I should confess right up front that The Mac OS X Lion Project Book is from Peachpit, my publisher. Scott McNulty has been writing about the Mac for a long time, and I was familiar with his work on the Macworld site, so I was curious about this book. My editor kindly sent me a free digital copy when I asked for a review copy.
This is a book for people who want to learn how to do stuff and make stuff using Mac OS X Lion. It’s organized into six sections, each of which contains several projects:
Managing your Mac has projects that, like the entire book, range from the very simply (downloading and installing apps from various sources) to the more complicated and exceedingly useful sections on really learning to use the power of Spotify for searching, customizing your printer’s output and learning the inner workings of the Finder.
Interacting from a Distance includes step-by-step walkthroughs to using iChat, screen sharing, and remote access, all thoroughly explained using real-life scenarios.
Managing Media shows you how, step-by-step, to encode or rip DVDs, how to properly rip and encode a season’s worth of a tv series for proper play back from iTunes, and how you can safely move your entire iTunes library to an external drive with more room.
Making Magic covers basic and intermediate editing and effects in iPhoto, creating a slide show that people will actually want to watch, and creating a basic Web site using Rapid Weaver. That last one is a rather tricky project to lead someone through (I confess I would have gone with Google Sites) but McNulty manages it admirably.
Getting Productive Let me start by noting that I love that McNulty opens with using the free NetNewsWire Lite to walk people through setting up a custom reading list of news and blogs. This is one of those things that if more Mac users knew they could, they would. He follows that with an introduction to TextExpander, which, again, has me cheering. I’m on a tight budget, but TextExpander is worth every cent, and McNulty’s intro is solid (though I heartily endorse checking out Take Control of TextExpander for more in depth how-to). I note as well that McNulty is eminently practical in his nice Tip advising readers they can download and try TextExpander for free for thirty days. His discussion about ways to limit distractions while working on a Mac running OS X Lion is quite helpful, and will likely be a highlight for many readers; McNulty is both thoughtful and practical.
Additional Hardware Required has a solid basic introduction to podcasting using GarageBand. McNulty then discusses using TimeMachine and SuperDuper as a core part of a backup strategy using external hard drives, including covering a crucial step most explanations of backing up omit; Scott McNulty tells you how to restore a folder, step-by-step, something that you really want to know how to do before you need to do it. The explanation of a practical way to create a digital signature in order to sign .pdfs is useful.
I’d recommend this book for someone new to Lion, someone who likes practical hands-on learning rather more theoretical approaches, and someone who wants to do more with Lion than they’ve been doing. The section on Interacting From A Distance alone is worth the price of admission, even for a long time user. McNulty offers clear instructions, and a genuine awareness of how ordinary people use Macs. Nicely done.
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