Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Mountain Lion Edition – The ‘Book Mystique Review

There are lots of good reasons why switching to the Mac is attracting more and more PC users. New York Times tech columnist and prolific computer book author David Pogue notes that Apple was the only computer company whose sales actually increased during the 2008-’09 recession and its aftermath. The Mac’s marketshare has quadrupled since 2005 and is now around 20% of computer sales in the US. It’s doubtless partly attributable to a “halo effect” from all the iPads and iPhones crossing over to Apple’s Macintosh product lines. There’s also the Apple Stores which have played in a substantial role in advancing the Mac’s increasing visibility and popularity.

And then there’s malware, or more accurately the relative lack of it on the Mac platform. As Pogue observes, maybe people have just spent one Saturday too many dealing with viruses, worms, spyware, crapware, excessive start up processes, questionable firewalls, insufficient permissions, and all the other landmines strewn across the Windows world — while he notes that in practical terms for more’s most users, viruses and spyware are almost nonexistent on the Mac platform.

Whatever, he contends that there’s never been a better time to make the switch to Mac OS X with the recently released OS X version 10.8 Mountain Lion now the shipping on all new Macs with features like built-in high definition video cameras, built-in Ethernet, illuminated keyboards, and two different kinds of wireless connections. He also contends that contrary to popular received wisdom, when you’re talking laptops at least, Apple’s generally cost less then similarly outfitted Windows laptops, and weigh less too, as well as looking a lot cooler. And of course you can still run Windows on a Mac if you want to, which doesn’t apply in the reciprocal.

However, Pogue maintains is that freedom from malware and crapware is only one of the major advantages of using a Mac. Others include:

Stability, thanks to industrial-strength Unix running the show behind behind OS X’s user-friendly graphical interface. Also, he notes that OS X’s built-in firewall makes it virtually impossible for hackers to break into your Mac, whose system insists on getting permission before anything gets installed a new Mac. Nothing can be installed without your approval.

Unix is actually an old operating system, indeed several decades old, and has been refined and polished by generations of programmers, including Steve Jobs’s NeXT Operating System team which developed the system that became OS X in 2001.

No nagging. OS X isn’t copy protected. You can install the same copy on your desktop and laptop Mac. Apple’s OS X personal use license allows you to download OS X Mountain Lion once and then install it on all of your authorized personal Macs. Software activation is never required, and you won’t find any software demos from other companies on a new Mac either. OS X leaves you alone.

Great software. OS X comes with several dozen bundled useful programs — not just demos, from Mail for email to a 3-D, voice activated chess program.

Simpler everything. Most applications on the Mac show up in the Finder UI as a single icon. All support files are hidden away inside where you don’t have to look at them. There’s no run installer programs to add/remove applications on the Macintosh. In general you can remove a program from your Mac simply by dragging the application to the Trash.

Desktop features. OS X offers a long list of useful desktop features such as spring-loaded folders that let you drag an icon onto a folder within a folder with a single drag and without leaving an accretion of four open windows trailing. And there’s OS X’s built-in graphics with a technology called Quartz for two-dimensional graphics and open GL for three-dimensional graphics. The operating system also has the built-in ability to turn any document on the screen into an Adobe Acrobat Acrobat PDF file, which can be a huge convenience advantage.

And if it appeals, you also have easy access to the command line interface for the Unix operating system that works away behind the scenes via a bundled application called the Terminal.

Convinced yet? If so, then David Pogue’s latest Mountain Lion Edition of “Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual” is for you. Pogue is is one of the most pleasurable to read and entertaining writers in the field. If you’re only having one OS X get-you-up-to-speed book, the one I almost always recommend is his Mac OS X: The Missing Manual (with Mountain Lion now just “OS X: The Missing Manual”) — a hard-to-beat general resource on all things OS X for its comprehensiveness and easy-reading accessibility to users across a broad spectrum of user computer skill levels. It’s definitely the Mac OS X reference I turn to first and most often myself. I rarely have to dig farther.

However, Mac OS X: TMM was originally written to address the needs of Classic Mac OS users migrating to OS X, with more recent editions of the book having been refocused to accommodate the considerably different requirements of users with no hands-on memory of the Classic Mac era. and with increasing numbers of Windows users switching to the Mac on the coattails of the iPod/iPhone/iPad/iOS phenomenon, having discovered that Apple products can be very cool, there is a risk of casting too broad a net from the flagship Mac OS X: TMM, definitely making room for a more specific Missing Manual solution for new-to-the-Mac users switching from Windows.

Hence another Missing Manuals book series: “Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual” Taking the plunge and making the switch is, at least in the author’s and this reviewer’s estimation, well worth the effort, but itmcan be fraught with some potential pitfalls and points of confusion. The Macintosh is a different machine from Windows PCs, running completely different operating system, and built by a company with a different philosophy — described by Pogue as a fanatical perfectionist/artistic zeal. “When it comes to their issues and ideals,” he observes, Apple and Microsoft have about as much in common as a melon and a shoehorn.”

“Who ever thought, in the days when Mac owners were an oppressed minority, that Macs would represent 20 percent of the world’s new-computer sales?” asks the Emmy award-winning tech correspondent for CBS News. “An incredible number of these people are refugees from the Windows world who could use a hand crossing the great divide into the Mac world. This book is for them: the oppressed majority.”

The original Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual edition published in 2003, featuring OS X 10.2 Jaguar, had 435 pages and included a section on using OS X Classic Mode and even booting directly into OS 9 ( which a lot of us veteran Mac users were still doing at the time), as well as use of America Online, AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, Eudora Pro, connecting to the Internet with a dial–up modem, and other software and technology that has now lng since fallen by the wayside, showing how far we’ve come in nine years. The iPod gets but four page references in the first edition index, and of course the iPhone and iPad didn’t exist yet.

Two years later, the OS X 10.4 Tiger edition of Switching to the Mac: TMM had grown to 508 pages, still had sections on Mac OS Classic programs and Classic Mode, as well as dial-up modem instructions.

Flash forward to the latest OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion edition, , and we’re up to 764 pages. OS X Classic Mode is long gone, but David Pogue, God bless him, still includes a four–paragraph instructional on using dial-up Internet, as well as posting a free appendix entitled “Setting Up A Dial–Up Modem Connection” on the missingmanuals.com website. The iPod is down to five index page references again, but the Mountain Lion edition is saturated with iPad and IOS references, along with new iOS features like iCloud, gestures, Mission Control, the Launchpad, Full Screen Mode, Reminders, Notes, AirDrop, AutoSave, the Notification Center, Game Center, and the Mac App Store which have crossed over from Apple’s mobile OS, along with much discussion of the transplantation of iPad techniques to the Mac in Mountain Lion. Indeed, Pogue says if you could use just one word to describe Apple’s central objective in designing Mountain Lion (and OS X 10.7 Lion before it) there’s no doubt it would have to be “iPad.”

That design goal centers on two characteristics in particular; an application-oriented full screen user interface with auto-save and no visible file system of files and folders, and touchscreen/multitouch tap and gesture based user input. Not everyone is enchanted by the iOSsification of OS X, but fortunately so far, most of it is entirely optional, and with a few exceptions you can continue using Mountain Lion pretty much as you would pre-OS 10.7 versions of OS X. Switching To The Mac explains it all in detail, both in the main text, and also in many sidebars that expand on various topics that that merit further elaboration.

Since you’re reading this review on MacPrices.net, there’s a likelihood that you’re not in the main target market for this book (but if you’re a recent or prospective switcher looking for information, you’ve come to the right place –welcome). However, chances are that you know somebody who is.

Anyway, the author assumes only a cursory level of Mac knowledge on the part of the typical reader, so the book’s introduction concentrates on explaining basic Mac concepts and the many advantages the Mac has over Windows such as system stability, no copy-protection nagging, superior software, low-hassle software installs (and uninstalls), and simpler everything.

Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual Mountain Lion Edition is organized into five parts of several chapters each, and the author acknowledges up-front that some of the material in Switching to the Mac: TMM is adapted from Mac OS X: TMM, which is certainly no bad thing.

Part 1, Welcome To Macintosh, covers Mac essentials, including how the Mac is different in general from Windows PCs, plus essentially a crash course in everything you see on screen when you turn on the machine: including the Dock, the Sidebar, icons, windows, menus, scrollbars, the Trash, aliases, the App Menu, and so on. There is also a chapter on fles, icons, and the Spotlight indexed search utility, another on documents, programs, and Mountain Lion’s new Mission Control feature. Another new Mountain Lion feature, built-in Dictation, is covered in the chapter on entering, moving and backing-up data.

Part 2, Making The Move, is dedicated to the actual process of importing your software, settings, and even peripherals like printers and monitors from a PC to the Mac. Transferring your stuff — moving files from a PC to a Mac by cable, network, or disk is the easy part. More challenging is figuring out how to extract your email, address book, calendar, Web bookmarks, buddy list, desktop pictures, and MP3 files. This book tells you how and walks you through the processes. also offer tips on recreating your software suite on the Mac. This book identifies the Mac equivalents of your favorite Windows programs. Also included are chapters outlining the steps for running Windows on your Mac, and hardware interfacing with peripherals like mice (and touchpads), keyboards, monitors, printers, scanners, and so forth.

Part 3, Making Connections, walks you through the process of setting up an Internet connection on your Mac. It also covers configuring and using Apple’s Internet software suite: Mail, Address Book, Safari, and iChat, Internet setup and Apple’s iCloud online Cloud service.

Part 4, Putting Down Roots, moves along to more advanced topics, mastery of which will transform you into a Macintosh power user. Topics covered include tutorials on how to set up private accounts for people who share a Mac, creating a network for file sharing and screen sharing, navigating the system preferences program (the Mac equivalent of the Windows control panel), and using the 50 odd free bonus programs that come bundled with Mac OS X.

Part 5, Appendices, (which in a rare Missing Manuals proofreading lapse is erroneously mislabeled “Part Six”) contains four of them. The first two cover installation and troubleshooting of Mac OS X. The third appendix is the “Windows-to-Mac Dictionary” — an essential resource for anyone who occasionally (or frequently) flounders to find some familiar control in the new to them alien Macintosh environment. The last appendix is a Master OS X Secret Keystroke List for the entire Mac OS X universe.

As one has come to expect with Missing Manuals books, there is also an excellent Index, and the book is illustrated with many screenshots (all greyscale in this instance, unlike some of the other Missing Manual titles which have color). Selling at the modest price of $29.99 (Can$31.99) for a 742 page book, Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual is a relatively inexpensive must-have for anyone making the Windows to Mac transition. It will smooth the way by omitting needless confusion and potential frustration, and also prove a treat for Windows users who may not be familiar with best-selling Mac author David Pogue’s delightfully witty and conversational prose style.

For more information about the book, including table of contents, author bios, and cover graphic, see:

Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Mountain Lion Edition
By: David Pogue
Publisher:O’Reilly Media
Print Ebook Safari Books Online
Print: September 2012
Ebook: September 2012
Pages: 764
Print ISBN:978-1-4493-3029-3 | ISBN 10:1-4493-3029-0
Ebook ISBN:978-1-4493-3028-6 | ISBN 10:1-4493-3028-2

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