OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide review

Sections: Mac OS X, Operating Systems, Reviews

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OS X Mountain Lion Pocket GuideAuthor: Chris Seibold
Publisher: O’Reilly
Publication Date: November 2011
ISBN 10: 1-4493-3032-0 (print); 1-4493-3031-2 (e-book)
ISBN 13: 978-1-4493-3032-3 (print); 978-1-4493-3031-6 (e-book)
Pages: 272
Price: Print: $14.99; Ebook: $11.99; Print & Ebook: $16.49

Documentation for OS X version upgrades from Apple has long been woefully minimal, but with the advent of the Cloud as Apple’s favored medium for delivering full version upgrades as well as incremental updates, we no longer even get the thin quick start guide—barely more than a pamphlet—that used to ship with shrinkwrapped OS X version upgrade DVDs.

Compounding the problem is that the switch to online delivery has coincided with the most revolutionary overhaul of what used to be called the Mac OS since the early ’00s switch from Mac OS Classic to OS X. The latest OS X 10.7 Lion (which debuted electronic version upgrades) was touted as having some 250 new features, and the latest OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion another 200, but you’re evidently expected to stumble around in the bundled Help files and online support in order to find them and figure out how they work. Not a nearly a satisfactory substitute for print manual aficionados like me, especially since I’ve recently changed up to Mountain Lion from OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, having skipped Lion altogether, so that’s the cumulative effect of 450 changes to digest.

While “Missing Manuals” junkies like me are perhaps more inclined to go with a weighty and comprehensive reference volume like David Pogue’s Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual (review coming soon), there’s definitely a role and a market for a leaner species of guide to getting up to speed on the new Mountain Lion features, offering more than the old Apple quick start guides did, but in more concise format than the big OS X manuals like TMM. If you’re new to the whole Mac OS X experience, Chris Seibold’s recently-off-the-presses Mac OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide should fill the bill very nicely.

As “Pocket Guide” in the title indicates, this book is not intended to be the thorough going, “everything, including the kitchen sink” treatment of Mountain Lion that the Pogue book is, but rather it stakes a more modest claim to being “The Ultimate Basic Quick Reference.” This pocketbook-sized, 272 page volume is jam-packed with concisely structured information and tips on getting your optimum computing experience and value from Apple’s new big cat—quickly and efficiently—going right to the heart of the OS, with details on system preferences, built-in applications, utilities, and other OS X features.

The book is structured in eight chapters.

Chapter 1, “What’s New in Mountain Lion?” brings the reader up to speed on the most important new features you’ll find in Mountain Lion, including enhanced iCloud integration and stuff that has migrated from the iOS, including various sharing modes such as Twitter apps, the Notification Center, Reminders, Notes, Updating, the new Gatekeeper, Messages, the Game Center, AirPlay mirroring, Dictation, and more.

Chapter 2, Installing Mountain Lion and Migrating Data, gives you a rundown of what Mac hardware you need to run Mountain Lion, how to prepare for the install, the actual installation process, what to do after the install, moving data and applications, networking options when migrating data, and fine-tuning data migration once you’ve got it installed

Chapter 3 provides a Quick Guide to Mountain Lion, starting with some basics like your your account, the Home Folder, starting up, the apparent disappearance of the Library Folder, logging in, logging out, sleeping, and shutting down, the Menubar, the Services Menu, the Desktop, how to find your way around the Finder, duplicating optical discs, the Dock, Dock Exposé Stack configuration options the Trash preferences, the Application Switcher, standard window controls, resizing windows, full screen applications, using files and folders, plus some nonessential but useful OS X features like sharing almost anywhere, Auto Save Conversions (a controversial topic with Mac OS veterans) searching with Spotlight, managing file info, and the resume feature

Chapter 4 is about Troubleshooting OS X, citing some common problems such as misbehaving applications, USB device problems, battery problems, force quitting memory-greedy processes, startup problems, display problems, unwelcome hard drive noises, Safe Boot and other restarting options, and resetting the PRAM.

Chapter 5 is all about the OS X System Preferences with a concise profile and walk-through of each one, plus a short discussion of non-Apple preference panes, all of which takes up 51 pages.

Chapter 6, Built In Applications And Utilities, likewise profiles the various software applications that come bundled with OS X Mountain Lion, such as Automator, the Calculator, Calendar, Chess, Contacts, the Dashboard, the Dictionary, DVD Player, FaceTime, Font Book, Game Center, Image Capture, iTunes, Launchpad, Mail, Messages (which replaces iChat), Mission Control (which replaced the former Spaces feature introduced in OS 10.5 Leopard), Notes (the little notepad imported from the iOS), Photo Booth, Preview, QuickTime player, Reminders, Apple’s Safari browser, Stickies, Text Edit, and Time Machine. Then there’s the utilities included with Mountain Lion: the Activity Monitor, AirPort Utility, AppleScript editor, Audio MIDI Setup, Bluetooth File Exchange, Boot Camp assistance for installing Windows, ColorSync utility, the Console, Digital Color Meter, Disk Utility, Grab (the screen capture utility), Grapher, Java Preferences, Keychain Access, Migration Assistant, Network Utility, RAID Utility, System Information, the Terminal, Voiceover Utility, and X 11.

Chapter 7 is dedicated to the topic of Managing Passwords in Mountain Lion. Covering topics like recovering a forgotten password, making a great password in the first place, storing secure notes, handling a Keychain Access menu extra, and securing your data.

Chapter 8 is a short tutorial on Keyboard Commands and Special Characters in Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion.

There is also a 15 page Index.

The book is copiously illustrated with screenshots (grayscale).

In summary, this is an ideal OS X reference volume to keep on the desk beside your computer or carry in your laptop backpack. At $14.99, it’s quite affordable, and you can usually do even better than that at, or if you’re satisfied with opting for the e-book version.

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OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide review

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