Monday, January 07, 2008

Book Review: Switching to a Mac for Dummies

Swtiching to a Mac for Dummies

Switching to a Mac For Dummies

I have a traditional love/hate relationship with Dummies books. When I am truly a dummy in the subject, I like their broad overviews. "Switching to the Mac for Dummies" is a new title for the Dummies series and is the first Dummies book by author Arnold Renhold. Generally Dummies books are designed to give you the information you need in a lighthearted way so that the reader doesn't feel intimidated or overwhelmed.

I'm not sure what mark Reinhold was shooting for but he clearly missed it. The book is overwhelming yet inadequate and in some places just wrong! As an example, Reinhold said you can't run Appleworks on newer Macs. That is simply untrue. But why would someone switching to the Mac ever care about older version of Appleworks? Based on the contents of the book, it was more akin to "New Macs for Dummies". Reinhold covered PC to Mac issues as well as Mac to Mac issues. While that's nice, why would a PC user need that info? It creates an information overflow that makes the book harder to read and confusing for new Mac users.

While I realized Reinhold did not intend the book to be funny, I had to laugh at some of the topics he covered. Few users switching to the Mac need to know that back in the 1980s some PCs used MicroChannel Architectures (MCA) and Macs used NuBus. This minutae reminds me of the sketch on Airplane when the air traffic controller is asked how we got into this crisis, and he starts talking about dinosaurs creating oil and people buying expensive cars. Funny on a big screen, but not for a dummies book. That's just an example of the massive overkill of useless information. Is the author prepping people for an appearance on a trivia show?

Too much information isn't that bad so long as critical information is included and Reinhold simply failed to deliver on critical information. In particular I am comparing his book to the Missing Manual series of the same title and the Dummies version seems like a really poor rough draft of the Missing Manual. When people switch computers from either Mac to PC or PC to Mac they are most concerned about their data (including pictures and music), their emails and address book, and their favorites. Reinhold comes up with rather elaborate Rube Goldbergesque style ways of moving the information, but way beyond the skills (or budgets) of the average switcher. He also fails to cover how to convert email from PC to Mac, which is a top question for switchers.

Those topics Reinhold covers well are horribly disorganized and hard to follow with few, if any, illustrations or screen shots. You simply have to take his word for what he's saying and use your imagination. I asked typical "How do I?" question on the Mac and none were covered. A new PC user might be calling Microsoft after reading this book asking for reconciliation.

Sorry for such a harsh review. I'm sure Reinhold knows his stuff and was simply trying to be helpful. Switching is a relatively new topic. Apple had to make a Newton before it could make the iPhone and I'm sure version 2.0 of this book will be much better. Skip this one though.

Pros: Interesting for trivia buffs, might increase Windows sales and Apple returns.
Cons: Disorganized, inconsistent coverage. Hard to read and follow.

Two out of Five DogCows

Two DogCows

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