by Phil Davis
Master Your Mac Author: Matt Cone
While there are many good books to get you get started with your Mac, there are fewer that teach you some of the subtle tricks that can help you be more productive. Master Your Mac, by Matt Cone, goes beyond the basics and provides a useful addition to your technical library.
Matt Cone is a technical writer who has been a Mac user for more than 20 years. He is also the founder of Macinstruct, an online resource for OS X tutorials and articles since 1999. Matt is an expert at providing clear, concise instructions that can help you get more from your Mac.
Master Your Mac is targeted toward intermediate and advanced users, but even novices will find many useful tips and tricks. But remember, no matter who you are, you should always take the time to make a good backup of your system before tackling anything new. The book includes a useful chapter on how to do this with Time Machine for versioned backups, SuperDuper for clones, and CrashPlan for the really paranoid (like myself).
The book contains 38 projects that each start with a clear goal, tell you what features you will be using, and then walk you through the steps to achieve the goal. The projects range from a review of the basics to a variety of advanced topics like automating tasks with macros and applescript. The step-by-step instructions are clear and easy to follow and are supplemented by screenshots that help you find your way. Each chapter ends with a section containing additional ideas to explore and suggestions for useful third-party applications.
Master Your Mac doesn’t try to be a comprehensive reference book for every feature of your Mac or OS X. There are other good books that can fill this need.
Instead it focuses on a few carefully chosen projects to help you expand your understanding in a structured way and that will pay dividends outside the specific projects. One of the things I have found useful is the inclusion of several of my favorite third-party applications such as Alfred and Launchbar along with several that I haven’t tried yet like MagicPrefs and BetterTouchTool. I was particularly happy to find a discussion about how to use Gmail as a way to reduce the amount of spam that comes your way. This is a technique that I have used for a couple of years and can highly recommend.
After many years as a PC/Windows user, I’ve been using Macs exclusively for about six years. I consider myself as an “intermediate” user with a few narrowly focused “advanced skills” but with many gaps in my knowledge that I’m trying to fill. I’ve started exploring some of the projects inMaster Your Mac and have already found tips that will fill some of these gaps. I’m in the process of learning to use OSX’s Automater along with Keyboard Maestro and Hazel and have started working through the “Automating Tasks with Macros” and “Automating File and Folder Actions” projects.
If you are a web developer then you will probably find the discusions on using MAMP to turn your Mac into a webserver useful.
Soapbox alert: One of my personal peeves about technical books in general, and computer books in particular, is that they are quickly out of date, sometimes before you finish reading them! I wish that there were a publishing model somewhat like the software model where you purchase an intial version, then are entitled to updates as technology changes. I would even be willing to pay a subscription fee for this. Perhaps the growing trend toward electronic versions of books could make this possible someday. Writers and publishers deserve a fair return on their investment, but it sure would be nice if 80% of the books in my technical library were not totally out of date. – end of soapbox – A case in point: Master Your Mac is hot off the press, covers the most recent release of Mountain Lion, but the section in this book on “Managing Your Music” is probably already out-of-date due to the release of a redesigned iTunes which happened while I was writing this review.
Nevertheless, if you are looking to increase your understanding of OS X and want to learn how to better tailor your Mac to your needs, then I think that Master Your Mac would be a good choice to add to your library. I know that I plan to keep working through the projects. With a little luck I may finish before the next software update!