How to Use This Book

How to Use This Book

  1. Open book to desired page.

  2. Read.

  3. Buy more RAM.

But seriously, before you dive in, I'd like to briefly talk about the assumptions I make in this book, the book's organization (which is a bit untraditional), and conventions used in the text. Taking a few minutes to read this section will make the book much more useful. (By the way, I'm serious about the RAM thing—the best thing you can do for your Mac running OS X is to buy more RAM for it.)

Assumptions I Make

As I mentioned above, I'm assuming that if you're reading this book you've used a computer, and I hope Mac OS X, before—at least enough so that you can understand the basics. For example, I'm assuming that you know how to restart your computer, how to use the CD drive, how to connect the keyboard, etc. I'm also hoping that you've become at least some-what familiar with the Mac OS interface. Overall, I'm simply assuming that you've got a Mac that is up and running and that you feel comfortable using it for most basic functionality. Making this assumption lets me spend less time explaining the most introductory topics—which generally take a good deal of space—and more time on the cool stuff. It also lets me structure the book a bit differently, as I explain in the next section.

Second, I'm assuming that you're connected to the Internet—that your ISP or network administrator has provided you with the information you need to connect, and that you've used Apple's setup assistant to enter that information. (If you knew enough about Internet settings and access to figure everything out yourself, even better.)

Finally, a small number of the procedures in the book assume that you've installed the Mac OS X Developer Tools. I talk about how to do this in a bit; rest assured that it's very easy to do if you haven't already.

How the Book Is Organized

Most computer books start out by telling you how to open folders, how to access menus, how to launch applications, and other "this is how to use a computer" topics. Some start out with detailed instructions on how to install the OS. Because I'm assuming you're already familiar with such basic actions, and you've already got OS X installed, I'm able to forego the discussion of the most basic topics, and replace the traditional topic order with one that I think is more appropriate given the focus of Mac OS X Power Tools.

Part I starts with an in-depth discussion of user accounts, permissions, and file and folder organization in OS X. As a Unix-based operating system, understanding OS X is much easier if you understand these topics, and mastering OS X requires it. You're free to read the book's chapters in any order that you like, but I urge you to read Chapter 1 first. In the remainder of Part I, I show you how to understand and use OS X's various system settings, how to use and abuse the startup and login processes, and how to install system software and applications, from both Apple and third parties.

Part II focuses on actually using your Mac: the Finder, the Dock, applications, and the Classic Environment.

Part III looks at networks and the Internet, including sharing files, connecting to other computers (locally and remotely), and printing.

Part IV deals with more advanced topics: system security, maintenance and administrative tasks, and taking advantage of OS X's Unix base.

I've also included a couple of useful appendices. The first talks about OS X versus OS 9, including ways to make the transition easier, tips for switching back and forth (if that's something you need to do), and ways to get some of your favorite OS 9 features in OS X. The second appendix focuses on setting up and using multiple volumes and disk partitions in OS X.

To make it easier for you to find information, I've provided both a general index and a list of software mentioned in the book. The software listing is actually in two parts. The first part, included at the end of the book, is a list of my 50 favorite utilities and add-ons (at the time of this writing, at least). The second part actually resides on the book's website (, and includes every software title mentioned in the book, along with links to get more information and/or to download each. (Note that software titles are also listed, with page references, in the main index.)

Finally, the book's website also features some supplemental material that simply wouldn't fit in the print edition.

Conventions Used in the Book

To make the content of Mac OS X Power Tools easier to read and understand, I've used a number of standardized conventions in the book's text and interface. Below is a summary of those conventions for you to use as a reference. Some may seem obvious as you read them here, but in the context of topical discussion they'll help make clear exactly what I'm talking about.

"Tip Tables"

As you may know, or will soon find out, OS X is a true multi-user operating system, with different levels of users (normal, administrator, and root), each of which has different abilities. (I cover user levels and abilities in detail in Chapter 1.) As a result, some ways of using, configuring, and customizing OS X can be performed by any user, but some can only be performed by admin users (or the root user). In addition, some ways of customizing and configuring OS X affect all users of the computer, whereas others affect only the particular user making the change.

Although these user levels and configuration possibilities make OS X incredibly flexible, they can also make a book such as this confusing, since a particular user may or may not be able to take advantage of a particular tip or example, and if they can, the results of that procedure may end up affecting other users of the same computer unintentionally.

In addition, although most ways of working with OS X can be accomplished via a graphical user interface (GUI)—pointing and clicking the mouse and typing in dialogs—some require the use of Terminal, OS X's command-line interface to its Unix subsystem. (I'll talk more about Terminal throughout the book, and I dedicate much of Chapter 15 to it). Some users love the fact that they can use Terminal; others hate it. I hope by the time you finish this book, you'll—at the very least—respect it for what it can do, but in the meantime, you may want a "heads up" if you need to use it.

For all of these reasons, I decided to implement what I call tip tables. At the beginning of each section, example, or procedure, I provide a table that looks something like this:

User Level:

any or admin


individual user or computer


yes or no

The User Level field tells you, up front, whether or not the procedure or topic can be undertaken by any user of a computer, or just by an administrator. The Affects field tells you whether or not any change you make using the content or instructions that follow affects just your user account, or the entire computer (all users). Finally, the Terminal field tells you whether or not you'll need to use Terminal in order to take advantage of the cool info I present in that section. (If a procedure or tip doesn't include a tip table, you can assume that the tip table for the higher-level section applies.)

As far as I know, Mac OS X Power Tools is the first book on OS X to take this approach; I hope it encourages others to do the same, as I feel it clears up one of the most confusing issues surrounding the customization of OS X.

Note, Tip, and Warning Boxes

Throughout the book you'll see text boxes that provide additional information. These boxes contain tips, notes, and warnings; here is an example of each, along with its significance:


Tips point out additional functionality or options relating to the topic being discussed, or tell you how you can use the preceding or surrounding content in other ways.


Notes present interesting information or further resources about the topic being discussed.


Warnings point out very important information that you should know and consider about the topic being discussed. A failure to read and heed such warnings could result in unexpected behavior or, in some situations, data loss.

Terminology for Actions

In many sections of the book, I explain how to perform specific actions in OS X (often using step-by-step instructions). To avoid confusion, I've tried to be very consistent in the terms I use, especially when referring to parts of OS X's user interface. Although most of these actions should be obvious, there are a few situations where distinctions are important:

Choose refers to menus and menu items. For example, I might tell you to choose the Open command from the File menu. In addition, I use the symbol to guide you through a menu. For example, the phrase "choose File Open in the Finder" means than you should switch to the Finder, click on the File menu, and then choose the Open item.

Select refers to selecting files in the Finder, selecting files or items in lists, or selecting items in pop-up menus. If I tell you to "select a file" in a Finder window, it means you should click on that file to highlight (select) it. If you open the Displays panel of System Preferences, you'll see a list of available resolutions for your display; select one by clicking on it. Finally, many dialogs in OS X include pop-up menus—when you click on these items, a menu of options pops up. If I tell you to "select your preferred printer from the Printers pop-up menu," it means to click on the pop-up menu next to the word Printers, place your mouse cursor over your preferred printer, and click the mouse again to select it.

Press refers to keys on the keyboard. For example, if I tell you to press return, that means you should press and release the return key on the keyboard. If I tell you to hold a key down as you complete an action (click or move the mouse, type a letter, etc.), it means you should hold that key down until the action is complete.

Finally, click refers to clicking the mouse on an interface element. For example, if a dialog box has a button for "OK," I'll tell you to "click the OK button" or "click OK." In addition, if I tell you to control-click, it means you should hold down the control key as you click the mouse. Shift-click means to hold down the shift key as you click the mouse. And so onif you see click presented with any keyboard keys, you should hold them down as you click the mouse.


To distinguish between the standard text of the book and text that refers to special content, I use special typefaces for the latter:

  • New or key terms are presented in standard italics.

  • Filepaths (discussed below) are presented in this typeface. If a filepath requires user input (for example, the user's username), it will be italicized. URLs are also presented in this typeface to distinguish them from surrounding text. When typing a URL into your browser, include only the text in this typeface.

  • Text that the user needs to type into a dialog or other text field, precisely as it is presented, is generally bolded. Similar text that requires the user to provide information (such as their name or a filename) is italicized.

  • Commands or input that the user must type into Terminal are presented in this typeface. If a command requires user-provided information (a username or file-name, for example), that section of the command is italicized.

  • Examples of Terminal output (text that is presented to you by Terminal after entering a command) are presented in this typeface.

As a side note, most interface elements (names of menus, buttons, check boxes, etc.) are presented in standard text; however, if there is a chance that an interface element's label might be confused for regular text, I enclose it in quotations. For example, the label Save is fairly clear, but the phrase "Add to list" may not be; the latter is enclosed in quotes.


In addition to the conventions mentioned in the previous sections, here are a few other miscellaneous standards I use throughout the book:

  • I use the terms folder and directory interchangeably.

  • Macs have always come with a single-button mouse, but for a number of years now, Macusers have been able to hold the control key down as they click the mouse to get a contextual menu (in the Finder or from within applications). This is commonly referred to as control-clicking. However, Mac OS X supports multi-button mice, which means if you've purchased a mouse that has more than one button, you can use the left-most button for standard clicks, and the right-most button for contextual menus without installing any additional drivers. This is known as right-clicking. Because some users will have the stock Apple mouse, and some will have a third-party mouse, I use the phrase control/right-click to indicate that you can use either the control key or the right-most mouse button.

  • A pathname is the formal name for the path you would take to get to a file from the top level of your computer's file system. For example, if you want to access a file inside your personal documents folder in OS X, the pathname would be /Users/username/Documents/filename. (Did you like how I used those typefaces I was just telling you about?) The beginning / signifies the top level of your hard drive, and each subsequent / signifies a sub-folder.

  • When typing text into Terminal, or into most interface fields, the case of that text matters. For example, as you'll see later in the book, typing /Users is not the same thing as typing /users. So be sure to pay attention to case when I instruct you to type something.

  • One of the most confusing things about writing books where you try to instruct the reader to type text into Terminal or any other command-line interface is that it's often difficult for the reader to figure out exactly what they should be typing. Is a period part of the command, or is it just punctuating a sentence? Is a command on two lines because it's actually two different commands, or was it just too long to fit on one line? To avoid such confusion, I conclude every command-line input with <RETURN>. Anything preceding this marker is part of the command, on a single line, and anything after this marker is not part of the command. (In addition, when a line of code or a Terminal command is too long to fit on a single line in the book, I use the symbol to indicate that two or more lines here in the book are actually continuations of a single line or command.)

  • Although Mac OS X Power Tools is generally focused on OS X 10.2 and later, many of the tips and much of the information apply to earlier versions of OS X, as well. In addition, if information applies to only a specific version or versions of OS X, I'll indicate this information in the text. For example, if I mention "10.2.2" or "10.1.3" it means I'm referring specifically to that particular version. However, if I say 10.1.x it means all variants of version 10.1—10.1.0, 10.1.1, 10.1.3, etc. Likewise with 10.2.x, and so on.

Installing Apple's Developer Tools

Apple has a set of software tools, applications, documentation, and support files that they provide—for free—to encourage people to develop software for OS X. They call this package the Developer Tools. I mentioned earlier that the OS X Developer Tools are required for some of the tips and procedures I describe in the book. The truth is that they're only required for a very small proportion of the exercises I show you, so if you don't install the Developer Tools, you'll be fine. However, because you might want to take advantage of those tips, and because installing the Developer Tools provides you with a number of very useful tools that you can't get anywhere else, I highly recommend it. (Don't be intimidated by the term "Developer Tools"—there's nothing scary about them, and they're very easy to install.)

There's a good chance that you already have the Developer Tools installer and don't even know it. Check the CDs that came with your Mac or (if you bought OS X separately) that came with OS X. If one says "Developer Tools," you've got 'em. Insert the CD, double-click the installation package, and follow the instructions. If OS X was pre-installed on your Mac, you should check to see if you have an /Applications/Installers folder; if you do, double-click the file called Developer.mpkg to install the Developer Tools.

If you don't already have the Developer Tools, you can download them at no charge by signing up for a free Online Developer membership at Once you've signed up, you can log into the Developer site and follow the links to download software. Unfortunately, the download is pretty darned big, so if you have a slow Internet connection, I'd start the download before you go to bed so it will be finished when you wake up in the morning. When it's complete, double-click the downloaded image and follow the instructions to install. (I talk more about installing software in Chapter 4.)

(Actually, it's a good idea to sign up for a free Online Developer account even if you already have the Developer Tools CD, because Apple periodically releases updated versions.)