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ATPM 8.12
December 2002





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Review: Mac OS X Killer Tips (book)

by Kirk McElhearn,


Developer: New Riders/Scott Kelby

Price: $29.99

As we all know, Mac OS X is a radical departure for Mac users who have become familiar, over the years, with Apple’s older versions of its operating system. Notwithstanding the Unix underpinnings of the new OS (which are not apparent to those users who don’t want to see them), the Aqua interface, the new structure of the OS, and the many changes to familiar features and applications, put all Mac users back to square one.


Many books have been written about Mac OS X, from thick compendia to slim introductions, covering the full range of user needs and skill levels, mostly providing a complete roadmap to using the OS. But this new book, Mac OS X Killer Tips, by Scott Kelby, is a departure from the standard fare: it is a collection of tips, hints, and shortcuts to help users already familiar with OS X go further.

When I first got a copy of this book and started flipping through it, I was immediately attracted by its colorful layout, full of Aqua screen shots, on glossy paper. This is quite different from most computer books, which are in black and white, and have much more text than graphics. But the very nature of this series (Killer Tips) lends itself to this type of presentation. With one or two tips per page, each illustrated by one or more screen shots, this book is more visual than most others.

Most books tell you, on the back cover, which level of users they address. But this book does not come out and say what level it is for. Its “fun, cool, timesaving tips” will interest readers at all levels, though I must confess I was hard-pressed to find more than a handful that I don’t already know. In fact, reading this book, it seems that many of the “tips” are merely explanations of how to do the basics. But for users who have not bought any other books on Mac OS X, there is plenty of useful information.

The book’s 13 chapters, and more than 400 tips, cover such things as windows; icons; working in Classic, iTunes, and the other iApps; and there is a brief chapter on troubleshooting. A totally useless (yet fun) chapter presents some pranks to play on Mac OS X users, and a couple of chapters contain tips on stopping annoying things or working faster. The tips range from some pretty basic stuff (locking files, selecting multiple icons, changing preferences) to some more arcane things (getting the most out of the Dock, optimizing iTunes, and some basic troubleshooting tips).

So who is this book for? Well, if you already consider yourself a Mac OS X power user, this book isn’t for you. But it might be right for that spouse or parent who uses a Mac, and who adamantly refuses to read a “real” book. Intermediate users will get a lot out of it, and its non-threatening layout will be a boon to beginners.

But these tips don’t come cheap—at $30 (list price), this costs the same as a complete book, such as Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, by David Pogue, which tells you (almost) everything you ever need to know about Mac OS X. But we all know many people who won’t read books like that; for them, Mac OS X Killer Tips could be exactly what they need to become familiar with Mac OS X.

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