TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Book Review: Mac OS X Hacks

Volume Number: 19 (2003)
Issue Number: 8
Column Tag: Reviews

Book Review: Mac OS X Hacks

by Scott Knaster

When Apple decided to fuse the Mac OS with Unix and NeXT software, it created a unique stack of code that shows its varied parentage: Mac OS when you're in Aqua, Unix when you're typing at the command line in Terminal, and NeXT when you use Cocoa. But it's not just software that Apple has gathered together. Mac OS X has also brought new communities of developers and users into the Mac universe. Unix aficionados and open source advocates who never gave Apple a second thought have been drawn into the new world of OS X.

Mac OS X Hacks is one result of this new community. It's part of a series from O'Reilly, a company long known for books about cutting edge and non-proprietary (and non-Apple) technologies, and now very active in publishing Mac books since the advent of OS X. Mac OS X Hacks feels like a book that's truly native to its subject: not a Unix book, nor a NeXT book, and clearly not a book from OS 9 days, but made for the new Mac universe.


Mac OS X Hacks, subtitled 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools, is organized into nine chapters, using groupings that probably work just as well as any other: chapter titles include Files, Startup, Multimedia and the iApps, and Networking. Another useful organization might have been according to type of user: regular folks, programmers, network administrators, and so on. For example, the Networking chapter includes tips on how to share files between Macs and Windows computers, interesting to many users, and how to set up your own domain name service, which is interesting but much more specialized.

In addition to the chapter organization, the hacks are numbered consecutively from 1 to 100, and every page includes the current hack's number in a nice purple inset in the corner.

Tips for the Rest of Us (and Our Moms)

One of the best features of Mac OS X Hacks is that many of the tips are potentially useful for just about anybody running OS X. There's a tip on backing up, another on getting rid of files in the trash that don't want to leave or CDs that won't eject, and one on how to share your Internet connection. Although it's likely that most people buying a book with "Hacks" in the title are ready for advanced topics, these everyday tips are generally useful and can be passed on to the less technically savvy folks who depend on you for support.

Some chapters, in particular the one entitled The User Interface, describe how you can gain greater control of your Mac using shareware and commercial utilities. For example, you'll find descriptions of a couple of alternatives to the Dock, and various tips on how to restore lost features from OS 9.

Developers Only (Unix flavored)

Mac OS X Hacks has a fine collection of tips that are practical, but primarily useful to developers or other advanced geeks. A useful section sheds light on what's in an application package and how you can mess around with it. There are also sections on secure tunneling, remote login with SSH, and messing around with WebDAV and FTP servers.

The book does a good job of avoiding becoming a complete Unix-fest, but there are a lot of useful Unix-based hacks, including an entire chapter called Unix and the Terminal. The tip called Top 10 Mac OS X Tips for Unix Geeks is self-explanatory and useful for the incoming Unix crowd. Other sections in the Unix chapter provide information on how to get the most out of Terminal, how to use sudo, and how to open files and applications using the command line. This chapter is particularly useful to old Mac folks just getting a handle on Unix.

It's Educational

Some of the hacks presented in Mac OS X Hacks are not practical tips per se, but instead provide overview information on how particular features work. Although these tips might not be immediately useful, they're quite handy for increasing your general OS X knowledge. The very first hack, Understanding and Hacking Your User Account, gives a good overview of this useful topic which is rather alien to OS 9 folks. Another section updates file type and creator codes with OS X information. A couple of sections provide nifty insight into what goes on when OS X starts up.

Is This Tip Really Necessary?

With 100 hacks, not every one will be useful, educational, or fun. It's a safe bet that not a lot of readers will really be interested in installing the PostgreSQL database or Setting a Password in Open Firmware. Still, even these topics can satisfy your intellectual curiousity.


The test of most "tips & tricks" books is in their practicality. The contents should be fun and interesting, but if they're useful too, the book is a success. Mac OS X Hacks does an excellent job of delivering a solid package of topics that are interesting and useful.

Scott Knaster


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Nisus Writer Pro 2.1.2 - Multilingual wo...
Nisus Writer Pro is a powerful multilingual word processor, similar to its entry level products, but brings new features such as table of contents, indexing, bookmarks, widow and orphan control,... Read more
calibre 2.40.0 - Complete e-book library...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital librarian... Read more
Vivaldi - An advanced browser...
Vivaldi is a browser for our friends. In 1994, two programmers started working on a web browser. Our idea was to make a really fast browser, capable of running on limited hardware, keeping in mind... Read more
OmniPlan 3.0 - Robust project management...
With OmniPlan, you can create logical, manageable project plans with Gantt charts, schedules, summaries, milestones, and critical paths. Break down the tasks needed to make your project a success,... Read more
Yummy FTP 1.11 - FTP/SFTP/FTPS client fo...
Yummy FTP is an FTP + SFTP + FTPS file transfer client which focuses on speed, reliability and productivity. Whether you need to transfer a few files or a few thousand, schedule automatic backups, or... Read more
Tweetbot 2.1 - Popular Twitter client. (...
Tweetbot is a full-featured OS X Twitter client with a lot of personality. Whether it's the meticulously-crafted interface, sounds and animation, or features like multiple timelines and column views... Read more
MacPilot 8.0 - Enable over 1,200 hidden...
MacPilot gives you the power of UNIX and the simplicity of Macintosh, which means a phenomenal amount of untapped power in your hands! Use MacPilot to unlock over 1,200 features, and access them all... Read more
Typinator 6.7 - Speedy and reliable text...
Typinator turbo-charges your typing productivity. Type a little. Typinator does the rest. We've all faced projects that require repetitive typing tasks. With Typinator, you can store commonly used... Read more
Adobe Lightroom 6.2 - Import, develop, a...
Adobe Lightroom is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $9.99/month bundled with Photoshop CC as part of the photography package. Lightroom 6 is also available for purchase as a... Read more
ForeverSave 2.1.4 - Universal auto-save...
ForeverSave auto-saves all documents you're working on while simultaneously doing backup versioning in the background. Lost data can be quickly restored at any time. Losing data, caused by... Read more

Super Sharp (Games)
Super Sharp 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Your finger has never been so sharp! Cut with skill to complete the 120 ingenious physics levels of Super Sharp and become a cut... | Read more »
Assembly - Graphic design for everyone...
Assembly - Graphic design for everyone 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Photography Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Assembly is the easiest most powerful design tool on the App Store. Create anything you can... | Read more »
YAMGUN (Games)
YAMGUN 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The invasion has begun! Protect the walls of the citadel against waves of enemies! But watch out, you will soon run out of ammo...... | Read more »
Royal Bounty HD (Games)
Royal Bounty HD 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: New World Computing Approved "Hi Guys! looks good so far! keep up the good work. I worked on HoMM 3 and 4 creating all of the... | Read more »
Swords & Crossbones: An Epic Pirate...
Swords & Crossbones: An Epic Pirate Story 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Camel Up (Games)
Camel Up 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Martian: Bring Him Home (Games)
The Martian: Bring Him Home 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Based on the best selling novel and critically acclaimed film, THE MARTIAN tells the story of Astronaut Mark... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: September 21-30, 2...
Leap Into Fall With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above... | Read more »
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter (Social Networki...
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter 4.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Social Networking Price: $4.99, Version: 4.0 (iTunes) Description: *** 50% off for a limited time. *** | Read more »
Mori (Games)
Mori 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Stop, rewind and unwind with Mori. Time is always running, take a moment to take control. Mori is an action puzzle game about infinitely... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Save up to $350 with Apple refurbished iMacs
Apple has Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $350 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac – $1949 $350 off MSRP - 27... Read more
Mac Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac Pros on sale for up to $300 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 3.7GHz 4-core Mac Pro: $2818.99, $181 off MSRP - 3.5GHz 6-core Mac Pro: $3699... Read more
5K iMacs on sale for up to $150 off MSRP, fre...
B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.3GHz 5K iMac on sale for $1899.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. They have the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149, $150 off MSRP... Read more
Twelve South Redesigns BookArc For Today’s Sm...
Twelve South has announced a redesigned version of their very first product, BookArc for MacBook. Tailored specifically for the newest generation of MacBooks, BookArc holds the new, smaller Apple... Read more
Phone 6s Tips & Tricks – Tips Book For iP...
Poole, United Kingdom based Tap Guides Ltd. has announced the release and immediate availability of iPhone 6s Tips & Tricks, an in-depth eBook available in the iBookstore that’s priced just $2.99... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $994,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $994.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $105 off MSRP. Price valid... Read more
Is The iPad Pro Really A Serious Laptop Repla...
Probably not, at least for productive professionals and other power users. Steve Jobs declared that we’d entered the “post-PC Era” with the advent of the original iPad in 2010, a phrase we don’t hear... Read more
Wednesday Deal: 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros f...
Adorama has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $130 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax for NY & NJ residents only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1199.99 $... Read more
uBar 3.0 for Mac OS X – Custom Dock Replaceme...
Brawer Software has announced the release of uBar 3.0, an important update to their popular app and window manager for Mac OS X. uBar allows users to position it whichever side of the screen they... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail Online, Customer Experience R...
**Job Summary** Apple Retail's Online Store sells Apple products to customers around the world. In addition to selling Apple products with unique services such Read more
Frameworks Engineer, *Apple* Watch - Apple...
**Job Summary** Join the team that is shaping the future of software development for Apple Watch! As a software engineer on the Apple Watch Frameworks team you will Read more
Senior Manager, Global Direct Marketing *App...
**Job Summary** Apple Retail is looking for an experienced Direct Marketing Leader to join its Marketing team. This position will take a leadership role in creating Read more
*Apple* Online Store Expansion - Apple (Unit...
**Job Summary** The Online Apple Store is seeking a person to lead its expansion into new countries. Based in Cupertino, CA, this person will develop and maintain an Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Customer Support P...
Job Description:Customer SupportSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.