Books to help get started with Mac OS X

I am helping someone who wants to learn more about how to best use their Mac and what it can do. One of the things desired were getting started books which isn't unusual. As part of the conversation, I realized that there are a couple of things that new users may not know that will help them get going on the Mac, or any other platform for that matter when searching for books.

First, decide what it is you're trying to learn more about. Don't expect to find a single book that will cover everything. Be specific in your search terms. For example: do you want to learn about the system in general, a specific feature that has some depth, or an application you plan to use on it? For each of those areas, there is most likely a book that will specifically cover that topic.

If you want to learn about the system in general, don't look for books about the platform (i.e. Mac) or device (i.e. Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook, etc.). Instead, search for books about the specific version of the Operating System you are using. In the case of the Mac the current operating system is Mountain Lion so search for books on 'OS X Mountain Lion'. Some examples of books that will likely be helpful include OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual or OS X Mountain Lion All-in-One For Dummies.

For specific features or applications, search on the name of the feature or application. For example, to learn about iPhoto, search on 'iPhoto' rather than something more generic like 'photography iPhoto' will lead you to something like iPhoto '11: The Missing Manual (Missing Manuals). In general, the books that focus on the specific application rather than trying to more generally cover a subject tend to do a better job of covering the material you're likely to want. Using this example, you can always find a book on photography that will most likely do a better job of explaining how to take better pictures than one that also tries to cover using the iPhoto application.

There are several series of books such as the previously mentioned 'Missing Manuals' and 'Dummies' guides mentioned above. When you are getting started, don't be afraid to pick up 2 or 3 different ones to compare the style and format to see what works best for you. While reviews are helpful, they don't factor in what is most effective for your learning style so it pays to be a little adventurous when getting started with books covering technical subject matter.

If books are your preferred method of learning, don't be surprised if it takes a number of different books to cover the material you are interested in learning more about. You will be better served by building library of books that cover topics extensively and in depth rather than a collection (most likely not any smaller) of books that contain overlapping material and will actually cover less ground as a result of being more general.

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