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ATPM 9.03
March 2003




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Review: Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, 2nd Edition (book)

by Johann Campbell,

Author: David Pogue, published by Pogue Press/O’Reilly & Assoc.

Price: $29.95

Trial: Sample Chapter

I first reviewed Mac OS X: The Missing Manual exactly a year ago, in which time Mac OS X has changed considerably. The inevitable release of version 10.2, code-named Jaguar, brought a much-hyped myriad of changes, additions, and improvements to the operating system, and has prompted a much-needed update to its counterpart in the Missing Manual series. This review will only cover changes made in this edition.

The first noticeable change to this book is its thickness. The second edition adds more than a hundred pages to the first, and Pogue claims that not a single page has been left unchanged in the overhaul. Most of the screen shots have been updated to reflect the subtle interface changes in 10.2, and all the confirmed errata submitted by readers of the first edition are no longer present.

More importantly, the book is now much less involved in explaining the differences between OS X and its predecessor, OS 9. Bearing in mind a lot of new Mac users are former Windows users, Pogue has aptly chosen to refrain as much as possible from mentioning Mac OS 9 outside its own chapter. Additionally, the useful “Where’d It Go?” appendix has been split into two appendices, one covering Mac OS 9 features and the other covering Windows features.

Certain chapters have been slightly reorganized to reflect changes to 10.2 itself. System Preference panes are now explained in alphabetical order rather than by category, and the distinction between Terminal and the Unix that lies underneath OS X’s graphical user interface is now made much clearer. New sub-chapters have been created for the new Find function and Menulets, and my favorite chapter—Hacking Mac OS X—has happily been expanded.

The section which has seen the most changes is Part Five: Mac OS X Online. A whole new chapter covers Sherlock 3, iChat, and iCal, and .Mac (née iTools) is explained in full, along with Mail’s new spam filter and the new personal firewall. Finally, this book no longer takes you through Mac OS X menu by menu: that appendix has disappeared. In its place is a much-requested (and much more useful) “master list” of keystroke combinations.

There are a number of related titles available from O’Reilly worthy of mention if you find yourself wanting to learn more, which weren’t around when the first edition was published. Pogue has written a separate Missing Manual for switchers from the Windows world, as well as a short book containing hundreds of tips and tricks. Those who want to learn more about the Unix aspect of OS X should look at Dave Taylor and Brian Jepson’s Learning Unix for Mac OS X, also from O’Reilly.

Mac OS X: The Missing Manual could only have improved, and this new edition does by no means disappoint. The second edition is current as of version 10.2.1, and new editions will surely surface as OS X progresses through version 10.2.3 and beyond. If you already own the first edition, there is not a lot you will discover in the second, providing you actively follow OS X-centric Web sites such as the excellent If on the other hand you have not yet bought this book, seriously consider it. It’s still the best starting point to OS X there is.

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