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Submission + - Mac OSX Leopard: Beyond the Manual

jsuda writes: "There are a growing number of guidance books being published about Apples latest computer operating system OS 10.5, a.k.a. Leopard." Mac OS 10 Leopard: Beyond the Manual by Scott Meyers and Mike Lee aims for a more sophisticated reader group than most of the others which tend to target casual users and perhaps new Windows switchers.

This book is for advanced computer users, especially those familiar with UNIX and Linux who want or need to learn about the hundreds of new and improved features of the MacOS, and even for casual Windows users who are comfortable with command line interaction and prefer full keyboard use of the computer.

Scott Meyers is an editor and Mac OS consultant and Mr. Lee is a technical specialist. The writing is clear and straightforward. Unlike some other Leopard guides, there is no attempt to be literary or stylish this is a software manual after all for advanced users. They cover all the Leopard basics and assume the reader is not, or only barely, familiar with the Mac OS 10 system. The first four parts(of eight) of the book, counting 17 chapters, describe the basics — the Aqua interface, the Menubar, Views, the Sidebar and Dock, system and user preferences, the file system, maintenance, security, networking, and included Apple applications like Safari (the browser), Mail, iChat, and iCal. An item by item description of the Safari menus takes up a full seven pages. The Mail menu descriptions take up 11 pages. The menu descriptions are contained in a chart which provides alternative common keyboard shortcuts for each of the menu commands. Like UNIX and other operating systems, one can ignore the mouse completely once one knows the key combinations. They also provide an introduction to the iLife suite of applications, like iTunes, iPhoto, and the other consumer-level productivity applications included with the Leopard installation.

The coverage is comprehensive but not deep. The reader will be exposed to most of the operating system but nothing is treated extensively or with depth. Some of the chapters are very short. Presumably, higher end users will figure the deeper stuff out for themselves after being directed to what is available in OS 10. There is no shortage of illustrations, screenshots, charts, tables illuminating in an effective way the text comments and descriptions.

Throughout, the authors provide numerous Notes and Tips which elaborate on the basic text. These are more explanatory of specific items and features and some are in the nature of practical recommendations and suggestions for configuring preferences, for example, or utilizing third-party applications instead of Apples for certain functions. There is an extensive five-page section on the components of the system-wide and user Libraries in OS 10 with descriptions of all the items contained in them. Throughout the first half of the book the part focused on the user interface and middleware layers of the OS the authors provide information on both the menu -mouse navigation and keyboard operation alternatives, the latter for power users and others more comfortable with keyboard use. Differences in desktop and laptop keyboards are detailed as well. There is an an interesting section on calibrating the display and modifying the default Macintosh 1.8 gamma to a Windows-like 2.2 gamma for those users who are not graphics professionals, at least.

The last half of the book is about UNIX, or more specifically for the MacOS, Darwin which is Apples flavor of UNIX. Starting first with the shell the authors walk the reader through starting up the command line functions, describe the elemental UNIX commands, note navigation issues, root access, and the like. Later chapters cover scripting Darwin, using the included scripting languages of Perl, Python, PHP, and Ruby, and how to install additional advanced software like Fink and Macports.

Chapters 20 and 21 cover networking, remote monitoring, and firewalls. Chapter 22 deals with the included Web server software, Apache, as well as SQLite and PHP. There is a chapter devoted to Apple s own scripting applications, Automator and AppleScript. The final chapter covers the developer tools, also included with OS X. There are references to the various kits which developers can use to create their own applications and there are many kits included in OS X for audio, video, graphics, PDF handling, animation, and more.

The appendices include guidance on installations and a list of whats new in Leopard (versus earlier versions of OS 10.) An extensive index of 43 pages rounds out the book.

This book is solidly produced and written and should bring advanced users up to speed with Leopard and to point the way for them to explore the depths of it themselves."
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Mac OSX Leopard: Beyond the Manual

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In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982