February 14th 2003
By Mike Flaminio
In my continuing effort to review useful Mac OS X books for X newbies, I present to you: Mac OS X, The Missing Manual. David Pogue is well known in the Mac community. You can collect Pogue icons, Pogue songs, Pogue pumpkin faces, as well as Pogue books. In the field of Mac writing he has been a bit of a revolutionary. Not only does he insist that his writing be amusing, but he also writes for the little guy, as opposed to the Mac insider. Pogue is a champion of user friendliness, in all things, not just Macs. We who follow the exploits of the Pogueman where amazed to discover that none other than the New York Times found his writing impressive enough to give him a Circuits column every Thursday.
The book at hand is the second edition of his MOSX Missing Manual. It is a fundamental rewrite of the first edition to reflect 10.2 technology. The results are very good indeed. But before we delve into the details let me point out that in my humble opinion this is not a book for beginners, despite some obtuse remarks I have read to the contrary. Nor is this a book for advanced Mac mavens who would like to squeeze every last ounce of knowledge out of Mac OS X. This is a very solid book for intermediate Mac users. It is not for dummies, and it will not help you write the next nifty piece of MOSX shareware.
Beginners will find there is no coverage of iPhoto or iMovie. But, this is for a very simple reason: Pogue wrote two Missing Manuals specifically about these applications. The text-editing coverage is fine but without any hand holding. The networking coverage is very good, but speaks on a level that is over the heads of any typical beginner.
Intermediate Mac users will find a few flaws here and there. Its manual style of writing can get a bit dry, especially in the UNIX chapters. The tips and tricks provided are useful and plentiful but incomplete. Installation of the OS is covered in Appendix A, but I was dismayed to find there was no mention of custom installation, clearly an over site. As a result, Pogue missed one of the hottest Mac OS X 10.2 tips: turn off all the superfluous languages in the installation in order to save a Gig of disk space! Humph. Then again, Pogue does suggest getting rid of the hundreds of megabytes of printer drivers you will never use.
Pogue provides an entire chapter on hacking, but again this is not a book for advanced users. What is provided for the apprentice hacker is a good introduction. Over 15 shareware tools are discussed and provided on the book's web site. There are excellent starter guides provided for UNIX and AppleScript (found in Chapter 7, despite an error in the table of contents). The rest of the book has detailed coverage of Mac OS X fundamentals and Mac OS 10.2 improvements. David even snuck in a section about iSync, software which was only in beta at the time of publication.
Pogue's presentation throughout the book is friendly, with a few sly remarks here and there for fun. Pogue fans will fall right into the groove and enjoy his banter. The progression of subject matter is easy to follow. The flow of information is never overwhelming. There are plenty of help tips provided throughout the book as well as an entire troubleshooting section in Appendix B.
To supplement the Missing Manual, keep an eye out for David's 'Mac OS X Hints' book. For those who want more comprehensive coverage of Classic, take a look at his 'Mac OS 9, The Missing Manual.' Of course don't miss the numerous other Missing Manual books provided by Pogue Press.
If you would like to read a sample chapter you will find it at the book's web site. You might also enjoy reading an interview with David Pogue discussing his writing perspective. For those souls who bought the first edition of this book, just you wait because the second edition will be out-of-date next year! Meanwhile, you can buy the second edition at a 30% discount directly from O'Reilly or check out Amazon's automatic discount.
Overall this is a very good David Pogue book, well worth reading by any intermediate Mac user. His writing will carefully guide the learning of any readers and provide plenty of side information and quips to keep the reading fun.
Side Note: If you like David Pogue's Circuits column at the New York Times, be sure to sign up for his weekly email supplement, which is both amusing and insightful. He also has a reader feedback site, which can get a bit raucous.
As of the date of this article, here is a list of available Mac OS X 10.2 books:
-The Robin Williams Mac OS X Book: Jaguar Edition
-The Mac OS X.2 Jaguar Book
-Mac OS X 10.2: Visual QuickStart Guide
-Mac OS X 10.2: Advanced Visual QuickPro Guide
-Teach Yourself Visually: Mac OS X 10.2
-Mac OS X v.10.2 Jaguar Killer Tips
-The Little Mac Book 10.2
-Mac OS X For Dummies 2nd. Edition
-Mac OS X All-in-one Desk Reference For Dummies