SCOtutor for Mountain Lion: Excellent

| In-Depth Review

SCOtutor for Mountain Lion is hands down the best, and most time efficient, way of learning what you need to know about OSX 10.8 for the Macintosh. It's true that there are over 200 changes between Lion and our current cat, but most of them are under the hood, and for all intents and purposes really don't matter to Mac users. Don McAllister has winnowed out all the important changes and has put together the ultimate tutorial that will bring anyone with a passing familiarity of the Macintosh all they need to know in record time for a price that can't be beat.

The Mac version of SCOtutor for Mountain Lion
 

Mr. McAllister has been doing ScreenCastsONLINE for years, which is a subscription service teaching users how to use over one hundred apps at this point. He is a consummate teacher. Speaking in a warm and comfortingly soft Liverpool accent, he shows you how things work using a proprietary screen casting system that, in this case, breaks down Mountain Lion into thirty bite-sized lessons. The topics covered are:

You can buy the package of SCOtutor for Mountain Lion either as a Mac Application through the App store, or as an iOS app through iTunes. Both versions have exactly the same content but each version has a slightly different interface. Apple doesn't provide a way of selling an app that will will work on both the Mac and iOS, so they had to be separated at birth and sold in two versions, each costing US$5.99, which is very cheap for what you get.

Neither app is browser based so there is no problem in the different ways browsers handle graphics. Each app is totally self contained.

The differences between the Mac and iOS versions are slight. Each version has the option for English captions for the hearing impaired. Each is broken down into the same lessons that range between a minute and a half for simple concepts such as Reminder Notifications and range as long as just over ten minutes covering Safari 6. Both can play videos full screen, and have the same menus. Both can play at variable speeds ranging from half to twice speed.


SCOtutor for Mountain Lion iOS version with captions and menu

Some differences include the ability to play the entire two and a third hours from start to finish on Mac, or play lessons individually, while the iOS version only plays lessons individually. The iOS app has a notes function where you can stop the video, take some notes that are saved in the app, and then continue. In iOS, the lesson menu is on the left of the screen and can be dismissed, while on the Mac version the lesson menu pops up on request. Otherwise it's the same. The iOS version is compatible  with the iPhone 3GS-5, iPod touch 3-4th generation, all iPads. The iOS version requires iOS 5 and is optimized for the iPhone 5.

iOS version with menu and arrows on the right for full screen
 

I had both versions and found that my style of learning was best playing it on my iPad and following along on my MacBook Pro. Your learning style may be different. A friend who has only owned a Mac for a year and a half went through the iPad version and learned a ton of content. I wanted to get her impression since I've owned Apples since 1978. I think that a few comments she made while taking notes going through the tutorial might prove useful, especially for newer Mac Users. Here are a few:

"Gatekeeper. Never heard of it, so everything was new to me. Once I opened a program I had for a while and I got the "do you REALLY want to open this?" message box, which worried me.  Now I know if I trust the site it will open it and then I'll never get the same message box again. Sometimes it's scary when you think if you say "yes" you will do something wrong and lose information or create a problem!"

"I love Notes! First of all, I love to make lists - and check things off as I finish them - so I use Notes a lot! From the tutorial I discovered that I can have the items listed with bullets or numbered. Neat!"

"I never knew about Reading Lists - this is such a great feature! Previously, I would re-open websites and links - now I don't have to. This is an excellent technique for people doing research."

"I use 'Save As' frequently in my freelance work. I'll need to return to that lesson so I can get it in the drop down menu."


Note taking function of iOS version
 

I learned a few tricks as well, such as a terminal command for changing the default of saving a TextEdit or Pages document from the cloud to my hard disk, and that I can drag emails into reminders; or how to have two Time Machine disks take turns backing up giving me another degree of safety.

Don has a brilliant talent for chunking information into just enough to fully get a concept, but not too much so that you will confuse one option with another. As a professor and curriculum designer, I know the importance of chunking curriculum into memorable bite-sized pieces. I loved the fact that you can stop the playback anywhere, try something out and then go back to where you were. In both versions of the app, when you quit, and rerun the software, you are back where you left off. That may seem like a small thing, but it's really quite important.

 

Mac version with pop-up menus

Before using SCOtutor for Mountain Lion, I read all the magazines and blogs and even bought two books that I never got around to doing more than browsing, and wound up with an unfinished picture of the totality of what I bought in the newest software upgrade. Don motivated me to go through the whole thing in two days, and his casual approach, reinforcing important concepts, made me not only learn the content but I was entertained as much as I was enlightened.

If you have an Apple TV, you might enjoy watching the whole show and then going back and interactively doing the lessons. An advantage of the iOS app is that a lot more iOS devices stream Airplay than do Macs.

Any way you use it it's extremely well done and, according to my friend who really doesn't know app store prices, said it would be worth $20 to her. At $5.99 it's quite a bargain. Don McAllister not only knows his stuff; he is a master teacher and I don't believe he could have done a better job.

If you're at all fuzzy on anything in Mountain Lion, you owe it to yourself to invest $5.99 and learn it all from a real pro. In the words of four slightly more famous Liverpudlians: "A splendid time is guaranteed for all."

Have a glance at this sample that Don provided.

 

 

Product: SCOtutor for Mountain Lion

Company: DMC Media Productions Ltd.

List Price: US$5.99

Pros:

Wonderfully executed. Don McAllister really knows how to teach. It's well produced, shows all important user addressable parts of Mountain Lion, is dirt cheap and couldn't be better.

Cons:

None to speak of.

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