The OS X Mountain Lion Bible – Book Mystique Review

Galen Gruman’s Mac OS X Lion Bible is a thoroughgoing, comprehensive manual covering OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion in considerable depth, taking a doorstop-worthy 828 pages to do it.

That’s not to say that the Mountain Lion Bible’s prose is dull or turgid. As a veteran tech journalist and magazine editor, Galen Gruman is a skilled writer who knows how to keep the narrative flowing in a way that engages readers. Nor does he ignore the needs and interests of non-veteran, non-expert users. The first several chapters (of 36) in particular will be of interest to OS X beginners, as they address Mac basics before moving along to more complex matters. This book is much more a “one-size-fits-all” solution than, say, Bob LeVitus’s OS X Mountain Lion For Dummies. It really is, as it claims on the cover, “a comprehensive tutorial resource.”

The Mac OS X Mountain Lion Bible is structured in nine parts divided into 36 chapters, plus two appendices, a glossary, and an index. The parts somewhat discretely cover different aspects of using the operating system, so most likely you’ll read them in the order of interest to you rather than consecutively front to back. The author suggests that everyone read Part One first, however, to get the basic lay of the land how Mac OS X LIon operates, even if you’re a Mac OS veteran, because if you’re upgrading from OS X 10.6 or older, the somewhat radical changes in the way OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (and 10.7 Lion)address certain features, functions, and user interface matters, it’s probably good advice to follow.

Part One is logically entitled “Getting Started With Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.” It walks you through basic Finder interface navigation tools, there’s a brief chapter on how to start up your Mac if you’re a complete newbie, and how to shut it down. There is also a discussion of the Finder’s basic interface functions, the Menu Bar, Dock, Desktop, and the new Mission Control, Exposé, and Spaces functions in version 10.7 for switching among applications and windows. Also explained are the Mac’s special keys compared with Windows key mapping, how to use the mouse, and how to use gestures on a touchpad. Moving along, other fundamental aspects of the Finder are explained: how to use Finder windows, and how to use the Finder to manipulate files folders and disks. The rest of Part One covers specialty aspects of the Finder, including the Spotlight search utility, the Help system, Disk Utility for formatting and repairing discs, and the Universal Access extensions to the Finder that help people with disabilities use Mac OS X.

Part Two is entitled “Using Applications,” and of course working with applications and the documents you create with them is the central function of any computer operating system. Mac OS X provides a common set of capabilities to address this function, and this part of the book explains how to run applications, how to work with them, how to save, and how to safeguard them via backup. The chapters in this part explain each of these aspects of using standard application documents. They also show how to work with the special application helpers that come with Mac OS X (called Services in Apple parlance), and how to use AppleScripting and the Automator to create your own applications and utilities.

Part Three is called “Working With Mac OS’s Applications,” which might seem a little redundant after the previous chapter, but it takes a different tack, addressing in particular the bundle of applications that come with Mac OS X, and which are capable of performing pretty much the entire suite of functions that most people use a computer for without ever buying another piece of software. They include both a amazingly capable mini wordprocessor/text editor called Text Edit, and a better than decent image editor and PDF reader in the Preview utility for starters. There’s also the Mac OS X Mail email client program the Safari browser of course, the Address Book, Calendar, Contacts and the new Notifications feature. And that’s just for starters. The chapters in this section also show you how to work with Mountain Lion’s entire suite of bundled applications and utilities, special application functions, and Chapter 11 covers Dashboard widgets. Chapter 14 profiles using AppleScript and Automator while chapters 15 and 16 focus on the media applications that come with Mac OS X: iTunes and QuickTime Player. Other chapters take a look at third-party utilities you might also want to consider using in addition to the Mac OS X bundled inventory. There are also instructions on how to run Windows applications on your Mac and connect to Windows machines elsewhere.

Part Four is about “Using the Internet And Collaboration Services.” Virtually everyone’s computer is online these days unless they’re located completely in the back of beyond, using the Internet for communicating, collaborating, processing services, getting information, or for some of us it’s our work environment venue as well. This section focuses on using Mac OS X applications that help you with Internet activities including the Safari Web browser, the Mail email client, the Messages messaging tool, the FaceTime video conferencing utility, the Contacts contact manager, and the Calendar. It also explains how to use Mac OS X with Microsoft’s popular corporate email server, Exchange. Chapter 22 covers synching Macs with iOS devices. Chapter 23 is on sharing data.

Part Five segues into “Securing Your Mac And Your Users,” identifying key security vulnerabilities, using password protection, locking or wiping a Mac remotely, managing user accounts, and deploying parental controls. Because Macs these days are usually connected to the Internet, share files, and/or have multiple users, there’s a pretty good chance that your confidential personal information would get exposed if you didn’t exercise some crucial security precautions. There’s also the nascent threat at least of getting a computer virus on your Mac. Most Mac users I know don’t bother much with virus detection software, firewalls, or that sort of thing, but it’s entirely possible the day will come when we will be obliged to, and in the meantime, particularly if you keep sensitive information on your computer, it’s probably a good idea to preemptively put up some fences. This part of the book explains how to protect your data and your Mac, how to manage multiple user accounts on a Mac, and how to manage the information that a Mac collects on your current location. It also shows how parents can set up and manage their kids’ Macs to keep them safe from Internet hazards, as well as to be sure they don’t spend all night up Web surfing.

Part Six is on “Configuring OS X.” Topics covered include setting OS X Preferences And Services. Because everyone is different, an operating system must accommodate differing individual preferences and working styles. This is accomplished using the System Preferences application, which sets controls and parameters for many aspects of OS X from choosing a background picture for your Desktop to how your data is secured. OS X also provides tools to manage the fonts used on the Mac (for formatted documents mainly).

Part Seven is about “Using Common Hardware,” with chapters on connecting to printers, fax modems, scanners, and such. Chapter 31 is about working with disks, using disk Utility, and configuring RAIDs. Chapter 32 covers the all-important topic of file backups.

Part Eight is “Working With Networks.” Many Mac users connect to each other via networks, and not just via the Internet, but even at home, where it’s very common to have multiple computers and other devices such as printers, TiVos, an Apple TVs connected via a wired (e.g. Ethernet) and/or wireless (Wi-Fi) networks. Some of us connect to the Internet via a network as well using a home Wi-Fi router, or share a DSL modem cable modem, or connect to an office network. Consequently this part is one of the most important parts of the book, explaining how to connect to various networks, as well as how to share files over a network and even access data on or control other Macs, your own or belonging to other users, over a network.

Part Nine covers “Working with Other Operating Systems,” notably integrating your Mac with Windows, or even running Windows on Your Mac. There’s also a,chapter on commanding UNIX, the industrial grade operating system core that lives under and powers the user-friendly OS X user interface’s surface and is rarely seen by the vast majority of users. These key technologies include Darwin, BX NU Kernel, the 64-bit kernel, Grand Central Dispatch, symmetric multiprocessing, preemptive multitasking, OpenCL, protected memory and advanced memory management, Quartz, OpenGL, QuickTime, pack will plus some notes on the Mac OS X application environments, Cocoa, Carbon, Frameworks, Java, core location, BSD, and X11, with chapters on working with the Terminal, using basic UNIX commands.

There are also two appendices, which in this case offer much more than afterthoughts, Appendix A is on installing OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, which is a substantially different process and it had been for versions on Mac OS X prior to Version 10.7.

Appendix B is about What’s New in OS X Mountain Lion, and there’s quite a lot, so this one will also very likely come in handy even if you’re a Mac OS X veteran. Points addressed include changes in application window navigation, use of gestures, the new Dictation feature and speech, documents and iCloud, changes to Accessibility (formerly known as Universal Access), also other function terminology changes like Calendar, Messages, changes to the Mail app. And the Safari Web browser. There’s also a fairly detailed tutorial on using documents in Apple’s new iCloud synching and storage services.

OS X Mountain Lion Bible is a big book, and a relatively expensive one, with a cover price of $39.99 US or $47.99 Canadian (a cross-border disparity of a magnitude that is difficult to justify given that the Canadian dollar has been on par with or higher than the U.S. greenback for over a year now). It is printed on decent quality, but not glossy or highly calendared paper, and the many illustrations, mostly screenshots, appear in grayscale rather than full color as with, say again , OS X Mountain Lion For Dummies.

There are frequent sidebars with more in-depth treatments on certain matters than appears the main text, as well as Notes interpolated in the main text to also call attention to particularly important points, or new features in version 10.8 of the operating system, Tips on how to do things more efficiently and quickly than might be obvious.

Cross-References to more information on topics that can be found in other places in the book, and Cautions about issues that the author judges merit particular warnings about. As I noted in the preamble, if you’re looking for a book that really is a complete guide to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, this is one you should definitely check out. The advertised reader level is “Beginning To Advanced,” and that’s not an extravagant claim.

Still plenty of time to order for Christmas.

OS X Mountain Lion Bible
Galen Gruman
ISBN: 978-1-1184-0143-9
864 pages
September 2012
US $39.99
CAD $47.99

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List Price: $39.99
Amazon Price: $23.94

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