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The Mac OS X Conversion KitTitle: The Mac OS X Conversion Kit
Author: Scott Kelby
Copyright: © 2003
Publisher: Peachpit Press
ISBN: 0-7357-1354-5

Relevance: Any writer, correspondent or graphic artists making the move from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X will appreciate this book. It graphically shows readers who are Mac OS 9 aware how to perform the same tasks in Mac OS X. It is not for "switchers" (the term used to describe those converts from Windows who are now using Macs), nor is it any benefit for those who are just becoming aware of the Mac (and thus will come up to speed on the Mac using OS X).

Review: The Mac OS X Conversion Kit isn't really a kit, nor does it convert anything -- but it is very related to the Macintosh operating system. The Mac OS X Conversion Kit provides a very easy way for MacHeads who are familiar with OS 9 functionality who are "converting" to the Mac OS X series of operating systems.

So familiar and comfortable is the book's metaphor that our reviewers wondered out loud why this type of book hadn't been seen before, especially since the metaphor is so painfully obvious. Simply stated, the OS 9 way of doing things is visually shown using the appropriate menus and windows (and described in text below) on the left hand side of each four-color page. The equivalent operation -- only in OS X -- is shown on the corresponding right page.

The book is divided into a series of 12 chapters dealing with essential operating system functions and utilities. Chapter One, for example, is titled The Apple Menu and shows new X users all about Apple Menu Options, Dock Options, how to add items to the Menu or Dock, launching the Apple System Profiler, using the Calculator, accessing the Chooser/Print Center, System Preferences, Favorites, Key Caps and Recently Used Items.

Chapter Two deals with "Windows, Icons and Stuff". Changing window views, opening folders and new windows, snapping to grid, closing and collapsing windows, zooming a window, color coding your files and folders, and deleting files are covered in both 9 and X formats.

Also introduced periodically is material that doesn't quite have an equivalent in OS 9, yet extends the functionality of your Mac using OS X. These tips are enclosed in a New Stuff box on the bottom of some of the X-sided pages and provide powerful tricks to increase your productivity and speed things along.

Customizing your Mac is covered in Chapter Three and includes such all-time favorites as setting the date and time, setting the number of recent applications, choosing your highlight color, adjusting your Mac's volume, selecting your system font size, choosing scroll bar arrows, changing your desktop background, choosing your numbers format, adjusting your mouse and track pad speed, setting your keyboard layout and which applications you want to automatically launch at start-up.

Obviously, with the amount of reference (and cross-reference) material throughout this book, you likely won't be reading this from cover to cover. However, the book's beauty and good design will have you turning pages in rabid interest. Okay, it's fair to say, we're really into this stuff, but any writer working late on a deadline or a reporter in the field -- both far away from traditional technical support -- will appreciate The Mac OS X Conversion Kit.

Get the music in me
As you might guess, Crank Up the Jams is a chapter dealing with music, photos and video. It outlines how to play a music CD using Mac OS X, pausing a CD playing in the background, converting CDs to MP3 files on your Mac, burning your own CDs, controlling speaker volume, selecting your audio input, recording audio from your Mac, accessing photos from your digital camera, doing screen captures, viewing graphics files, playing QuickTime movies, accessing your Mac's DVD player, and watching a DVD-based movie.

Chapter Five deals with monitors while Chapter Six and Chapter Seven deal with fonts and printing, and networking and the Internet, respectively. To show you the level and depth of some of these tips, a few of the OS 9 tips were new to us and we've been MacHeads ever since the original Mac 128K machine. Clearly, one could piece together or puzzle out most of these "conversions" on your own. This beautifully illustrated book, however, saves you time, energy and quite a bit of frustration and makes it easy to make the leap from 9 to X.

One of the chapters we most appreciated is titled Other Stuff and subtitled The Land of Little Lost Commands. Her, struggling OS X users can learn the quick ways to eject a disk, remove an item from the Apple Menu, figure out how much RAM is currently available, how to determine a file's size, add comments to a particular file, prevent a file from being deleted, retrieve a file from the trash, and how to change a file's icon, as well as other essentials such as how to put your Mac to sleep, preventing it from going to sleep, and the finer points involved in starting up and shutting down.

Another essential chapter is one that deals with troubleshooting, OS X Problems and Errors. As author Scott Kelby succinctly points out, "It's not a good sign if you're reading this chapter". As MacHeads all know, however, it's best to be prepared for disasters and other maladies -- and this chapter does it's best to help users in distress. Here we learn how to force quit an application in OS X, use Disk First Aid, force quit the Finder, boot from your System CD, rebuild your Desktop, erase and reformat your hard drive, restart after a crash and finally, how to use Apple's built-in Help features. Whew!

Sooner or later, many Mac owners who have made the leap to OS X will need the material contained in Chapter Ten, irreverently titled Don't Freak Out. This chapter features ten sections explaining the major changes in the two operating systems. The neat thing about this chapter is that it explains concisely where familiar things have "gone" in the new OS and why things can look very strange to users new to X.

Many MacHeads new to OS X, for example, want to know "where's all the stuff I had on my desktop". Of course, experienced OS X users know there is a special desktop folder for OS 9 files that is automatically created. Files left on the your OS 9's Desktop prior to its conversion to X are automatically placed here. Another thing that can freak out people new to the operating system is that you need permission to do certain things (such as adding an application). Chapter Ten explains exactly why X users can get these so-called "permission errors" and what can be done about it. The chapter even covers why OS X has a seemingly continual need to optimize its system performance.

Chapter Eleven is interesting in that it explains 20 cool things that you can do in OS X that were not available in OS 9. Consequently, iStuff, dragging items to the dock, automatically downloading digital photos, controlling music playing in the background, keeping working with an open dialog box, adding items to a toolbar, force quitting your Mac without crashing it, and even how to make a PDF from any application.

The final chapter in The Mac OS X Conversion Kit deals with Twenty Things Apple Changed Just to Mess with your Head. Although author Kelby subsequently explains there is a method to Apple's madness, it is helpful to have at least 20 reasons to feel you're not going insane when upgrading. Put Away, for example, has been banished; replacing it is Undo. There is now no Window Shade, instead OS X uses Minimize. The Scrap Book (remember the Scrap Book?) is long gone.

This last chapter also solves the mystery of where the heck the Trash can has gone if it's not sitting neatly in the right hand corner of your Mac's screen. Likewise, we learn that the Special Menu is also gone and the application SimpleText is now TextEdit. Control Strip has been replaced by Menu Items. There is no need to rebuild the Desktop under Mac OS X. Likewise, since Apple has changed the way it internally deals with fonts, there no need for Adobe Type Manager.

We were very impressed with The Mac OS X Conversion Kit and hope that publisher Peachpit Press considers printing similar guides for applications such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Adobe Photoshop and other everyday software packages. The side-by-side format is invaluable for new users, as well as those who move freely between the OS 9 and OS X production environments and feel somewhat psychotic by the end of the day.

Mac OS X is clearly a giant leap forward for both Apple and its millions of its loyal disciples. Not knowing what to do when -- or more accurately, not knowing what to do in this new operating system -- can limit productivity and increase production costs. It is, therefore, a time saver, as well as a cost saver to consider The Mac OS X Conversion Kit a vital resource in every production environment or Mac-based newsroom. Highly recommended.

End of Review

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