Tiger By the Book: A Mac OS X Book
Since the last year, of course, Tiger has sprung onto the scene and with it an ever greater crop of high quality titles addressing ways to use, make the most of, troubleshoot, and tinker with Mac OS 10.4. Indeed, the present crop is far and away the greatest variety in style and content and of the highest quality so far. In this review we concentrate on the more substantial and advanced titles. There’s something here for everyone, some really outstanding coverage and a wealth of information and resources that more than keeps pace with Mac Web sites.
As in previous reviews, Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed by John Ray, William C Ray (SAMS) is the front runner. At over 1,500 pages yet costing a little over $30 on Amazon.com, this book contains almost everything you need to know about the workings of 10.4. Although not intended to cover applications — as, say, the Mac OS Bible or Missing Manual — Unleashed does set the most common software in context as well as providing an infallible compendium of reference to all aspects of the operating system. For example four pages on RSS feeds in Safari and three on setting up and running Ink in the same book that devotes a 35-page chapter to creating, setting up, configuring and troubleshooting your own Mac OS X-based mail server.
What the Rays have managed to do is pick the essential aspects of, say, using the Finder and explain them so expertly that anyone new to the subject could quickly find their way about the Mac OS even though their main interest might be the BSD subsystem (to which are devoted over 225 pages) and to thoroughly understanding how Tiger file permissions, process management and networking all function, and how they interrelate. You might not expect to find discussion of iCal and Address Book, yet you do! And done very well with clear (if a touch small) illustrations.
But the real strength of Unleashed is in making transparent such purely technical and yet highly important areas as Preference files, which takes up 20 pages, System Services (32) and process management (25). At the same time, the Rays don’t avoid dealing elegantly and informatively with such topics as changing Smart Folder Views, customizing the appearance of the Dock, and Expose. This comprehensiveness is what makes Unleashed such a remarkable book. There really is little about Tiger which you won’t find here: X Window, CUPS, Perl and Python, remote access and control, server administration and networking; the Shell, scripting, Automator; over 50 pages on hardware setup and preferences; even 50 pages on developing web applications. Talk about a one-stop shop!
A further achievement of the authors is the pace and structure of the book. Were you to try and read it from cover to cover, you would meet the topics dependent on previous concepts only after the latter had been introduced and made clear. Configuring your shell environment before the many pages devoted to command line work, for example, but before configuration a little background on when (10.3), why Apple changed the default shell from tcsh to bash and the implications. Unleashed is the best book examined here for those who want to work at that level with Terminal.
Nothing is reduced to superficialities: this is a big book. Chapter and section layout is logical and the index is superb. Tables and tables of shortcuts, lookups, equivalents, commands and codes make this easily the best book of its kind in a competitive bunch. Thoroughly recommended.
Mac OS X Bible Tiger Edition by Samuel Litt, et. al. (Wiley) is another heavyweight. At 950 pages it sets some good, high standards. As noted in previous reviews, Bible is one of the best all-around introductions to Mac OS X for those who are keen to explore the relationship between the OS and its applications. Twenty-six chunky chapters cover most of the ground you would want them to, from installation to defeating vulnerabilities in your system.
Cleanly laid out but with few exciting graphics (this is a book to be consulted, as it has an excellent index), Mac OS X Bible Tiger Edition is less of a narrative and more of an encyclopedia. A typical chapter, take the one on Fonts for example, sets out the issues, gives just the right amount of history and background, explains how fonts work in this OS, takes you through Font Book and examines potential pitfalls. There is then some discussion of font utilities and the whole is mottled with tips and tricks. A similar approach is adopted for areas such as printing in Tiger, scripting, Unix and the Terminal as well as Accounts, Spotlight and Sherlock, Networking and Permissions. Particularly good (for a general OS title) on areas like .Mac, the iLife suite and AppleScript, the authors also cover many of the most handy utilities, both bundled and third-party. This coverage tends to the uncritical and fails to mention the downside of haxies and hacks if you really want a trouble-free system.
This, though, is surely the manual which a beginner or upgrader would want to have when they opened the box of hardware and felt they really wanted to make the best of its advanced operating system. You won’t find the same kind of in depth hardline technical diagnosis in the Bible as you will in UnleashedBut you will learn much and want to keep this book handy. Recommended.
Mastering Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger by Stauffer and McElhearn (Sybex) is in a similar vein as Bible: exhaustive and comprehensive, authoritative and up-to-date. Nearly 900 pages of densely-packed text and somewhat undersized illustrations (mostly screenshots) take you through the basics: networking and the internet, multimedia and personal information (Address Book and iCal), troubleshooting, and advanced topics such as Automator and the command line.
Among its strengths, this book aims to cater to all levels knowledgeably and without either confusing or talking down to readers. It really does pack a huge amount of background, tips, rationale and useful information into its pages without much surplus. Stauffer and McElhearn strike a pleasing balance between a tutorial-style approach, taking software and setups pane by pane, tab by tab and amply contextualising and sensibly grouping topics so that you can either research and check up on topics that want to explore or follow a chapter through in linear fashion.
The book centers as much on the bundled Apple applications as it does the OS underpinning. But if you want to see how the two relate, you could do a lot worse than choose this book, particularly since it is so comprehensive and very reasonably-priced for the amount it contains. It helps perhaps wary users new to such topics as encryption, server configuration and networking to other platforms to come away competent and confident. Recommended.
David Pogue’s Mac OS X Tiger Edition The Missing Manual (O’Reilly) is the book many people think of when they wish there were something more substantial to guide them as relative newcomers to OS X. And, as successive versions of the OS have appeared, so have Pogue’s books lengthened and broadened in scope. This latest Tiger edition still starts with the Desktop and Finder, including Spotlight and Dashboard here, surely the right place to cover it. It then moves on to System Preferences — one at a time with lots of tips and screenshots where these are useful. Next, the Apple bundled applications, then perhaps the most interesting: what the author calls The Technologies of OS X. Comprising a quarter of the book, these pages cover topics like Accounts, firewalls and security, networking, Ink, and the terminal, plus ten pages on “hacking” Tiger.
The final section — just over 100 pages — covers the Internet. Finally, appendices on installation and troubleshooting. Missing Manual is a book aimed less at the specialist and expert looking for comprehensive encyclopedic information (although that constituency will not be too disappointed) and more at the interested user wanting to make the most of Tiger by understanding what they can do, how and where to go for resources on doing it properly, and being aware of the expected results and what to do when the unexpected happens.
Pogue’s style is authoritative, informative yet informal. It’s obvious he’s writing from a position of great knowledge and knows how to impart it well. Manual is a generalist book and vies with the Bible and Mastering for first choice when you need an overall vision of what Tiger can do without the system underpinnings covered so comprehensively in Unleashed. Well-indexed and with a URL to download from the website what would otherwise have been on an accompanying CD, Mac OS X Tiger Edition The Missing Manual is recommended as a sturdy, reliable, current and well-written, reasonably-priced manual for Tiger.
Much slimmer but just as packed with useful information is Mac OS X Tiger Pocket Guide by Chuck Toporek (O’Reilly). Particularly appealing is its small size: at under seven inches by four and a half, it can be carried in one’s pocket and consulted whenever needed. Nothing is dealt with in great depth, yet most relevant topics from user accounts through customization and networking to the major Apple applications are covered. Well-illustrated and indexed, this handy little volume will serve as a compact and accessible reminder of special characters, font-management, Unix command line syntax, key combinations for Finder operations, some of the renaming that Tiger introduces (e.g. Bonjour for Rendezvous), as well as extended coverage of Spotlight, etc. At under US$10, Mac OS X Tiger Pocket Guide would be a good place for the seasoned Mac user who wants to get going quickly to start.
Teach Yourself Visually Mac OS X Tiger by Erick Tejkowski (Wiley) is just that: a book for beginners or switchers who learn best by well-illustrated, step-by-step ‘How-to’ pages covering the Finder, dock and widgets etc.; customization; bundled utilities and the multimedia applications; connectivity and the internet; peripherals and troubleshooting. Necessarily, none of these sections is extensive. What is intentionally lost in quantity — no more than a couple of dozen pages on troubleshooting and all following the three fair-sized panels (not all of which are screenshots) per page — is made up for in quality. This is an attractive book, accurately well-written; and one that is so paced as to enable a new or wary user soon to launch out on her/his own and really make the most of Tiger.
Degunking Your Mac by Joli Ballew (Paraglyph) is a little different. By “degunking” the author means making your Mac under Tiger run faster and more trouble-free. No matter how hard you try to keep a “clean” machine, it’s almost inevitable that updates, rare application crashes, caches, peripherals and preferences no longer used and perhaps even attempts to secure it will slowly clog it up. In just under four hundred pages, Ballew manages to cover almost every preventative measure you can think of; a nice complement to Mac OS X Help Line (reviewed below). This is a book intended for the committed user already reasonably familiar with the way Macs work but who, perhaps, hasn’t time to pore over the likes of MacFixit every day.
Well-organized, attractively laid out and indexed, Degunking Your Mac advises on removing files that shouldn’t be there; on thoroughly uninstalling unused apps; organizing folders; cleaning up the Dock, Dashboard, and Desktop;Fonts and Apple software like iChat; degunking your iPod; dealing with spam and email creep; and backup and security.
It has to be said that some of the “tips” really should suggest themselves, for example, to make sure your hard drive doesn’t contain duplicates. But the section on optimizing the hard drive wisely steers clear of de-fragmenting and recommends Tiger Cache Cleaner. There is a useful little section on running Disk Utility and two pages of titles only (this book seems destined to expand) on similar third party utilities; although, disappointingly, no real explanation of why repairing permissions becomes necessary or the supremacy of Disk Warrior! It’s nice to see a chapter on pressing Automator into use for some cleanup routines, though the section on backups is too slim.
Overall, this book is a great idea and would make a good gift for a careful and caring enthusiast who wants to explore ways to have their Mac run still more smoothly. Although most of this information can be found readily elsewhere, it’s good to see it gathered here in a straightforward and particularly well-organized way. What it may lack in comprehensiveness and specific sources, Degunking Your Mac makes up for in accessibility.
Just as important as any of these suggestions is regular, reliable backing up. So important, in fact, that Tidbits Publishing now has an eBook: Joe Kissell’s Take Control of Mac OS X Backups, which covers the topic in depth. This is as comprehensive and authoritative a survey of backups as exists anywhere. Nearly a hundred deftly-illustrated, cleanly-explained and logically-arranged pages take the user (from novice to advanced) comprehensively through the issues, rationale, hardware, software, and strategy of backing up their Mac. Comprehensive might even be an understatement: Kissell deals with over 40 products, services, and tools in the software category; this includes two tables comparing features with some glosses on usability and reliability, etc. But the chapter on software goes into more than adequate detail about the types of software and their relative strengths with recommendations.
Kissell has clear and well-expressed ideas on choice of hardware. For example, he warns against using another partition of your internal hard drive as your main/only backup device, covers USB 2.0 bootability and advises unambiguously — with useful tables dealing with the merits of the various optical media — on which drives and backup services to buy, their merits, and how to use each.
This is an inexpensive, attractive and exhaustive resource, kept up-to-date by virtue of its electronic format and made accessible to everyone. And everyone should buy it and act on it, unless their data is entirely dispensable. Highly recommended.
Hints and Tips
Mac OS X Tiger Killer Tips by Scott Kelby (New Riders) has literally hundreds of small, manageable and manageably set-out tips to make the most of Tiger. Although the book is very attractively laid-out, well-researched, attractively-illustrated and comprehensive, it is spoiled by some near-incomprehensible language; what do “Cool & the Gang,” “She Drives me Crazy” or some frankly rather silly babble about 75 bucks, 50 bucks and discounts in the “Fly Like an Eagle” chapter add, or even mean? If you just want the information — and there’s much of it and meticulously researched and tested — this is all rather off-putting.
There are good sections on windows; the Finder and Desktop; a full 15 pages on the Dock and 20 on Spotlight; the iLife suite and Mail. Address Book (an increasingly mature and sophisticated application that gets nowhere near enough credit) and Safari get 20 and over a dozen pages each, respectively, with many useful, well-explained tips each. In short, anyone who works their way through this book from cover to cover will almost certainly have a much enhanced experience of using Tiger.
The Mac OS X Book by Andy Ihnatko (Wiley) is written in a similar tone (one chapter, for example, is called ‘Wheels of the Mine’, which means nothing to me) and I’m not sure it works either. Too much of the text of the book is spoiled with silly and rather unfunny self-congratulatory padding that really don’t come off. But the book’s nearly 500 pages are packed with information, and just the kind of information you really want about Tiger and the differences between Tiger and earlier OS X versions.
Ihnatko has concentrated on providing meticulously-explained solutions to common areas causing difficulty: printing, security, and networking. There’s little that isn’t available in the more comprehensive and approachable books reviewed here, but the layout is attractive and well-supported with apposite illustrations, the tips very helpful, and the way the material is prioritised in each chapter encouraging. If you’re not put off by such gauche chapter headings as “The Apps Wot You Get for Nothin'” you’ll find good, clear explanations of how to use Apple’s bundled software, emphasizing just the right features. The chapter on Automator is a good start for anyone new to it. Like the rest of the book, it adopts a step-by-step approach accompanied by screenshots showing what really happens in each eventuality.
Take Control of Tiger by Adam Engst et. al. (Peachpit) has a different rationale: “Comprehensive books on… Mac OS X… always seem to balloon into many hundreds of pages. But readers have told us they don’t like paying for such large books or feeling they must read every page.” So for $29.99 veteran Mac expert Angst and his team have put together a collection of topics that is relatively short (360 pages) by the standard of the other books reviewed here. It covers just four areas: Upgrading to Tiger; Customizing it; Users and Accounts and File Sharing.
Each section is very thoroughly explored: three pages, for example, being devoted to choosing the right upgrade method, two to setting Internet Helper applications, and eight devoted to where to find customization settings. Obviously Automator, Dashboard and Spotlight receive much attention – hooks to AppleScript to the fore – as do issues of security in the final section. There is a really thorough examination of the way accounts work; not just screenshots showing you what to do but an extended discussion on choosing an account strategy.
Take Control of Tiger is attractively laid out, available in eBook format with free updates. (All Take Control eBooks are discounted for AppleWorks User Group members, by the way.) It does have intentionally focused scope but if these four areas are of particular interest to you and you want to get to the bottom of such topics as really customizing the way your desktop and Finder windows look (six pages on this), this is a title that can be recommended for you.
Under the Hood
Long the guru of Mac malfunctions, Ted Landau has now published with fellow troubleshooting expert, Dan Frakes, ‘Mac OS X Help Line, Tiger Edition’. And a thorough, expertly laid-out compendium of useful information it is too. Discouraging as it is to think that so many things can go wrong on our Macs, Landau and Frakes have a solution to every one. The first two chapters deal with the context and provide an overview to OS X including its Unix underpinnings, a history and how each of the OS components relates to the others. It’s sufficiently current to deal briefly with the move to Intel.
Chapter 3 is the most thorough (at nearly 100 pages) guide of any of the books reviewed here to installing and restoring Mac OS X. MacFixit’s suggested procedures for doing this are well-known and near definitive so it’s not surprising that the authors pay so much close and carefully-reasoned attention to the topic. The next 150 pages deal with Tiger’s layers, technologies and environments and how to ‘care for’ them while chapter 5 — another long one — looks in depth with what perhaps most readers will expect from such a book: crash prevention and recovery. Crammed with tips, procedures and diagnostics, this is a great resource if you experiment a lot and should be at every mac user’s elbow: you never know! In similar vein, Chapter 6 examines almost everything that can go wrong with files – including analysis of when nothing is actually ‘wrong’ after all. Indeed, the lines between normal and aberrant behavior can sometimes be very fine indeed and Landau and Frakes are truly inspiring at helping you draw and live with them.
Chapters 7, 8 and 9 cover networking and printing and are also mines of valuable information and hand-holding through configuration, preferences and testing to make sure this side of things always works as Apple intended. Chapter 10 on troubleshooting Unix packs in a great deal of information clearly and succinctly; it is more than the obligatory primer on Unix, rather a set of solutions to specific problems best achieved as a result of an intelligent understanding of how permissions, file manipulation and aliases, for example, can not only interfere with smooth operation but also be tamed to make life easier. The last chapter looks at troubleshooting the iApps… things to make sure that iSync, iCal and the iLife suite — as well as the iPod — do what they’re supposed to.
‘Mac OS X Help Line, Tiger Edition’ is exemplary in every way. The material covered is comprehensive and well-targeted and selected for a broad range of users; the layout and style are authoritative and lively. The illustrations and examples easy to find and follow. The tone for what can be, after all, a ‘fraught’ area, positive and supported. Recommended in every way.
Hacking Mac OS X Tiger by Knaster (Wiley) looks like yet another tips-to-make-it-go-better-faster compendium. And indeed it does contain many useful pieces of advice, and, yes, you can “improve” the performance of Tiger by acting on the material in this book. But that’s not all. Divided into three sections (Tips, Mods, and Hacks), its 350+ pages have taken not any old bundle of technicalities that the author happens to know about. Better, the book is clearly the result of research into the most useful areas of OS technicalities. These range from quitting a frozen archive in the Activity Monitor (and the generality of killing processes) to fundamental and more permanent hacks like mach_override and mach_inject.
On the way, Knaster looks critically at utilities like TinkerTool, Carbon Copy Cloner (but not the superior SuperDuper!) and BatChmod. Most significantly he explains the ins and outs of Packages, Property Lists and — oh joy of joys — Services. He gives an non-intimidating introduction to the Terminal and Unix as well as running Unix applications and the X Window System. Without making too much of how Mac users proverbially abhor the command line but how it’s not so bad really, Knaster suggests meaningful tasks (like remote login with ssh) that an enthusiast might want to carry out in order to enter the black and white world.
Of course, Automator, Dashboard and Spotlight are intelligently dealt with, as is iTunes, but there is little else on Apple apps. The real strength of Hacking Mac OS X Tiger lies in its well thought-out collection of “under the hood” routines to handle login, text manipulation, the often-missed functionalities of the Finder and ways to get out of trouble. If you’re beyond the beginner stage and want to know how what works works and why, then this book is a good place to start.
This is the right approach. Apple Developers have a rich set of resources in which to work: Xcode (the key OS X IDE or Integrated Development Environment), Interface Builder, the AppleScript Studio tools and the Cocoa and Carbon Frameworks. Each of these is contextualised, illustrated with good examples and expected feedback, related one to another and closely referenced to broader programming principles.
The pace of the book is excellent, with each chapter beginning with a simple project, just the way to build on the enthusiasm of anyone itching to dive in. The language is clear and yet authoritative and the step-by-step instructions make sure you do just what you’d expect.
Even more technically detailed (and aimed at engineers, though full of useful information for us owners) is Apple Training Series: Mac OS X Support Essentials A Guide to Supporting and Troubleshooting Mac OS X 10.4 edited by Owen Linzmayer (Peachpit). This is the official Apple curriculum for help desk specialists. Clearly laid out but with a less than obvious sense of progression of topics, this book comes at the business of running and maintaining Tiger from a slightly different angle: one that assumes things will go wrong, yet that also assumes you have the power to put them right!
Fourteen “lessons” cover background, installation, accounts, filesystems, permissions, the Application environment (in fact once of the shortest chapters), the command line, networking, peripherals, including printing, startup sequence (perhaps the most interesting), and the general methodology of troubleshooting heuristics, elimination, substitution etc.; this is also the subject of one of three Appendices – the other two being on general networking technologies, and Classic.
In the way of a help desk environment, little is explored in such depth as a book like Ted Landau’s Mac OS X Help Line: there is more emphasis given by Linzmayer on techniques, on reviewing what you’ve learned and algorithms for effective success under pressure, almost. It’s comforting to see most common issues collected and solved since one assumes these are based on Apple case history and thus likely to embrace and be of real help to most of us sooner or later. There are plenty of screenshots, references (especially to Apple KnowledgeBase articles) and of course step by step instructions. The flowcharts and schematics are intriguing because they provide insight into how the professionals set about troubleshooting, as opposed to how a sweating owner like you or I might.
This is not a book for the general reader or beginner, then, but, like many things official, a new way of looking at something with which you’re familiar with just the whiff of a glimpse into a secret world and in sections such as that dealing with the boot sequence and multiple boot modes – extremely useful.
Even more specialist – and even more comprehensive, and to be thoroughly recommended – is Amit Singh’s mammoth (1,680 pages) Mac OS X Internals: A Systems Approach. If proof were still needed that OS X is a heavyweight OS, this book provides it! Its dozen chapters examine (from a computer science point of view): OS X’s diverse and rich origins; its layers (from firmware to networking via Bootloader, Darwin, the kernels, Frameworks and Application Services); the PowerPC and Intel architectures; processes; memory; and filesystems. There is also a superb and lengthy chapter on interprocess communication – hence the ‘Systems Approach’ tag of this book. The intention of the author (which is wholly successful) is to cover these topics incrementally. Much of this necessarily deals with the way Unix works and how its Apple implementation builds on Free BSD and successive components such as Darwin. But this is not a book about Unix syntax; it doesn’t stop at explaining piping, for instance. It goes into intimate – and very useful – detail about the place of such essential components in the way OS X functions. Nor will you find coverage here of how to configure ‘Mail’ or back up data to external drives, though if those are things you already know and care about, this excellent book will explain and expose the underpinnings of network technology specific to Tiger and the intricacies of mount points etc.
This is not a dry book: Singh, a Google systems researcher, knows Apple and appreciates the wonders of Apple culture. His examples are carefully-chosen and clear. There are many illuminating diagrams – particularly flow and sequence diagrams: systems again – and illustrations (but of course, few screenshots). This book might not be your first choice if your system failed to boot. But as an amplification of what’s in Landau and Frakes’ ‘Mac OS X Help Line’, to prevent it from happening again, it’s indispensable. It’s also a book that every administrator and developer of almost any kind of hardware and software would want to own. It explains the how as opposed to the what of OS X more clearly, thoroughly and intelligently than any other book on the market.
Rubin ‘Apple Training Series: iLife ’06’
Rubin’s book – heavier, denser and substantially longer than the other three – takes a different approach to theirs. It is essentially a paced course in ‘learning to live digitally’. Quite an aim, and even more ambitious in that Rubin really sets out not so much to ‘train’ readers how to use iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, GarageBand and iWeb (which are called ‘life-altering products’), as to help them enrich their very world by using audio, photos and video.
After a pithy exposition of what was really Steve Jobs’ introduction of the first versions of these programs in his Digital Hub speech at a MacWorld a few years ago, the book gently and intelligently increases the degree of complexity which it expects from those following the course. The emphasis is on real-life, practical applications of the iLife ’06 suite, working with likely time- and budget constraints.
The order is significant too: Lesson 1 concentrates on sound (iTunes and iPod/stereo systems, CDs) – about 10% of the book; Lessons 2-5 (a third of the book) cover still images; Lessons 6-12 (about 40 percent) cover movies; and the final two Lessons (15 percent) aggregate the foregoing into a DVD and rely on an understanding of techniques covered already.
For each Lesson is assumed a certain time commitment, which files are needed, the relevant software, extra tools (e.g. movie camera) and the Lesson’s goals. Where necessary, new language and vocabulary are explained at the start and a clear prose guide is given to achieving the desired results, completing the steps and sub-steps as well as making the software work for you. The book includes tips and illustrations, screenshots and advice from an author who clearly is expert in his field. Each Lesson has a summative review in the form of questions and answers; the accompanying DVD comes with lesson files.
So, it does make sense to work through the book; there is a ‘bonus’ Lesson on iWork publishing as a teaser for Richard Harrington’s ‘iWork ’06 with iLife ’06’ (ISBN: 0321442253) in order to feel a sense of accomplishment although Rubin sets his material out so well (the book’s index is a good one) that you can just dip in if you really want to more deeply understand a procedure; the concentration is always on creative procedures in the digital world, not tours around menus.
Heid ‘The Macintosh iLife ’06’
Jim Heid is an old and respected hand at books of this kind and specializes in the iLife series having taught and written about it since its beginnings. It shows! His book is expertly-paced, well laid-out, cheerfully and clearly-illustrated and generally a pleasure to use.
The book is divided as you’d expect: iPhoto (28 percent of the book), iTunes (27 percent), iMovie HD (18 percent), iDVD (9 percent, GarageBand (13 percent) and iWeb (5 percent). Where cross-referencing is useful, it’s done well. Though in the interests of clarity, if something needs to be repeated, it is. (There is some padding too in the use of such ‘catchy’ box headings to convey ideas as: “Screen Test”, “Reviewing Photos” and “Art Critic: Rating Your Photos” when the last two and three words respectively would have done.)
Compared with the more specialist coverage of iPhoto 6: The Missing Manual and iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual, which concentrate at greater length on smaller areas, Heid necessarily makes some compromises. Most of the chapters, though, are short and well-focused, so his compromises are successful ones. This is a good place to start for someone anxious to create (with a camera, sound or music) and who perhaps lacks the patience to go into greater detail with each of the individual iLife programs as explored in the other titles reviewed here – or indeed in Apple Training Series: iLife ’06.
When less-than-obvious topics or procedures are explained, The Macintosh iLife ’06 does so extremely well. There is always a graphic if it’s needed, but the book is usually neatly-annotated. It’s hard to think of an area of iLIfe/iPod use which is not explored and about which all but the very experienced users could not learn something.
Significant is the fact that Heid does not treat the iLife suite as a series of commands to be learnt, but as an opportunity for self-expression. Hence, as much space is devoted to the most important aspects of digital photography, how these interact with a Mac running iLife and how to make the most of them, for example, as to menus and technicalities of iPhoto. Of coursem one would welcome more on iWeb, but it and its world are still in their infancy.
This is the most strikingly-illustrated book: lots of screenshots, diagrams, clear tables, photograph examples and sidebars.
Pogue and Story ‘iPhoto 6: The Missing Manual’
It doesn’t take long for the industrious editors and contributors to the Pogue Press/O’Reilly ‘Missing manual’ series to provide us with masses of useful, well-paced tips and guidance once a software update is released. So it has been when iPhoto 6 came out.
This is arguably the most comprehensive book on the subject. Its nearly 400 pages are sensibly divided into four parts: Chapters 1 – 3 (20 percent) on using digital cameras; 4 – 6 (25 percent) on iPhoto basics; 7 – 12 (35 percent) on the significantly-increased ways to publish and share your work; and 13 – 14 (10 percent) on iPhoto ‘stunts’. There are two very informative Appendices – 25 pages on troubleshooting and a menu-by-menu guide as well as two pages of ‘Where to go from here’ resources.
Earlier this year, over 90 percent of all cameras sold were digital: it seems appropriate to deal in depth with their use in a manual covering the Mac and photography, although of course the print output from film cameras can still be (scanned and) input into iPhoto. If anything, some digital cameras – though in theory more sophisticated – are actually harder to use than their film equivalents. As Pogue and Story say, “iPhoto may be simple, but it isn’t simplistic”. So, as you might expect, iPhoto 6: The Missing Manual acts as a user manual for the software; and a guide to making the most of your digital camera. And does it very well. Memory, battery-life, resolutions, formats and sizes are all explained clearly and in easy-to-follow terms for beginners and switchers (to digital media). Chapters 2 and 3 look at the techniques of photography itself, everything from actual composition through lighting, flash and color balance even to camera-phones and underwater work. It deals with venturing beyond ‘Auto’ mode and the best ways to approach different shooting scenarios… action, theater, children, weddings etc. This is a big area and a good bibliography and more online references would have been useful.
The section of the book dealing with using iPhoto itself is exemplary. Every aspect of the software is contextualized; step-by-step explanations are given; well-illustrated; and many technical areas (where iPhoto stores its files; how to use rolls, albums and folders) covered well. Editing – a specialist area if ever there was one – is particularly well handled, encouraging the nervous to get their hands dirty in the ‘histogram’, ‘channels’ and ‘levels’ adjustments. As usual, the book doesn’t just guide you through the menus in this section, but covers the rationale for these techniques. More than the two pages, though, devoted to the EXIF metadata usually captured with every digital photo you take would have been welcome.
For many, the most exiting development of iPhoto 6 is the extended methods now supported to publish your work. iPhoto 6: The Missing Manual uses just the right amount of detail when looking at slideshows, prints, photocasting and iWeb, books, calendars and cards as well as iDVD and movies. Unless you’ve already explored this area, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll learn something. Each of the Book ‘Theme Choices’ is described, for example, and layout strategies given that will enhance the look of what you put together. There is a nice little sidebar on ‘The Heartbreak of the Yellow Exclamation Point’, something we’ve surely all encountered. Pogue and Story suggest ways to eliminate it. This is the longest section of iPhoto 6: The Missing Manual and really is excellent.
‘Photo Stunts’ actually deals not with visual tricks, but screen-savers, AppleScript and Automator. Very useful and an area you might not otherwise think to visit. Just as vital for all but the most basic iPhoto users is a thorough understanding of iPhoto files. Brian Webster’s excellent iPhoto Library Manager, for example, is explained and its use detailed. As are safe techniques for merging iPhoto libraries.
The last section has detailed procedures and explanations for dealing with errors and malfunctions. All users should look at page 365 where the perhaps less-known (unknown) Option+Cmnd rebuild at launch routines are explained. In its way, iPhoto 6: The Missing Manual can and will leave you as much an expert at using your Mac for making the most of digital photography as the other two relevant volumes here. Thoroughly recommended.
Biersdorfer ‘iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual’
Strapped rather unnecessarily ‘Juiciest secrets of Apple’s pocket virtuoso’, this book covers a lot of ground, will probably make you think again about just what the iPod/iTunes combination is capable of and ought to send you back to look at new ways of using it.
Divided into four sections (Hardware: 20 percent of the book’s 320 pages; software: 36 percent; extras and connections: 10 percent; hacks and trouble: 16 percent) with a 20 page appendix looking at the iTunes menus plus three online features on using the iPod as an organizer, an eBook reader and on the vast and rapidly-expanding world of iPod gadgets.
This is a sensible division of material: successive iPod models and generations (not to mention the fact that there are Mac and PC iPods – the differences are well-covered – and distinctions in software behavior), have complicated usage despite the system’s sophistication. iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual makes this easy to understand and come to terms with by using clear graphics, well set-out tables and boxes as well as photos where necessary. You really will understand the model you personally own after even browsing this book quite casually. Differences in terms, capabilities, capacities and functionality are all explored – as well as the far more similarities. The first three chapters are gold-mines full of useful, clearly-presented and perhaps not so well known (on maximizing battery life; on the physical aspects of connecting and synching) information that no iPod owner can afford to ignore.
Chapter 4 starts where the software section should – on digital audio formats. This chapter does a very good job of explaining just enough history, the technical and legal aspects of such files and – significantly – the advantages and disadvantages of each. Then the longest chapter in the book is devoted to the basics, ruses, highlights, drawbacks and ways to optimize iTunes. Here really is almost everything the average user wants to know. The iTunes Music Store has a nice long chapter of its own and Biersdorfer covers multimedia on the iPod at this juncture. As do the increasingly vibrant worlds of podcasting and publishing/sharing music and playlists etc.
Chapters 8, 9 and 10 once again tackle hardware and connectivity, games, the iPod as an external drive, cables and some of the out-of-the-way uses to which it is increasingly being put. The fourth part of iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual takes this further: AppleScripting, some of the best shareware available, and ties to podcasting in GarageBand. All useful, well-explained and packed with practical information. Indeed there are multiple websites which address these issues and are inevitably more up-to-date. But there is a breadth in the way these chapters have been written and a sense that the choices of what to include and exclude are informed by a depth of highly professional experience. Impressive.
The troubleshooting chapter is also excellent. Pretty much all eventualities are covered – with appropriate solutions and just the right touch. The book’s index is good. If you want just one book on digital sound on the Mac, this is a strong contender.
Yet another of the Missing Manual series for Tiger is Jim Elferdink’s iWork ’05: The Missing Manual, which explores with Pages and Keynote. At 375 pages this book is not so weighty as perhaps the subject matter might seem to demand, but nothing is skimped. Pages gets the lion’s share. Effects, techniques, comparisons with similar software, tutorials, illustrations and plenty of fact-packed tables and appendix material: menu by menu guides, customization, online resources, user groups, sidebars on specific topics just when you want them. A lucid, expert, and confident style that actually makes the book readable in a linear fashion despite a good index and well thought-out chapters.
There’s nothing to compete with iWork ’05: The Missing Manual yet, but if something comes, it will have to be good to outshine Elferdink’s compact and compelling volume, whose greatest strength, perhaps, is the way it starts from the need, the task, the goal of a professional or apposite presentation of document; and leads the user gently and expertly through the steps (and how to avoid the pitfalls) necessary to produce it. Recommended.
There is one more title to come; if the Tiger edition of Robin Williams’ Mac OS X Book is as good as previous editions it will be worth waiting for — any day now. This review will be revised on its appearance.
If you’re already reasonably familiar with the Tiger applications and really want to know how and why Tiger works by referring to a well-indexed, comprehensive, bang up to date and expertly-presented encyclopaedia, John and William C Ray’s Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed is your first choice. If you want to spend probably more time on applications and using the system — for pleasure and profit, see which of Litt’s Mac OS Bible, Stauffer and McElhearn’s Mastering Mac OS X v 10.4 Tiger or Pogue’s Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Tiger Edition covers exactly what you need. If you want to venture further into maintenance and backup, don’t hesitate to buy Mac OS X Help Line, Tiger Edition and both of Ballew’s Degunking Your Mac and Kissell’s Take Control of Mac OS X Backups. All of the other more specialist titles — and all three of those on iLIfe/iWork — are exemplary and represent money well spent.
- (360 pages, Peachpit) Engst et al ‘Take Control of Tiger’
- (980 pages, Wiley) Litt, ‘Mac OS Bible’
- (864 pages; O’Reilly) Pogue, ‘Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Tiger Edition’
- (522 pages, Wiley) Ihnatko, ‘The Mac OS X Book’
- (1560 pages, SAMS) Ray and Ray, ‘Mac OS X Tiger Unleashed’
- (378 pages, Wiley) Knaster, ‘Hacking Mac OS X Tiger’
- (695 pages, Wrox) Trent, ‘Beginning Mac OS X Programming’
- (1680 pages, Pearson Education) Singh, ‘Mac OS X Internals: A Systems Approach’
- (470 pages, Peachpit) Rubin, ‘Apple Training Series: iLife ’06’
- (398 pages, Peachpit) Heid, ‘The Macintosh iLife ’06’
- (396 pages, O’Reilly) Pogue and Story, ‘iPhoto 6: The Missing Manual’
- (321 pages, O’Reilly) Biersdorfer, ‘iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual’
- (350 pages, Paraglyph) Ballew, ‘Degunking Your Mac’
- (375 pages, New Riders) Kelby, ‘Mac OS X Tiger Killer Tips’
- (560 pages, Peachpit) Linzmayer, ed. ‘Apple Training Series : Mac OS X Support Essentials A Guide to Supporting and Troubleshooting Mac OS X 10.4’
- (236 pages, O’Reilly) Toporek ‘Mac OS X Tiger Pocket Guide’
- (300 pages, Wiley) Tejkowski ‘Teach Yourself Visually Mac OS X Tiger’
- (875 pages, Sybex) Stauffer and McElhearn ‘Mastering Mac OS X v 10.4 Tiger’
- (780K download 103 pages, TidBITS Electronic Publishing) Joe Kissell, ‘Take Control of Mac OS X Backups’
- (740 pages, O’Reilly) Pogue ‘iLife ’05: The Missing Manual’
- (406 pages, O’Reilly) Elferdink ‘iWork ’05: The Missing Manual’
- (1176 pages, Peachpit) Landau with Frakes ‘Mac OS X Help Line, Tiger Edition’