Washington Apple Pi

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Mac OS in a Nutshell: A Power User's Quick Reference

Reviewed by Bob Rivkin

Washington Apple Pi Journal, January/February 2001, p. 20, reprint information

Although the descriptive title "A Power User's Quick Reference" accurately announces the essence of Mac OS in a Nutshell, it does not even hint at the wealth of information available to its readers.

As expected, the publication's 19 chapters cover everything from the Mac's interface, menu bar, control panels and extensions to files, storage, utilities, accessories, AppleScript, Sherlock, color management, fonts, multimedia, networking, the Internet, and just about anything else one can conjure up relating to the Mac Operating System.

Ms. Lewis includes what's new in Mac OS 9, discussing such topics as compatibility issues with Mac OS 9, multiple users, keychain access, and Apple encryption among many others.

This is as comprehensive a reference as can be imagined, yet one that is comfortably accessible both to the experienced power user or to the beginner, or rather, to the beginning power user.

Material is covered in a straightforward, non-intimidating style that uses excellent and copious screen shots to insure that explanations can be followed and understood. I particularly like the generic explanations of the Mac OS, as opposed to a chronological/numerical listing of the various systems as they exist. There are thoughtful reminders along the way that "your screen may appear different depending on your Operating System." In addition, there are icons used to emphasize important points: a large turkey serves to introduce a warning; an owl announces an OS tip. There are many of both, all useful.

My favorite aspect of Ms. Lewis's work is its numerous short histories of topics such as the evolution of the Mac OS, Macintosh type/fonts, and Macintosh hardware. These sections, although the hurried reader can skip them, are much like a story, both factual and entertaining at the same time. I personally looked forward to coming upon each one.

I tried to find a topic that isn't covered in this book. I couldn't. I tried to cite weaknesses. There really are none. Nitpickers may find a few small items, such as the omission of the ImageWriter II's ability to print color. I did not find this upsetting. [I would, however, change the turkey and owl's icons to something else--those used remind me a little too much of stern images from superannuated textbooks.] This reviewer finds no failings here.

Mrs. Lewis's writing style is concise, clear, admirably organized, while technical enough to satisfy the hoary power user and not so technical as to confound the new user. If you use your Mac, use this book.

Rita Lewis with Bill Fishman, Mac OS in a Nutshell: A Power User's Quick Reference

O'Reilly & Associates, June 2000,

$24.95 ISBN 1-56592-533-5