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Friday, 12 April 2013

Macs for Dummies, by Edward C. Baig, Reviewed.

Macs for Dummies, by Edward C. Baig, consists of more than four hundred pages of erudition delivered with humour and easy style. In what could so easily have been a dry and dull presentation, we have here a text book which is readable and enjoyable.

I was gifted the book as part of my retirement present from work colleagues, who knew I was considering the idea of swapping my PC for a Mac, once I’d left employment and could devote more time to writing. So, it was a welcome volume. I read it well out of order in my ‘to read’ list, as I was considering making the change on or around my 65th birthday, which comes up next month.

Reading a computer manual without benefit of the machine may seem a little odd. But, as Baig makes clear in his introduction, the book is designed as much for that eventuality as for those who have already committed to the Mac. The ready humour and light presentation make the book a delight to read. Packed with information, tips, technical bits (that you can skip if you wish), warnings and short asides into the more esoteric aspects of the Mac world, this is definitely the book to read if you’re either about to make the momentous decision I face or have taken the first step and purchased your first Mac.

I learned, with growing wonder, the huge variety of programs and applications provided with this amazing machine. I learned about the ease and user-friendliness of the operating system, which makes Windows look decidedly clunky (though you can run Windows in parallel, should you so desire). The author explains the similarities and the differences, he describes the hows and whys of various aspects of using the machine and its operating system. Inevitably, there are technical terms, but where these need explanation, he provides it in terms that are easily understood.

The book was published in 2011 and is in its 11th edition. Of course, it was written before this date, so certain things have changed since then. The operating system he describes is the Snow Leopard, but there have been 2 upgrades since then and, as I understand it, we are now on safari with the Mountain Lion OS. So, there are some aspects that are no longer current. But, Baig makes this clear and gives the URLs of several websites to help the reader update, including the specific Mac site that will keep all prospective and current users up to date. It is, of course, inevitable that a book about the fast moving world of computing will be out of date as soon as its writing is complete. But this one makes a serious attempt to compensate for that by both flagging likely changes and providing the means to address them.

So, the questions arise; have I made the decision and did the book in any way influence me?

To the first, the answer is YES, I have and, I’m impatient to buy my first Mac. I will, however, wait until my birthday, as I’m currently learning to touch-type (my 2 fingers and thumb technique restricts me to a maximum speed of 45 wpm, and I need to be able to type at a speed at least close to my thoughts) and I think one new skill is enough for a man of my decrepitude. But I look forward to that change with real enthusiasm.

To the second, the answer is, once again, YES. I had conversed with users and heard their enthusiasm and universal praise, so I was ready to be convinced. But I had not, until I read this book, fully appreciated the sheer wonder of the Mac, its hardware and software and the marriage made in heaven between those two elements. The sheer variety and relevance of the vast array of applications makes the difference in price between the Mac and the PC more or less irrelevant and renders the happy coupling of hard and software a bonus. I look forward to using the new Mac to produce my masterpieces in the very near future.
If you’re unsure whether you should make the change and you consider yourself a serious author, graphic artist or photographer, I seriously suggest you spend the few pounds this book costs and then decide for yourself, armed with the facts.
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