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Tuesday, 06/03/03

O'Reilly's recent line of "Hacks" books (Google Hacks, Mac OS X Hacks, Amazon Hacks) made sense to me once I got a chance to see one -- they're the adaptation of the company's phenomenally useful "Cookbook" series. The cookbooks take on programming languages, providing hundreds of oft-used code snippets and explaining their context and pitfalls. I bought the first one, Tom Christiansen and Nat Torkington's "Perl Cookbook", the day it came out, and it's the only O'Reilly book I own that's in serious danger of falling apart from overuse.

In light of "Mac OS X Hacks" I was initially puzzled by O'Reilly's release of "Mac OS X Hints", and once again, figured it out when I saw the book in the flesh. Turns out it was published by Pogue Press, an O'Reilly imprint, so is less of a direct competitor to the other title.

"Hints" is a book version of the web site of the same name. The site looks awful, and I've never had a lot of use for it, though in collaboration with Google it's certainly answered a question or two of mine over the years. After perusing the book, I'm surprised to conclude that "Mac OS X Hints" is a better option than "Mac OS X Hacks" for people brand new to OS X, regardless of prior background. Like the web site that bore it, the design is undesirable, but it's got more material, and a much more fundamental focus on getting work done. Just look at their tables of contents: Hacks, Hints (PDF link).

I found one tip in Hints that I'm amazed I never noticed before. Using either the incomparable DragThing or OS X 10.2, you can switch applications from the keyboard (command-tab by default) as an intermediate step of drag and drop. In other words, select something that needs to be dropped on a window in an obscured application, click and hold the object, command-Tab until the target application comes along, and release. Somehow I've been using Mac OS X day in and day out for three years, and never realized I could do that. It probably even worked in OS 9. Sheesh. 05:59PM «

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