4, the Technologies of Mac OS X delves into account management and security (including the long-needed parental controls), networking, graphics, fonts, printing, PDFs, faxing, sound, movies, speech input and output and handwriting recognition, terminal and hacking Mac OS X.

Part 5, Mac OS X Online, covers different types of internet connection, .Mac, iSync, Mail and Address Book, Safari, iChat and Sherlock and finally web sharing, remote connections and VPN.

Part 6 contains appendices on installation, troubleshooting, new users from OS 9 and from Windows, "where to go from here" and finally a big list of keyboard shortcuts, including the secret keys you hold down during startup for various reasons.

The Tiger edition is 847 pages, compared to 763 for the Panther edition, but surprisingly the Tiger edition is a couple of millimeters thinner. This magic appears to have been accomplished by printing on paper that seems slightly smoother, perhaps even stronger, and less spongy. Even more surprisingly, the author was unaware of this at the time of writing - he discussed the fact that although he'd prefer the book to at least be thinner looking, since some readers could be put off by something the size of a Tokyo telephone book, the book couldn't meet its goals without being this size. Looks like the publisher found a way to make his wish come true without sacrificing quality.

New Readers
The Missing Manual series was started by David Pogue who, unusual for a computer book author, majored in theater. Welcome to the world of computer manual as performance art, and the company of an entertaining author who makes this book captivating and enjoyable despite its length.

As its name suggests, this book exhaustively covers the Max OS X user experience, often in a level of nitpicking detail and with a focus on the most time-saving keyboard shortcuts. Every few seconds shaved off the time it takes you to do things with your Mac means more time to focus on the task at hand.

As a new reader (of the Jaguar edition), I found the book helped me build confidence that OS X isn't easily damaged. This should reassure those novice computer users who are afraid that some incautious keystroke or mouse gesture is going to wipe out a lump of the OS. If something does go wrong, the troubleshooting section explains the ordered steps you should take when experiencing difficulties with applications.

If you have just moved to Mac OS X from OS 9 or from Windows, this book has appendices specifically for you. As an example from the "Where did it go - OS 9" appendix, in Mac OS 9, an application could get into trouble if you didn't assign it enough memory. You also had to make decisions about whether to turn on or off virtual memory and how much disk space to allocate for it. As a newcomer to Mac OS X, you may find yourself searching for the controls you need to do these things. In Mac OS X, these activities are all automatic and can't be controlled by the user. Alternatively, as an example from the "Where did it go - Windows" appendix, if you look up "Registry" you will find "there is no Registry: let the celebration begin!"

Existing Readers
The book claims to contain new material on every page. A comparison of this edition with the Panther edition indicates that some of the changes are editorial. For example features that were introduced as new in the Panther version of the book are no longer new in the Tiger version. Another change is that the publishers have found a way to make the illustrations bigger and more readable without taking up more pages of the book - by making the captions at the side of the illustrations narrower and longer. However, the most important changes concern functions that are new to Tiger.

Just knowing about new functions isn't always enough to actually get started using them. You have to change established habits. I tried out the book for both existing functions that I don't use and new Tiger functions.

I had tried Speakable Items in the past but it hadn't ever worked out for some reason. Now though, if I can get my spouse, kid and puppy to create a moment's silence, I can hold the escape key and tell my Mac to open or quit applications, and I know how to find out more things I can ask it to do.

Since I already use Dashboard, the Dashboard section came close to telling me nothing I didn't already know. However, it did provide a couple of little surprises by telling me about the Dashboard eye candy effects including the swirling hurricane widget refresh.

On the other hand, the complete new section on Spotlight is immensely useful. It starts by putting together the keystrokes to get you working with Spotlight in the middle of whatever you are doing, without taking time out with the mouse to go to the top right of your display. It continues by demonstrating how to control the type of results you get from Spotlight by adding commands to the search string. Finally, and not for the faint-hearted, it uncovers the full power of Spotlight by demonstrating the query language you can use to make more sophisticated searches than allowed by the command line and Spotlight window.

Automator has been added to the Applescript chapter of the Panther edition, and there are complete worked examples of plausible activities to try with Automator, such as bulk photo editing and emailing out of iTunes.

One of the vital but unsung new technologies of Tiger is Voiceover, which is intended to allow blind people to use Max OS X. It may be surprising to learn that blind people already surf the web and use Windows XP in conjunction with the third party screen reader programs such as JAWS. However a whole industry of accessible software design, in particular accessible web design, has sprung up in response to the Section 508 legislation which requires Federal systems to be accessible by people with disabilities. The purported advantage of Voiceover is that it's part of the Mac OS rather than a bolt-on accessory. Of course, learning to use a screen reader is a daunting prospect as it inevitably requires memorization of a large number of key combinations. I found the seven pages of this book devoted to Voiceover were enough to get me started using Voiceover.

If you paid for your copy of iLife '05, you may be dismayed to see sections on iDVD, iMovie and iPhoto (but not Garageband) in Chapter 10, The Free Programs. (Of course, they're free with a new Mac.) There are some useful hints all the same - for example, deleting clips and emptying trash in iMovie no longer recovers any hard disk space. I guess we are all supposed to be stepping up to half terabyte disk drives nowadays.

As well as the big changes, there are some disconcerting little things that are different in Tiger. For example, if you try to burn some files to a CD, you will experience a moment of uncertainty that you are about to burn aliases to the files instead of the files themselves. Of course, the aliases would be useless on another computer - or even another account on the same Mac. Rather than risk wasting a CD, I was glad to be able to look this up in the book and discover that this is indeed standard behavior in Tiger. I would end up with the files I needed on the CD when I clicked the burn button.

What Is Not Covered
As an owner of a network of Macs with accounts and shared files in various locations, I've begun to wonder whether a step up to Mac OS X Server would be beneficial. The single mention of Mac OS X Server in this book concerns a menulet that is only available to Mac OS X Server users. There's no further discussion to help the reader understand what's different about OS X Server.

This book presents a thorough account of Mac OS X Tiger, and it isn't afraid to delve into the deepest level of detail, whether it's keystrokes to make you more productive or tempting you to open the terminal and try some UNIX. The troubleshooting section is an essential reference when you have a problem
with an application. The sections for newcomers aim to get you up to speed whether your last computer was OS 9, Windows or an abacus. As an example of the whirlwind tour of the free applications, the iPhoto section covers all the basics and goes into detail on creating websites and photobooks. Finally, like all missing manuals, there's a
website with a downloadable sample
and a Missing CD Rom of freeware / shareware applications.

Mac Guild Grade
A+ (Awesome)

Final Words
This book is the essential companion and reference for the Mac OS X user, and will frequently reward its owner either by leading the way to learning and using new features or troubleshooting and resolving issues.