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Master Your Mac – ‘Book Mystique Review

Most OS X manuals and reference books contain how-to tutorials on how to execute various functions and tasks in OS X. However, Master Your Mac is authored by a guy who has made a career of writing instructional tutorials.

Matt Cone, a technical writer specializing in Apple hardware and software, has been a Mac user for more than 20 years. A former ghostwriter for some of Apple’s most notable instructors, Cone founded Macinstruct in 1999, one of the most popular online destinations for OS X tutorials.

Most OS X books also follow a somewhat similar thematic structural formula, and Master Your Mac does so as well to a degree, but this book also breaks out of the template in terms of the order that topics are presented, what is particularly emphasized, and the book’s frequent focus on third-party apps and utilities for OS X. It doesn’t try to be a point-by-point manual covering every aspect of OS X use, maintenance and troubleshooting. There is definitely a place for such books; I use them frequently for my own reference purposes; but Master Your Mac is a different type of OS X book, with the author opting to emphasize and explain particular aspects of Mac usage in detail, instead of attempting comprehensive feature coverage, and focusing on 38 specific projects in addition to general information. But don’t misunderstand. There is a tremendous amount of useful and interesting stuff in Master Your Mac.

Macs are great for beginners, because learning the basics is easy. “The great thing about OS X is that a complete beginner can turn on a new Mac and start surfing the web in less than five minutes,” says author Matt Cone.

However, the challenge comes when you want OS X to do things your way. Cone says he wrote Master Your Mac to teach people how to do things in OS X that they didn’t even know were possible – for Mac users who want to travel beyond the basics.

Matt Cone, a technical writer specializing in Apple hardware and software, has been a Mac user for more than 20 years. A former ghostwriter for some of Apple’s most notable instructors, Cone founded Macinstruct in 1999, one of the most popular online destinations for OS X tutorials.

With tips on an eclectic array of OS X topics ranging from organizing your workspace to strengthening your computer’s security, this 400-page book will show you how to tweak, customize, and control your Mac. And since many of the best tools for unlocking your Mac’s potential don’t come with OS X, Cone gives you the skinny on the best third-party apps to fix those everyday Apple annoyances and make your computer do things your way.

Part One: Back To Basics, interestingly starts with a chapter on keyboard shortcuts – both pre-programmed and ones you compose on your own, with a tutorial on how to proceed with that. There are also chapters on configuring login items, on finding files and folders using OS X’s powerful built-in indexed search engine, Spotlight, or alternatively doing name searches with third-party developer Thomas Templeman’s Find Any File non-indexed search utility.

There are also chapters in Part One on organizing Finder windows, with the focus mainly on the Mission Control feature that replaced the former Spaces and Exposé in OS X 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion, as well as using the third-party Divvy, Moom, and Cinch applications that make split screen windows on your Mac’s display possible, one on hard drive tidying and cleaning, and one on configuring energy and display settings.

Part Two covers Boosting Productivity, kicking off with a chapter on launching applications, plus three more on customizing trackpad and mouse gestures, configuring multiple displays, and Chapter 10 on using speech recognition.

Part Three is on automation, making task macros that can cut down immensely on the donkey work you have to do on your computer, especially repetitive tasks. There are tutorials on both using the built-in OS X Automator feature, and on making macros with the third party Keyboard Maestro app. There’s also a chapter on automating tasks with AppleScript, Apple’s plain- English programming language for creating automation programs. Chapter 13 is a tutorial on creating a Bluetooth proximity monitor, which will allow your Mac to sense that you are away from your workstation simply by your taking your iPhone or iPad with you. There’s also a chapter on automating Finder actions –both using Automator, and the third-party Hazel application. The last chapter in Part Three is on triggering location-based actions using the third-party Sidekick utility.

Part Four is entitled “Managing Your Life,” with its first chapter being on managing email. Again there’s a tutorial focus on using a third-party utility, in this instance MailSteward.

There’s also a chapter dedicated to killing spam, with focus on using Google’s Gmail service. There’s a chapter on creating quick and easy alerts, another on managing your music using iTunes and the third-party CoverSutra utility.

Part Five is a big one on the Internet and Networking. The first chapter in the section, Chapter 20, is on creating your own Safari extensions. There’s a chapter on turning websites into applications, another on storing files in the cloud using iCloud or Dropbox.

There’s a chapter on accessing your Mac remotely, and another on turning your Mac into a Web and FTP server also addressed are wirelessly sharing a printer and hard drive, and synchronizing files between computers.

Part Six is called Serious Security. There’s a full chapter on creating strong passwords and storing them securely, another on enabling firmware password protection, and a third on encrypting your Mac’s Internet connection. Rounding out the section are chapters on enabling firewalls, on preserving your anonymity online, and on encrypting your hard disks and backups.

Part Seven is on the all-important tasks of monitoring, troubleshooting, and maintenance. Chapter 33 is on system and process monitoring while Chapter 34 covers repairing disk permissions. Chapter 35 is on verifying and repairing the hard disk, well Chapter 36 is to drill material explaining how to make better file backups. Chapter 37 is on maintaining a MacBook’s battery, and the final Chapter in the book, Chapter 38, is on creating a bootable emergency USB drive. There is also a 10-page Index.

Master Your Mac is attractively designed, with wide page margins and just he right amount of white space. I like the cover theme and color choice. I’m not enchanted with the sans serif type font, which looks a bit industrial, but that’s not a deal-breaker. The book is copiously illustrated throughout with screenshots, rendered in grayscale. The paper stock is good quality, although not glossy.

I like this book. It’s a bit different and a breath of fresh air in a crowded field of OS X literature. If you’re a complete Mac newbie, there are better choices for you, such as Bob LeVitus’s OS X For Dummies, David Pogue’s OS X – The Missing Manual, and several others. However, if you have some mileage on the Mac under your belt and want to do some tweaking and tuning to make your Mac work the way you want it to, Master Your Mac can show you the way. It will also be an excellent Christmas present choice for Mac users on your list.

Master Your Mac
No Starch Press
November 2012
424pp
$29.95
ISBN9781593274061

For a limited time you can purchase a personally-signed copy of Master Your Mac from Matt directly, which will allow him to continue publishing free tutorials for the Mac community. The book costs $30, and he charges a flat $5 fee for shipping and handling.

Other places to purchase Master Your Mac include:

• No Starch Press is offering a special 30% discount for Macinstruct readers. Enter the MACINSTRUCT coupon code at checkout to get both the paperback and ebook edition of the book for about $21.00

• Amazon offers low prices and free shipping if you combine the book with an order over $25:
Amazon

• Barnes and Noble carries the book online and in many of their stores.

• Powell’s is one of the largest independent bookstores in the world. Be sure to visit if you’re ever in Portland, Oregon

For more information, visit:
http://www.macinstruct.com/master-your-mac

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