A good book from a great site

Mac OS X Hints has to be one of the most popular sites among Mac geeks, certainly any time I’ve read a review of a book for the Mac here on Slashdot at least one of the comments mentions the site. Not only does it have a marvelous collection of hints it also has some great forums full of people more than willing to help. I’ve often found it useful for fixing a problem and have helped my fellow Mac users more than once.

Why would you buy a book with exactly the same name written by the site owner? If the book is the same quality as the site then that’s got to be one reason.

Hints With Humour

The book is extremely well written with a wry sense of humour that appeals to me a great deal. The hints cover an extremely large range of subjects, not just the operating system and the iLife software but other commonly used packages such as Mozilla, Camino, Entourage and Word. They offer something new to everyone from the beginner to the advanced Mac user. Some are small and simple, others more complex. There is also a huge variation in the level of the hints, some are for the rank beginner, some could only be appreciated by a power user.

The structure, starting with a chapter called “Designing Your World” devoted to startup and basics such as windows and menus, does move from the simple through to the more complex in later chapters, chapters 15 and 16 are devoted to the Terminal and Unix. At first you may find the hints too simple but as you move through the book you will find your level and even in the early chapters you may pick up a trick or two.

A Book That Grows On You

There are a lot of good hints here, the cover says “more than 500” and elsewhere the book mentions 540, either number is realistic – sorry, I couldn’t do the math. This is a book that will probably grow on you, at first I thought it wasn’t worth the money but I picked it up and put it down several times, used a few hints (fixed Mozilla so it uses an external mail program, made a few cosmetic adjustments, added a couple of menulets), lost it for a couple of days in the desk clutter and picked it up again. It seems to fit into a strange niche in computer books, it’s not a reference, it’s not a teaching guide, it’s more a book that should hang around and have a dozen or so pages read once a week so you can play with a hint or two and integrate them into your Mac use (or not, as you choose).

Finding the hints is no problem, the contents are long and detailed, the book is well indexed and the breakup of chapters is quite logical. There is some cross referencing of hints though this is perhaps one area that could improve.

O’Reilly have their usual page about the book Mac OS X Hints that includes the contents, sample chapter, index and a (short) errata page. The author, of course, runs the web site, Mac OS X Hints. If you want more of a feel for the book then there are two articles on O’Reilly’s MacDevCenter, the first article is a tip from each of the first eight chapters and the second article is a tip from each of the last eight chapters.

So I think you’ll get our money’s worth if you’re prepared to let this volume hang around your desk. If you’re the sort of person who likes to read a computer book, learn the information then pass it along this book won’t suit you.

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