The fun bit of getting to grips with a new computer is working out where features live, how you do those routine tasks that have become pretty much automatic with your old system, and generally “getting it”. I’d done a fair bit of reading of magazines and websites before I got the Mac Mini, but I was definitely lacking some basics. I got a couple of books, one specifically about using Unix on the Mac, and the other a “Visual Quick Start Guide”, which contains a lot of useful information, but not quite as much as I need. The only reason I got that one really was that this one wasn’t in stock at the time. But I happened to be in Waterstone’s yesterday, and there it was on the shelf, all nearly 900 pages of it. Like any other member of the “Missing Manual” series, it aims to take the place of the printed documentation that software companies don’t think we need any more. I’ve only just started using it, but so far I’m suitably impressed. Lots of detail, lots of screenshots, and all written with a light, easy going style. The book is sufficiently up to date that it mentions the 10.5.1 Mac OS update, which is quite remarkable, really. It’s more usual practice for books to be based on pre-release code and rush released complete with references to features that are either absent or subtly (or not so subtly) different from reality. Being from those nice O’Reilly people, the UK price isn’t hideously inflated above the US one – I was pleasantly surprised to find it was £21.99, rather than the £25 or so I was expecting. It’ll be cheaper from online suppliers, but at the time of writing, Amazon don’t have it in stock, so if you wnat it, visit your local bookshop.
There’s a lot of helpful sections, including a nifty “Windows to Mac” glossary, listing the equivalents of Windows functions on the Mac, which is great. And rather than increase the price of the book by adding a CD full of stuff that would be out of date as soon as it was pressed, the publisher provides a website with links to all the (mostly free) applications mentioned in the book.
If, like me, you’re considering moving to Mac, or are definitely moving to Mac, this book would be a good investment, time saver, and quite possibly sanity saver. Good stuff.
Having said that, the online help in Mac OS X is pretty damn good. I needed to copy some files from my PC to the Mac, and my *mumble* years of Microsoft networking experience were of no help at all. Fortunately, the help told me what I needed to know (smb:// was the key, if you want to know that sort of thing), and it worked immediately, with no fuss at all. Which is interesting, as I’ve known people have trouble getting two Windows PCs in the same room do that without arguing about it. Not that I’ve ever had a problem, but it’s not always obvious…
 Hey, I’m a geek, what did you expect?