I sometimes wonder why I’m an early Mac adopter. It’s fun, I guess. Digging into Mac OS X back when it was still a beta preview was a blast. Thought I was familiar and comfortable with Unix, Mac OS X brought much to the table that was better, but altogether different.
Not long after OS X hit the streets so did a wealth (or trail) of thick books that promised to teach you everything you wanted to know about Apple’s new candy colored Aqua operating system—candy coated on the outside, nuts and bolts you could touch and feel (at your peril) on the inside.
That scenario was made for instructive books on OS X. Here’s the five best from my personal shelf.
Mac OSX: The Missing Manual – David Pogue
How many manuals and books has this guy written? He’s a longtime Mac user and afficiando and his books show that experience.
This O’Reilly Press book has nearly 670 pages of all the information that should have been included in your Mac’s box. But wasn’t.
The flimsy Mac manual is enough to get you started out using a Mac and not much more. The Missing Manual tells you there’s plenty under the hood of Apple’s candy-coated OS. As you’d expect, there’s the standard instruction on the Mac OS X desktop—Folders, Windows, Organization, the Dock, the Toolbar.
And, Pogue goes into sufficient detail on how to use a Mac (including a brief touch on Mac Classic—Windows users buy Macs, too) that Apple truly missed giving you a Manual. part 3 covers the basic components of Mac OS X, including all the FREE applications, from Address Book, AppleScript to the iLife applications, to System Preferences and the Utilities folder.
Pogue is a writer and a Mac user, so you’re not getting a book that’s for geeks or techno-dudes. This is the Manual for the rest of us. If you could only buy one book to give you the skinny on Mac OS X, make it The Missing Manual. Negatives? A few.
There’s just so much material that’s worthwhile in this book that it’s daunting; almost like a research book. Less than $21 at Amazon.
Mac OS X Killer Tips – Scott Kelby
If you could only afford two books, make sure to include Killer Tips. There’s not one Mac book around that offers such a digestible view of our favorite OS.
Over 300 pages make Killer Tips a substantial book (despite the many photographs of OS X and the larger print) but it delivers Mac information much differently that Pogue’s Missing Manual. Killer Tips has a killer design. Each page has two tips, one on top, one on the bottom.
The tips also carry a screenshot of the Mac OS X feature being uncovered. That makes it an easy read. Don’t be fooled by the size. The Table of Contents is 13 pages long and well organized with descriptive titles. There’s not much to complain about.
I’ve been an OS X user from the beginning and I can always find something I didn’t know or forgot that I knew. Less than $20 from Amazon.
Before moving on to the 3rd of 5 books on Mac OS X that grace my bookshelf, let me point out that I’m not getting a commission and not pushing you toward Amazon. More than half of the books I buy come from Amazon because they’re just so darned good.
The rest come from Borders with a few from the nearby Apple Store.
# 3 on my list of 5 Killer Books for Mac OS X is from SAMS, written by John Ray and William C. Ray. Read on…
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Mac OS X Maximum Security – John Ray and William C. Ray
You knew there had to be a geeks book in there somewhere, right? This is a good one and has helped me through a number of sticky situations.
We run the web site on Mac OS X Server (Panther) using a PowerMac G5 (in humbler beginnings it was Server running on an iMac; this is better). That means things like Apache, PHP, Perl, MySQL, Domain Names, email, and much more.
That also means “security” problems. Well, potential problems, anyway. Maximum Security did and does an excellent job getting into some guts of security issues with Mac OS X and Server that a competent user can understand.
Before getting all the way through Maximum Security, I’d configured Apache, MySQL, .htaccess, the Mac IP firewall, set up a different version of PHP (Marc Liyanage’s version is tops), and much more.
The other books are good for learning about Mac OS X, Maximum Security is what make sure you learn ALL you need to know to have a secure system.
Mac OS X Book – Panther Edition – Robin Williams (co-author John tollett)
Why such a great comedian is doing Mac OS X books, I’ll never know. Just kidding. Robin Williams (the writer, also a woman) has a bunch of Mac books under his belt, and this one from Peachpit Press (courtesy of Amazon) is spongeworthy, too.
There’s nearly 800 pages of goodies here, most of it a little less technical than The Missing Manual but, as with all these books, nearly everything gets covered.
Williams devotes more space setting up and using Mac’s built-in applications, and devotes sufficient space to getting into the Unix-guts of OS X, but not so much as to scare the newbie.
As you’d suspect with a book aimed at the less-than-technical Mac users, there’s extra pages on network setup, printer sharing, a lengthy glossary, and an answer key. There’s specially marked sections for new users and beginners.
Williams also devotes plenty of space to setting up, formatting documents of all kinds. Yes, if you don’t know how to setup you Mac for the Internet, she covers that, too. In painstaking detail because it’s pretty darned easy on the Mac.
For those just getting started or new to the Mac or Mac OS X, Williams’ book makes a good purchase and a great gift. About $21 at Amazon (see a trend here?)
Mac OSX Panther Visual QuickStart Guide – Maria Langer
This is the only book on the list that’s less than $20. Maria’s book gets you into Mac OS X very quickly. Not too quickly and not too deeply.
Once you’ve gone through cover to cover you’ll appreciate two things much better: 1) how nicely the book leads you from major topic to major topic, 2) how good Mac OS X really is compared to anything else.
Langer’s vocabulary is aimed more at the newbie than any of the other books, including Killer Tips.
Competing for this coveted #5 spot on my list of 5 Killer Books for Mac OS X are some very good ones which, unfortunately, are aimed at more technical usage. They’re getting mentioned here as Honorable Mentions because they’re necessary books once you go beyond the basics.
Mac OS X Panther for Unix Geeks – Brian Jepson, Ernest E. Rothman
Yes, Mac OS X is based on the BSD (Unix) subsystem and the Mach kernel. So it’s Unix. But not all Unix systems are exactly alike and Apple’s is no different. It’s different. This book does a nice job of comparing Apple’s version with others, particularly the whereabouts of certain files.
There’s also a companion book called Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther. If there’s much difference between the books, I couldn’t figure them out by standing in Borders.
Books To Forget About
Yes, there’s a few. The Dummies and Idiots books don’t bring much to the table and cost nearly as much as the best book, The Missing Manual. The so-called “Teach Yourself…” books are written for middle school students, it seems, and your money is better spent elsewhere.
I ordered a book from Borders months ago on Mac OS X Server. That hasn’t seen the light of day. Yet.
The books I used most? The Missing Manual. Killer Tips. Maximum Security. In that order.
How about you? Any success or failures with Mac OS X books? Share your experiences with other readers. Click the Comments link below.