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Introduction > About This Book

About This Book

By way of a printed guide to Mac OS X, Apple provides only a flimsy "getting started" booklet. To find your way around, you're expected to use Apple's online help system. And as you'll quickly discover, these help pages are tersely written, offer very little technical depth, lack useful examples, provide no tutorials whatsoever, and aren't accessible at all unless you're online. You can't even mark your place, underline, or read it in the bathroom.

What Mac OS X Takes Away

If you're coming to Mac OS X from Mac OS 9, you don't just have to learn about new features; you also have to unlearn a good deal of what you worked so hard to master in the older system.

Fortunately, most of the obsolete practices are troubleshooting rituals. For example:

Extension conflicts. The number one destabilizing factor of the traditional Macintosh has been banished forever: Mac OS X doesn't use system extensions and control panels. You will never again perform an extension conflict test, trying to figure out which extension is making your Mac freeze. None of those habitual routines has any meaning in Mac OS X.

Software companies can still add new features to your Mac, just as they once did using extensions. But most do it now by writing startup applications, which is a much safer, more organized method that doesn't destabilize your Mac.

Memory controls. There's no Memory control panel in Mac OS X. Nor does the Get Info window for Mac OS X programs include a place to change its memory allotment. This is great news.

Mac OS X manages memory quickly, intelligently, and constantly. The reason you don't allot a certain amount of your Mac's memory to a program, as you had to do in Mac OS 9, is that Mac OS X simply gives each running program as much memory as it needs. And if you undertake some task that requires more memory, Mac OS X instantly gives that program more memory on the fly.

So what happens if you're running 125 programs at once? Mac OS X uses virtual memory, a scheme by which it lays down pieces of the programs running in the background onto your hard drive, so that it may devote your actual RAM to the programs in front. However, this virtual memory scheme bears very little relationship to the relatively crude, slow virtual memory of the old Mac OS. In Mac OS X, this shuffling happens almost instantaneously, and virtual memory is called in only to park pieces of applications as necessary.

The bottom line: You can forget everything you knew about concepts like virtual memory, the Disk Cache, the Get Info window's memory boxes for applications, and the panic of getting out-of-memory messages. For the most part, they're gone forever.

Rebuilding the desktop. Mac OS X doesn't have the unfortunate habit of holding onto the icons (in its internal database) of programs long since deleted from your hard drive. As a result, you never have to rebuild that desktop, and you'll never see the symptoms that suggest that it's time for desktop rebuilding (a general slowdown and generic icons replacing the usual custom ones).

The a menu and Application menu. The menus at the upper corners of the screen, which used to anchor the Mac desktop experience, have been eliminated or changed in Mac OS X. The Dock takes on their functions.

You'll still find an a menu in Mac OS X, but it's no longer a place to store aliases of your favorite files and folders. Instead, it lists commands like Restart and Shut Down, which are relevant no matter what program you're using.

The Control Strip. This handy floating strip of tiles is gone, too. Its replacement is the set of menulets in the upper-right corner of the screen, on the menu bar. This is now where you make quick control panel settings, like adjusting the volume, checking your laptop battery charge, and so on.

Finally, remember that some features aren't actually gone—they've just been moved. Before you panic, consult Appendix C for a neat, alphabetical list of every traditional Mac feature and its status in the new operating system.

The purpose of this book, then, is to serve as the manual that should have accompanied Mac OS X—version 10.3 in particular.

You won't find a single page that hasn't changed since the last edition. Not only are the new Panther features covered in depth, but you'll also find a great deal of refinement in the discussions of original Mac OS X features: more tips and tricks, clever uses for old ideas, and greater context borne of the passage of time.

Thousands of email suggestions have resulted in these changes, too:

  • Writing for a wider audience. These days, not everyone who uses Mac OS X has a background in Mac OS 9. More and more people come from Windows or a previous version of Mac OS X, or have never even used a computer before. This book, therefore, tones down the "Mac OS 9 did it this way, Mac OS X does it this way" language of previous editions. (Where comparisons are necessary, look for detailed discussions in shaded boxes labeled Nostalgia Corner.)

  • Mini-manuals. Some of the programs that come with Mac OS X, like iMovie, iDVD, and iTunes, are subjects of their own Missing Manual books.

    It annoyed some readers of this book's previous editions, though, that Mac OS X: The Missing Manual didn't cover those programs at all. In this edition, therefore, you'll find new mini-manuals that provide crash courses in iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto, and Safari (not to mention updated coverage of the other 45 freebie Mac OS X programs).

Mac OS X: The Missing Manual is designed to accommodate readers at every technical level. The primary discussions are written for advanced-beginner or intermediate Mac users. But if you're a first-time Mac user, miniature sidebar articles called Up to Speed provide the introductory information you need to understand the topic at hand. If you're an advanced Mac user, on the other hand, keep your eye out for similar shaded boxes called Power Users' Clinic. They offer more technical tips, tricks, and shortcuts for the more experienced Mac fan.

0.2.1. About the Outline

Mac OS X: The Missing Manual is divided into six parts, each containing several chapters:

  • Part I, The Mac OS X Desktop, covers everything you see on the screen when you turn on a Mac OS X computer: the Dock, the sidebar, Exposé, icons, windows, menus, scroll bars, the Trash, aliases, the menu, and so on.

  • Part II, Applications in Mac OS X, is dedicated to the proposition that an operating system is little more than a launch pad for programs—the actual applications you use in your everyday work, such as email programs, Web browsers, word processors, graphics suites, and so on. These chapters describe how to work with applications in Mac OS X: how to launch them, switch among them, swap data between them, use them to create and open files, and control them using the AppleScript automation software. This is also where you can find out about using your old, pre-Mac OS X programs in the Classic program.

  • Part III, The Components of Mac OS X, is an item-by-item discussion of the individual software nuggets that make up this operating system—the 24 panels of System Preferences, and the 50 programs in your Applications and Utilities folders.

  • Part IV, The Technologies of Mac OS X, treads in more advanced topics. Networking, dialing into your Mac from the road, security, and setting up private accounts for people who share a single Mac are, of course, tasks Mac OS X was born to do. These chapters cover all of the above, plus the prodigious visual talents of Mac OS X (fonts, printing, graphics, handwriting recognition), its multimedia gifts (sound, speech, movies), and the Unix beneath.

  • Part V, Mac OS X Online, covers all the special Internet-related features of Mac OS X, including the built-in Mail email program and the Safari Web browser; the Sherlock Web-searching program; iChat for instant-messaging and audio or video chats; iCal for keeping and sharing your calendar; iSync for keeping your phone book and address book synchronized across Macs, cellphones, iPods, and PalmPilots; Web sharing; Internet sharing; the firewall; and Apple's online .Mac services (which include email accounts, secure file-backup features, Web hosting, and so on). If you're feeling particularly advanced, you'll also find instructions on using Mac OS X's Unix underpinnings for connecting to, and controlling, your Mac from across the wires—FTP, SSH, VPN, and so on.

At the end of the book, you'll find several appendixes. They include two "Where'd it go?" listings, one for traditional Mac features and another for Windows features (to help you find their new locations in Mac OS X); guidance in installing this operating system; a troubleshooting handbook; and a list of resources for further study.

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