Wednesday 22 February 2012

Mac At Work - David Sparks

Mac At Work
David Sparks
ISBN 9780470877005

I need to preface this review with a couple of facts. First, I work full time in IT. I am the prime/lead for supporting a small number of Macs and a large Windows organization. Second, I have used a Mac as my main machine at work for over a year and I have written three Apple certification exams over the last year to better be able to support them in the workplace. Third, I am not now nor ever likely to be a 'Mac Guy'. There are things I appreciate about the hardware and software. I got this book because I wanted to get more out of my Mac at work. I wanted to be able to do more than test problems other Mac users are having, and using it as a VM host for my Windows machine.

David Sparks is a 'Mac Guy'. He thinks they are great. It is evident on his website and through this and other writings. He is passionate about what Macs can do and to some extent what they cannot do. He writes with a depth and breadth of experience few users will ever have. He seems to try all the key software in a category and build a list based on strengths, weakness and cost factors. He is very fair in his approach. Here is the table of contents and the breakdown of how he tackles his subject of using a Mac at work.

Part I: Mac Fundamentals
Chapter 1: A Tour of the Mac
Chapter 2: Backing Up
Chapter 3: Useful Utilities

Part II: Communications and Connections
Chapter 4: The Internet and Your Mac
Chapter 5: Using E-Mail
Chapter 6: Contact and Calendars
Chapter 7: Macs and Mobile Devices
Chapter 8: Talking to Your Mac

Part III Business Basics
Chapter 9: Task Management
Chapter 10: Notes and Outlines
Chapter 11: Word Processing
Chapter 12: Managing PDF Files
Chapter 13: Graphics for Business
Chapter 14: presentations

Part IV: Advance Business
Chapter 15: Spreadsheets
Chapter 16: Databases
Chapter 17: Project Management
Chapter 18: Billing and Invoicing
Chapter 19: the paperless Mac

Part V: Advanced Topics
Chapter 20: Networking
Chapter 21: Synchronization
Chapter 22: Windows on Your Mac
Chapter 23: Security
Chapter 24: Mac Automation

Part IV: Appendixes
Debunking Myths about Macs

After having read this book, I have tried a number of new programs, a few utilities and other tools to make the Mac more useful for me at work. It has done that. Second it highlighted a number of applications I can go back to end- users with and make suggestions for them going forward. The book was well written, engaging and would be accessible by almost anyone who has the ability to use a computer. I have only two real problems with the book - first, he says that IT should be able to support a Mac in most organizations, and to some extent that is true, but doing so comes at a higher cost in time and support required. Macs might fit in a small office more easily but in a Windows Active Directory situation there will always be hurdles to overcome and problems will crop up regularly. Second, in the section on debunking myths, he says they do not cost more but with Apples to Apple comparison processor, ram, HD speed and capacity, they cost about 1.5 times more than a PC. When you add to that, in most large organizations, adding a Virtual Machine client, licensing for Windows and any software that is duplicate on both OS's it can come to between two and three times the cost to run a Mac.
Overall this was a great book. I am glad I read it and even if I do not apply a lot of the techniques, tools, and tricks outlined, the average Mac end-user will get a great deal from the book. If you choose to use a Mac or if you need to use a Mac, there will be something in this book that will make your life easier and more productive.

On a side note there is also a companion volume out now called iPad At Work that looks very interesting.

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