Mac Kung Fu


Sometimes it just takes… time.

Even though I read a lot, it’s not often that I review books. I put out a post now and then with a subset of the stuff I finished recently, but it’s not a regular feature here.

But it’s the second time this year I’m asked to do so. Just before my recent nasal impairment, Keir Thomas e-mailed me asking me if I’d review his new book, Mac Kung Fu, and I said yes.

Then entirely too much stuff happened in a row, and even after getting back on both nostrils and clearing out most of my backlog I stubbornly refused to just put up a link until I’d actually read through the whole thing – which finally happened today.

Part of the reason it took me so long is that this isn’t something you read, really. It’s more of a reference book with Mac tips (400 in total), a few pertaining to tweaking system settings that aren’t readily accessible (usually via defaults write ...) but most focusing on the kind of stuff it’s often a pain to Google for1 and handy when you simply don’t want to waste time.

There’s a few things I personally don’t find very useful (like easier ways to create crazy e-mails – the ones I get are crazy enough already, thank you), but this is the sort of book I would recommend to three kinds of people:

  • the obsessive tweaker who wants to get their desktop just right (from their standpoint, at least)
  • those people who complain that the Mac isn’t “configurable” enough
  • folk who are switching to the Mac and would like a nicely formatted reference handy for simple recovery/troubleshooting scenarios (boot options, disk handling, hardware tests, etc.)

This because there is more enough here to demystify the platform, let people have their way and encourage them to look further under the hood. So yes, there’s a pedagogical angle here.

As to myself, and even considering I’ve been using a Mac for ages, I found quite a few tips useful – right off the bat there was a fairly long tip on dictation that I would likely never come across otherwise, and I’ve since put to use a few of the more practical hints, like setting up a few keybindings for some built-in AppleScripts that are squirrelled away in the nether regions of the operating system.

I popped the PDF version into Evernote and incorporated it into my personal knowledge base of sorts – with pretty decent results, in the sense that it passed the “found useful stuff when I needed it” test.

So, in a nutshell, I find it interesting as a reference book to search in now and then and fish out the kind of thing you seldom need until it’s really handy.


  1. Oh, you’ll be able to find similar hints, sure, but not updated ones, and hardly any neatly grouped in one place. ↩︎