Dr. Mac: The OS X Files, Panther Edition


* Completely updated, enhanced and expanded for OS X Jaguar, Panther, and beyond, including dozens of new power user techniques from Mac users worldwide
* Teaches readers how to become power users with chapters on the Classic environment, hardware and software add-ons, and ways to customize the Mac
* Includes coverage of Unix, including the shell, terminal program and shell command-line editing shortcuts
* Features Dr. Mac favorites such as ...

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* Completely updated, enhanced and expanded for OS X Jaguar, Panther, and beyond, including dozens of new power user techniques from Mac users worldwide
* Teaches readers how to become power users with chapters on the Classic environment, hardware and software add-ons, and ways to customize the Mac
* Includes coverage of Unix, including the shell, terminal program and shell command-line editing shortcuts
* Features Dr. Mac favorites such as recommended software, things other power users think you should know about OS X, MacStyles of the Not-So-Rich-and-Famous Power Users, The Dr. Macintosh Abridged Dictionary, and more
* Author hosts a weekly radio program, has been published in more than two dozen computer magazines, and has sold more than a million copies of his previous books worldwide
* Companion Web site provides links to the absolute best freeware, shareware, games, demo programs, informative PDF files, icons, and more

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
There have always been power users, and Mac power users have always been a special breed. But with the advent of OS X, Mac power users have access to power beyond their wildest imaginings. Fortunately, they’ve got Bob LeVitus -- “Dr. Mac” -- to help guide them on their Jedi paths to mastery.

It’d be hard to imagine anyone who knows more about the Mac than LeVitus. Most of his 38 computer books are about Mac topics; since 1985, he’s written regularly for virtually all the leading Mac media, print and online; he was even chosen to teach at the MacMania Geek Cruises. For Dr. Mac: The OS X Files, LeVitus hasn’t just blazed a trail into the innards of OS X; he’s brought together the best tips and techniques from more than 60 leading Mac experts. The result is an immensely valuable guide to getting the most productivity (and fun) from any Mac OS X system.

LeVitus begins by touring the OX X Finder from an expert’s point of view; then offers three high-level strategies and dozens of tips for organizing the massive numbers of files you’re now accumulating on your colossal hard drive. Use OS X’s keyboard shortcuts (for instance, Command+up arrow, which opens the parent folder of your active window, and Command+Option+right-arrow, which displays all the contents of your current folder and all of its subfolders). Add the files and folders you use most to your toolbar. Get in the habit of using Recent Items and Recent Places. Consider using LaunchBar instead of the Finder to open your files, and also consider purchasing DragThing, the dock replacement that keeps getting better and better.

Next, LeVitus shows you how to get the most out of the Internet -- and here again, you’ll learn tons of stuff you didn’t know. For example, if you spend a lot of time online, consider experimenting with the OmniWeb browser, which (while still buggy) has been Quartz-enhanced to display anti-aliased type that’s way easier on the eyes. There’s a full chapter on the Classic environment, another on hardware upgrades, and a biggie on troubleshooting (including what to do when applications inexplicable turn into folders, or “when good System Preference panes go bad”, or worst of all, when your Mac won’t start up properly).

Dr. Mac: The OS X Files contains two detailed chapters on OS X’s UNIX underpinnings. In the first, LeVitus covers the Unix commands and knowledge every experienced Mac user needs (useful commands and tools like grep; basic shell editing shortcuts; and free UNIX software goodies like The GIMP. Then, if you’re really adventurous, LeVitus shows how to log into a UNIX shell instead of Aqua; mess with file types and other attributes; use encryption; and much more.

Mac OS X 10.1, incredibly powerful and stable as it is, is still a work in progress. Lots of little conveniences are missing; fortunately, the Mac community of shareware developers has been working overtime to fill in. LeVitus’s Mac shareware reviews have turned us on to dozens of tools we hadn’t known about.

For instance, there’s ShadowKiller, which removes Mac OS X’s window and menu shadows -- thereby helping slower Macs (read G3s) run OS X at far more tolerable speed. And Classihack, which turns on Classic window buffering, so your Classic apps redraw instantly and update more quickly. And MacJanitor. Like most UNIX systems, Mac OS X assumes you’ll leave your computer on 24 hours a day, and therefore schedules routine system maintenance for the dead of night. If your computer’s never on at 3 a.m., the maintenance won’t happen. MacJanitor automatically takes care of it for you. Speaking of UNIX, there’s also ManOpen, which makes reading UNIX manual pages easier (maybe version 2 will make understanding them easier!)

LeVitus’s companion web site includes a page linking you to downloads of all these packages (as well as all the other links mentioned throughout the book. This is one bookmark you’ll use constantly. And this is one book you’ll use constantly, too. Bill Camarda

Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks For Dummies®, Second Edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764540684
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/5/2004
  • Edition description: Panther Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 504
  • Product dimensions: 7.32 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has written more than 38 computer books that have sold over a million copies worldwide, among them Mac OS X For Dummies, The Little iTunes Book, and the previous edition of Dr. Mac: The OS X Files. He is currently the Macintosh columnist for the Houston Chronicle, "head forum geek" at OSFAQ.com, and host of the weekly Inside Mac Radio Show on KNEW in San Francisco. Bob lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife Lisa, their son and daughter, and assorted furred, feathered, and scaly housemates.

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Table of Contents


Part I: In the Beginning: The Basics.

Chapter 1: In the Beginning.

Chapter 2: Mastering the OS X Finder.

Chapter 3: Hard Disk Organization (and Navigation) Made Easy.

Chapter 4: Protecting Your Work.

Part II: On Becoming a Power User.

Chapter 5: Getting More Out of the Internet.

Chapter 6: The Classic Environment.

Chapter 7: Hardware That Makes Your Mac More Powerful.

Chapter 8: When Good Macs Go Bad.

Chapter 9: Customizing Mac OS X.

Part III: The Power of Unix and AppleScript.

Chapter 10: More Than Enough Unix to Get By.

Chapter 11: More Unix for Power Users.

Chapter 12: Users, and Groups, and NetInfo (Oh My!)

Chapter 13: AppleScript for OS X.

Part IV: The Cool Stuff at the Back of the Book.

Chapter 14: Highly Recommended Software.

Chapter 15: What Other Power Users Think You Should Know about OS X.

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First Chapter

Dr. Mac

The OS X Files
By Bob LeVitus

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-4068-8

Chapter One

In the Beginning ...

The Macintosh is a deceptively powerful tool, contained in an easy-to-use wrapper. Even someone who knows almost nothing about the Mac can be productive after just a few minutes of training. But a power user, one who knows tips and shortcuts and a bit about what to do in an emergency, will be far more productive than a novice.

And that, gentle reader, is what this book is all about. Doing more in less time, finding easier ways of doing things, getting more comfortable using your Mac, and knowing what to do in an emergency.

So without further ado, let's dig right in.

MacBasics 101

Long, long ago, when I bought my first Mac (circa 1985 if you're interested), I thought it would take me only a few days to master. After all, the manuals were short and the interface intuitive. Within a few days, I had indeed reached some level of proficiency-I could double-click, save, and use the Trash. I knew what a startup disk was. I knew the difference between an application and a document. I knew how the Apple menu and Font/DA Mover worked. (How many of you are old enough to remember the hoary, horrid Font/DA Mover?) That, I thought, was all I needed.

Over the next few months, I came to realize that there are hundreds of ways I could customize my Mac to control the way it does things, thousands of shortcuts, both documentedand undocumented, just waiting to be discovered, tens of thousands of cool and reasonably priced programs that made my Mac better and easier to use, not to mention the myriad different techniques I could use when things just aren't working right.

Not long after that, I put my realizations to good use. First, I became Editor-in-Chief of MACazine (until Macworld magazine bought and buried it) and then was a contributing editor for MacUser for years and a columnist at MacCentral (until Macworld magazine bought both and buried them). So for the past 14 years, my job has been discovering and sharing information that helps Macintosh owners use their machines better, faster, and more elegantly. I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm still learning, because it's true, but I have an awful lot to share with you from those years I've spent hunched in front of a Mac.

But before you run, you have to learn to walk, and before you walk, you have to learn to crawl. So, this first chapter covers the very basics of Mac OS X, starting with an introduction to Mac OS X itself and to system software. The reason this material appears in the first chapter should be obvious: Although every reader may not need or want a DVD-R drive or high-powered software, everyone who uses a Mac must use system software.

The information in this chapter, along with its hints and techniques, should give you the background you need to begin coaxing more performance out of your Mac.


This chapter (and indeed, this entire book) assumes that you have installed Mac OS X and Mac OS 9.2.x or greater. If you have not yet purchased Mac OS X, go to http:// store.apple.com and buy it. (When I say "9.2.x or greater," I mean any version of Mac OS 9 above Mac OS 9.2.) If you are using Mac OS 9.0 or 9.1, you should definitely upgrade to version 9.2.2 (or higher), because not only are they regarded as more stable than earlier 9x versions, they're also preferred by the current version of Mac OS X (10.2.4 as I type this), if you intend to use Classic mode.


Though I won't talk about Classic mode in depth until Chapter 6, Classic won't work if you don't have Mac OS 9.2.x or greater and Mac OS X both installed. And many of you are going to need Classic, probably long before you get to Chapter 6.

Introducing Your System Software

Mac OS 9.2.x and Mac OS X are your system software, sometimes referred to as your operating system. But what exactly are they? In a nutshell, your computer's operating system is a collection of special software that makes your Mac work. So, if Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X, or both, aren't properly installed on an available disk when you turn on your Mac, it will just sit there flashing a question mark until a valid operating system is available to it.

System software differs from application software, such as AppleWorks and Microsoft Word, in that it manages memory and communicates with input and output devices, such as printers and scanners.


In addition to your operating system software, other operating instructions are stored in Read-Only Memory (ROM) that resides on a chip inside your Mac. ROM is nonvolatile memory, which means it can never be erased or changed.

The Finder

Part of your system software, the Finder is a special program that starts automatically when you turn on your Mac. The Mac OS X Finder looks different from the OS 9 Finder, as you can see in Figures 1.1 and 1.2.

The menus have different names (and different contents, too). Only the OS X Finder has the wonderful Column view (the Stuff window in Figure 1.1) and useful Dock (bottom of Figure 1.1), and only OS 9 has the near-useless Button view (the Stuff window in Figure 1.2), and so on.

But the OS 9 and OS X Finders are more alike than different. In spite of cosmetic differences, both are in charge of managing your Macintosh desktop. Specifically, you use the Finder to manipulate icons on the desktop; launch applications and utilities and customize them in many ways; organize your files into folders; copy, eject, and erase disks; use menus; and much more.

If you've used Mac OS 9, you'll get accustomed to the Mac OS X Finder in no time at all. If you've never used anything but the OS X Finder, trust me, it's an order of magnitude better than the OS 9 one, if only because it doesn't crash nearly as often, and when it does crash, you can relaunch it and go on with your work. The OS 9 Finder, on the other hand, almost always requires you to restart your Mac when it crashes-which it does all too often.

Think of the Finder as the program you use to do stuff with your Mac. Think of most other applications as programs you use to do stuff (such as paint, draw, type, and so on).


I could talk about the Finder for days. But this should hold you until you get to Chapter 2, which provides all kinds of tips for mastering the Mac OS X Finder.

The Mac OS X System Folder

Under Mac OS 9, all your system software is stored in a special folder called the System Folder. Under Mac OS X, most of your system software is in a special folder called System (note that the X version doesn't contain the word "Folder" in its name), but parts of it are also contained in the Library folder(s), and other parts of it are "invisible."

Figure 1.3 shows a typical Mac OS X System folder.


Notice that the title bar in Figure 1.3 says "Library" and not "System." That's because the only thing in the OS X System folder is the Library folder, as you can see in Figure 1.3. It's actually the Library folder that contains all those other subfolders.


In Figure 1.3, I Command-clicked on the window's title bar to show the path to this folder. What it tells us is that this Library folder is in the System folder; the System folder is on the disk Panther; the disk Panther is on the computer PowerBook Panther.

Mac OS X has always enforced a strict hands-off policy for most of these folders. And so, for the most part, you cannot modify, add to, or delete items in the OS X System folder unless you are logged in as an administrator.


Be extremely careful. Mac OS X 10.3 Panther is far less diligent about this than previous versions of OS X, which would stop you cold with dialog boxes like the ones in Figure 1.4.

OS X 10.3 Panther isn't as picky-it will let anyone do anything they like to its System folder and its contents as long as they are logged in as an administrator.

If you're not careful you can render OS X 10.3 completely inoperable by dragging the wrong item (or the whole System or Library folder) to the Trash. Forewarned is forearmed-don't even think about it.

Power users, of course, not only know how to modify, add to, and delete from these folders, they also know which ones are safe to mess with, and why.

They also know about the four or five folders fonts can reside in, and why there are so many. And I promise, you're going to know all that, too (and a whole lot more) by the time you finish this book. But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's move on.

Apple System Software Updates

Every so often, Apple updates Mac OS X to fix bugs and/or add new features, and running the latest and greatest version on your machine is usually a good idea. To find out what version you have, choose About This Mac from the Apple menu, which displays the window shown in Figure 1.5.


You can use this same technique (often referred to as "displaying the About box") to determine the version number of most software. For example, if you are running Microsoft Word, choose About Microsoft Word from the Apple menu to see its version number. This trick will work with 99 percent of your software. (The other 1 percent must have had a forgetful programmer-the About box is where the version number is supposed to go.)

OS X, like OS 9 before it, can check with the mothership (Apple, in Cupertino) via the Internet to see if any new or updated versions of itself have been released since last time you checked either automatically or manually.


The checking-manual or automatic-is controlled by OS X's Software Update System Preference.

Where Did My RAM Usage Information Go?

Unlike earlier versions of Mac OS, the About This Mac window no longer tells you how much RAM each active program is using. There's a good reason for this omission-Mac OS X handles all aspects of RAM allocation for you automatically, so you never have to "give an application more memory" to get it to work right, nor do you have to decide whether to turn virtual memory on-it's always on under OS X and it's much, much faster and more reliable than it was under earlier versions of Mac OS.

If you can't bear the thought of not knowing how your RAM is being used, the Process Viewer application (in the OS X Utilities folder) can provide some information on how much RAM each application or process is currently using. See Chapter 7 for more info. But I rarely use Process Viewer to monitor RAM. The freeware programs MemoryStick and Perfboard, and the shareware program Memory Usage Getter, all covered in Chapters 9 and 14, provide more than enough information most of the time.

And though you'll learn about this feature in Chapter 2, before you get that far, I need to make an important point right here and now (and it's a point you'll hear more than once in this book):

Back up anything and everything that's important to you before you update.

If you don't understand what this means, read Chapter 4, which contains complete instructions and strategies for backing up your hard disk and files.

There are several reasons this is so important, but the most significant one, at least for this chapter, is that if something doesn't work properly with the new system software, you can go back to the way things were with very little hassle as long as you have a backup of the way things were.

Before I move on to some broad and general hints about using Mac OS X, here are two tips for updating OS X.


Don't be the first one on your block to update to a new version of OS X (or any program, for that matter). If you've got Software Update set to check for updates automatically, don't just automatically approve an operating system upgrade or update. Before saying OK to any OS update, a smart power user will check out the Mac Web sites described in Chapter 5 to determine whether other users are having problems. Once you feel comfortable that this update doesn't cause any damage, you can safely accept the upgrade or update.


One Apple update accidentally deleted some User folders without any warning if the startup disk's name began with a space character. And the recent OS X 10.2.4 update caused some portable Mac batteries to die. A bug in Mac OS X 10.2.4 causes some Macs (including mine, unfortunately) to reset their internal clock to 1969 every time the Mac is shut down.


Fortunately, I don't shut down much and the work-around, according to AppleCare Knowledge Base Article ID: 25374, is to use the Network Time Server option in the Date & Time System Preference, which I had done previously. So while the bug affects my Mac every time I shut down, I rarely notice the 1969 thing, as my Mac calls the time server soon after startup and sets things right.

The date bug didn't bother me and other than that one glitch, 10.2.4 worked great on my dual-processor G4. But I waited until version 10.2.6 came out to update my PowerBook, though Software Update bugged me to do so regularly.

Whenever a software update comes out I monitor MacInTouch (macintouch.com) and MacFixIt (macfixit.com) for a week or two before I pull the trigger.


If an application or hardware device stops working after you update to a new version of Mac OS X, the manufacturer will often release an update that fixes the problem. So if you're having problems with a specific piece of hardware or software after updating your system software, contact the manufacturer and describe the problem. You'll often learn that a fix is available or will be available soon, and it's usually easier to postpone using that software or hardware until you receive the fix than it is to revert to an earlier version of Mac OS X. If you don't contact the manufacturer, you'll never know.

General Tips, Hints, and Advice for Aspiring Power Users

The following sections provide some very general hints that will help you get the most out of your Macintosh. Don't let their general-ness put you off-they can make your life with OS X a whole lot easier.

Read the Fine Manual (a.k.a. R.T.F.M.)

Some folks say, "Power users don't read manuals." That's rubbish. Much of the power and elegance of today's Macintosh software is concealed, and if you don't read the documentation, you will doubtless miss out on powerful features that aren't in the menus. Smart power users even peruse the Read Me files that come with simple freeware utilities, just in case.


Excerpted from Dr. Mac by Bob LeVitus Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2004

    Biased Review for a Biased Book

    While Mr. LeVitus does provide insiteful information throughout the book, it would have been much better without the typical, old-hand Mac user slamming of Windows, and without his personal opinions about new aspects of OS X that he deemed unworthy. Please, just present the information and let me decide if I like it. Beyond the cult-like attitude of Mac is God and down with Windows, this is a decent book for anyone entering OS X. 'What's a power user, anyway?' Someone that uses whatever OS needed to get the job done.

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