"My New Mac, Snow Leopard Edition" by Wallace Wang, No Starch Press, 2009 is aimed at beginners and newbies to the Mac and Mac OS X who want to steer clear of endless technical details in manuals or advanced books. It's for those who would rather dig in and learn by doing. There are 54 projects to help beginners learn how to put their new Mac to work. The book has its hits and misfires.
Any book has to have a very clear understanding of who the intended audience is, and that audience should be large enough to make for a profitable venture. This book tackles that problem, as well as the issue of learning a new OS, by taking the reader through the fundamental tasks that all of us experts suspect we were born knowing. But they're not obvious to newbies. There's a need for a book like this -- something many other authors would not waste their time with.
While the cover of the book boasts 52 projects, there are actually 54, divided into 5 parts:
- Basic Training
- Making Life Easier with Shortcuts
- Putting your Macintosh to Work
- Touching the World Trough the Internet
- Maintaining Your Macintosh
Learning how to use a modern operating system is an ordeal for some. Many books just don't take the time to concentrate on the basic skills that we take for granted. To explain those details requires a clear writing style, plenty of pictures, and plenty of patience by the author. This is no place for the author to exhibit hubris, and the author should be commended for resisting a common temptation to drag the reader into unknown territory.
So, it would be all too easy to mock a book for demonstrating how to use the mouse, customize the Dock, play a DVD, or schedule a birthday reminder. But there are people out there, young students or those coming over from a PC who need just such a patient approach. This book covers all those details well.
Also the book is well edited and typset. I didn't see any obvious typos or sloppiness in the design or structure. The 11 page index is excellent. I have a thing for a great book index, and this one passes muster.
This book is all black and white. There's isn't a single color plate to spice up the 481 page book. The book is also very no nonsense in that there's no associated twinkle in the eye, humor, or attitude to move the material along. This is why the Dummies books have abundant cartoons -- keep 'em laughing as they learn. In that regard, the book, despite is basic simplicity, also feels somewhat sterile. There's no Snow Leopard excitement, even thought the book has been technically updated to include Snow Leopard details.
More specifically, I got the feeling from the marketing materials that the book was going to make learning fun by engaging the user in "projects." Unfortunately, those projects are nothing more than the pedestrian details of learning how to use the Mac in disguise. So potential customers who are looking for a book to help them create something exciting will be disappointed with projects like: "Storing Files on a CD or DVD" and "Setting Up an E-mail Account."
"My New Mac, Snow Leopard Edition," sells for $29.95, a price which will give any beginner to the Mac pause as to whether it's an essential addition to her library. It is fundamental and no nonsense teaching. If that's what's needed to tear away the mysteries of the Mac, things everyone else seems to already know, then this is a well designed, instructive book. However, don't look for inspiration or a pleasant sense of entertainment here.