(Or: The part of the book most people never read, but really should.)
When Sybex first approached me about writing a book called "Mac OS X Power Tools," I kept thinking about power drills, circular saws, and other shop machinery. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how appropriate the title was to the content of the book I wanted to write.
Power tools, in the world of hardware stores, serve two purposes: (1) to let you do something that you wouldn't ordinarily be able to do; and (2) to help you do things that you can do, but do them faster, more precisely, and with much less effort. Looked at in this light, the title of the book is actually quite fitting, as I plan to show you how to do things with Mac OS X that you probably don't know how to do, and to help you better do the things that you know how to do already.
That being said, my goals are twofold. First, as I mentioned, I want to show you how to do things. Things you already know how to do, but want to do better, faster, or more efficiently; things you always wished you could do, but didn't know how; and things you never even thought about doing, but once you learn will make you think "Wow, that's cool!"
I'll do this in a number of ways. I'll answer questions that don't get answered anywhere else. I'll show you how to take advantage of features in OS X that are easily accessible but rarely fully understood or utilized. I'll show you how to access features of OS X that exist, but are hidden or not immediately obvious. Finally, I'll show you third-party software solutions that do all of the above, and also provide new and unique features and functionality.
My second goal, which may actually be a bit loftier, but more important, is to help you learn how to think about doing things in OS X. Through the background principles I provide on each topic, and the examples I use to demonstrate those principles, I hope to give you a better understanding of the operating system itself—how it works, why it works, and what you can do with it. After learning the basics, and seeing some of the things you can do, you should have a good feel for the kinds of things that are possible (or at least a better idea of where to look to see if they are).
The overall theme of Mac OS X Power Tools is to help proficient users become power users. However, the problem with using a word like proficient is that it's such a broad term—its meaning varies depending on who is using it. To some people, being able to turn your computer on, type a letter, and print it is enough to be considered a proficient user. To others, being proficient means possessing the ability to troubleshoot computer problems, install new software and hardware, and take advantage of more advanced features in applications and the operating system. I say that both of these definitions are accurate, and I've written this book to appeal to both sets of users (and anyone in between).
Again, the "power tools" analogy is fitting. Someone who's never seen a screwdriver, much less used one, would probably be a bit intimidated by a power drill (not to mention feeling clueless as to how to go about using it). Yet someone who's used a screwdriver—even just a few times—will probably deduce what a power drill with a screwdriver bit could be used for, and may even be willing to try using it. What's more, in the hands of an accomplished handy-man (or woman), that power drill can do some pretty amazing things.
So it is with Mac OS X Power Tools. If you've never touched a computer before, this book probably isn't for you. But everyone else—whether they consider themselves a beginner or a more advanced user—should find a good deal of content that is understandable and appropriate.
The tips, tricks, and solutions I present vary in both their utility and their accessibility. Some will amaze the beginner but will be old hat to experts. Some will be useful to everyone, whereas others will be applicable (and interesting) mainly to more advanced users. Some chapters, by the very nature of their subject matter, will be more or less technical in nature than others. For example, the chapters on the Finder and Dock (Chapters 5–6) are much less technical—although no less useful—than the chapter on Unix (Chapter 15). If something is too basic for you, feel free to move on to more advanced topics; likewise, if something confuses you, come back to it later—you may find that it makes more sense as you learn more about OS X.
All this is to say that if you're the least bit comfortable with a computer, you'll be able to handle this book, and that even those who already consider themselves to be "power users" will find a lot of stuff here that they didn't know.