Sunday, November 04, 2007

Book Review: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard by Robin Williams

Leopard book

Robin Williams seems to have a uncanny clairvoyance that not only helps her figure out that William Shakespeare's works were possibly written by Mary Sidney, but also helped her get a Leopard guide in the Apple stores the same day Leopard came out. Ok, she had some help from Apple by getting an advance copy. Maybe she used the Time Machine feature to go back to the days of Romeo and Juliet. It's a pretty powerful feature of Leopard.

Obviously Apple trusted her enough to provide her with a pre-release copy of Leopard as well as make her the featured Leopard book in the store. In the Mac publishing world, she's about as well known and well respected as ol' Bill Shakespeare himself--and written almost as many works. Unlike Bill, reading her books are easy and straightforward arming non-technical users with the skills and understanding to attack Leopard head on.

In particular, Robin's style is to expertly use page layout and screenshots to explain the features of an operating system in small bites everyone can digest. I enjoy the fact she doesn't talk down to her readers. She expects a basic understanding of how to use a mouse and keyboard. This book is designed for a Mac or even a PC user making the transition to Leopard, either via upgrade or by the fact it came with the Mac. She walks the reader through all the features of the Leopard operating system. She apologizes for not covering the iLife or iWork suites, but clearly points out this is a book on Leopard. I'm sure she realizes that if the book were too big, readers would be intimidated. While it's over 450 pages, she uses a great table of contents and index to allow the reader to hone in on just the info they are interested in. Want to know how to do screen sharing..no problem? First, she marks it in a "Tech Stuff" section so novice or intimidated users can avoid it. Then she puts it in a logical chapter of "Get connected and share files." Then a nice screen sharing section appears. Can't find it there? Check the index either under iChat or Screen Sharing. She clearly spent lots of time making sure her book was extremely user friendly, just like the operating systems she covers.

Not only does she cover practically all the "300" new features of Leopard, but includes great troubleshooting advice for when things go wrong. The advice she gives is as good or better than what you'll get on the phone calling tech support or stopping by the "bar". If her troubleshooting section doesn't cover it, you'll need a technician to come out!

My one complaint is she should have marked those features new or different in Leopard. That would allow a upgrader to focus on just those new items of difference in Leopard. Knowing her though, she did a careful analysis and determined there wouldn't be enough white space on the page and left it out.

This book is not intended for intermediate or advanced users. You won't find out which port to open for screen sharing or it's inner workings--just how to initiate it. I contrast her books to more "manual" like books that cover every feature in depth. This book is designed to hold the readers hand through the steps or learning.

I avoided Shakespeare in high school, relying solely on those ubiquitous yellow and black "notes." Hey, her book is kinda the same thing. Avoids all the fluff and gets down to the nitty gritty of what you need to know. Will future generations attribute her expert writings to a man? I don't know, but I'm sure glad our generation has such an expert artist of words and pictures to teach us how to use our Macs.

Pros: Outstanding layout and organization. Excellent descriptions for novice Mac users. Enthusiastically recommend it to all new Leopard and Mac Users. Use this book as a starting point in your learning!
Cons: Not for intermediate users, no clear distinction of Leopard features

Five of Five dogcows.

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Review: Dockstar

Dockstar
Dockstar
Oftentimes, a software product comes along that is so simple, yet so powerful, you simultaneously congratulate the software writer and curse Apple for not including this feature to begin with.

Granted, Dockstar’s paltry price of $9.95 is well worth it and then some. Don’t you hate it when software developers charge too much for the product! This product is definitely right-priced.

So what does Dockstar do? It changes to the Mail icon scheme to allow for specialty “badges”to let you know which email accounts have new messages. So instead of the red seal indicating how many new messages Mail has retrieved, you can have a purple star for one account, and pink heart for another. Instantly you can see which account has a new message. I think if they added green clovers, then they’d have to name the product Lucky Charms --and that pot of gold will be suppled by the Nigerian prince who died and needs to transfer money to your account. Oh, then they'd get sued for copyright violation, so Dockstar might be a good name after all.

Short review for a simple product that does one thing and does it very well

Pros: Use the Mail app icon to instantly determine which accounts have new messages
Cons: No Blue Moons or Purple Horseshoes.

Five out of Five dogcows

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Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right