I’ve seen a fair number of books for OS X and they range in target audience from the raw beginner such as Mac OS X for Dummies and Robin William’s Mac OS X Book through to those for technical readers such as Mac OS X In A Nutshell (IAN).
Mastering Mac OS X falls firmly in the middle. Unlike IAN it spends a fair amount of time on the GUI and a major section is devoted to QuickTime and the iApps. Unlike Robin William’s volume it covers high end topics such as AppleScript and the terminal and has a good section on troubleshooting. One thing lacking that I applaud is that it does not have IAN’s large chapter summing up Unix commands.
The book is well structured, divided into 7 sections, 5 of increasing complexity, ‘The Mac OS X Basics’, ‘On The Internet’, ‘Multimedia: Images Sound, Video’, ‘Networking, Coonectivity and Portables’ and ‘Advanced Mac OS X topics’ – which covers AppleScript, the Terminal, and various servers including QuickTime, Samba and Sendmail. These are followed by a hardware and troubleshooting section and finally the appendices. The index is good and it has the by now traditional two level table of contents, the first listing just the chapter heads and the second listing all the sub sections as well.
Given that structure, the book touches all the bases and covers all the required topics well.
The writing is not bad, I think a stronger hand with the editing would have done wonders as it tends to the wordy.
Once again a certain amount of the early stuff is either below the needs of the target audience or not really required. Oh, and Sybex do have a page for the book…!OpenDocument which includes a Table of Contents, sample chapter, index and errata but get a load of that URL and the author has a web page for the book but he hasn’t touched it in over a year, since before this second edition was published.
It should be said that among all the books in this genre none are badly written, or badly structured. Personally I don’t like the style of the ‘Dummies’ books and so I put it at the bottom of my list but others may not have the same feeling. That said, how do you choose among them? The choice boils down to two things, how close you are to the target audience for a particular book and how well it addresses the target audience. Mastering Mac OS X is targeted at “intermediate beginners (those who have some experience with a graphical operating system) and solidly intermediate to advanced users” according to the Introduction. I think that it covers the needs of the first group well but will probably fall short if you are already an “advanced user.” For these people I’d recommend Mac OS X In A Nutshell. If you are a total newbie, then I’d recommend Robin William’s Mac OS X Book.
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