These days it is hard to find an “aftermarket” computer book that does a better job than Google in providing information for messing with ever (and rapidly) evolving and changing software. Master Your Mac: Simple Ways to Tweak, Customize, and Secure OS X by Matt Cone, which is published in 2013, i.e., the future, actually does do a good job. It seems to be Lion and probably Mountain Lion aware, though interestingly almost nothing mentioned in the book requires reference to or use of features of the newest OS enhancements. Most of the ideas in this book are both basic to OS X and useful.
As a Linux user who is using an iMac a lot, I found this book especially useful. I learned where the heck the configuration info is stored for which processes to run on startup, for instance. I learned about various macro software, about better window management, and some hardware related things. I thought I knew everything about using dual monitors, but there was, it turns out, more to learn.
There are two things that make this book better than the average aftermarket computer guide, and thus, which allow the book to earn my recommendation for newish and midlevel Mac users or people like me, who are coming to OS X from another system. First, it is a true aftermarket book, not a re-write of an Apple manual. The author obviously loves the OS, but this book does not tell you things like “Oh, so you want to do this one thing. Well, first you have to ask yourself if you really should be doing that” when there is this one thing you could do but Mac’s don’t do it. Yes, Cone acknowledges that there is an Apple way to do things and suggests that you get into that grove, but for the most part he simply tells you the best two or three ways to get something done.
Second, each chapter (of which there are 38) makes a simple statement of objectives, then lists the key OS X software or processes that would be involved, then also lists (in most cases) a non-Apple product, or a few products, that either do something similar, or in many cases, do something that native OS X does not do. For the most part these are good suggestions, although in a few cases the recommended software is already obviated by something else or, as in one case that I’m aware of, has more or less disappeared because it never really worked that well. But most of the time, the non-Apple apps recommended are great recommendations. (The convention for suggesting the apps works like a restaurant review book, using one, two, or three dollar signs to indicate relative cost at the time of publication of the book, of these apps, if they are not free.)
I’m playing around with about half the suggestions in the book (which is a high percentage) and I’ll probably even write a few posts on some of the cooler ideas, especially those that make my iMac a little more comfortable for my Linux-trained fingers and brain.