Q&A with Keir Thomas, author of "Mac Kung Fu"
Q. Who should read "Mac Kung Fu"?
A. Everybody and anybody! From somebody sitting in front of their Mac for the first time, to people who’ve been using Macs for 20 years. Most of the tips in "Mac Kung Fu" can be implemented in about 30 seconds and anything more complicated is explained in easy-to-follow steps. I’ve received emails from readers thanking me for this “hand holding” approach. It really does open up to absolutely everybody some of the more sophisticated tricks!
Q. In 20 words or less, describe "Mac Kung Fu."
A. Extraordinarily cool tips, tricks, hints, and hacks that will change the way you work and play with your Mac… Forever!
Q. Why should I buy this book?
A. Because "Mac Kung Fu" is astonishingly helpful and user-friendly. It’s totally unique and comprehensive—there really are virtually no tips and tricks that aren’t included in its pages. One of the book’s reviewers said I’d squeezed all the juice out of the Apple! But he was wrong. I squeezed out all the juice, and then squeezed some more!
Q. Is "Mac Kung Fu" a book for programmers and hard-core techies?
A. Not at all. "Mac Kung Fu" is a book for regular Mac users who want to improve their skills to work more efficiently and simply have more fun using their Mac. Read all its pages and you really will become a power user-- the envy of all your friends!
Q. How did you come up with over 400 tips?
A. There are many methodologies I use, from simply clicking things that aren’t supposed to be clicked, to using special tools to examine the code of a program to uncover hidden or experimental features. Then I write it all up in an entertaining and interesting way. I really enjoy doing this and the “Wow!” moment when I discover something new and cool is addictive. But the key thing is this: I’ve done all the hard work so YOU don't have to!
Q. Surely some of the 400 tips are there just to fill space?!
A. The rule when I was writing "Mac Kung Fu" was this: If a tip isn’t genuinely useful then it doesn’t get into the book. I and my editor stuck to this rigidly!
Q. Tell me more about “hidden or experimental features.”
A. The Mac OS X operating system is full of hundreds of hidden features, and Apple simply never mentions them. I guess they assume people will stumble upon them. For example, highlight a phone number in the Contacts app, hold down the Ctrl key and click it, and select Large Type from the menu that appears. The phone number will fill the screen so you can write it down easily. That's astonishingly useful, but Apple expects that people will somehow figure it out themselves! Other features are put into the program code yet not actually made available to users, so a hack must be used to “unlock” them. Why they're hidden is a mystery. They might be experimental, or maybe somebody at Apple just changed his/ her mind about including them at the last moment.
Q. What's your background?
A. Since 2005 I’ve been writing computer books full-time and have published about 15 in total, but I formerly worked as editor on a handful of newsstand computer magazines. In recent years I've blogged professionally for IDG sites such as PCWorld and MacWorld, as well as independent blogs like Cult of Mac. My entire career has been built around educating and informing ordinary computer users.
Q. Are you really a Mac “genius”?
A. I have huge respect for the guys in blue t-shirts who work at Apple stores but I'm not one of them. I’m just a guy who knows a huge amount about Macs and other Apple products. I once went into an Apple store for a warranty claim on a faulty product and ended up teaching a few tricks to the Genius who helped me. He was like, “Wow! I didn't know you could do that!” That's when I realized I could write an interesting and useful book using the Mac knowledge in my head.
Q. What's new in this second edition of "Mac Kung Fu"?
A. The biggest change is that there are over 100 new tips, making over 400 in total! In fact, there are even more than this because with this 2nd edition we introduced “Supertips,” which are single tips covering a particular program or technology but that contain lots of smaller tips. All the tips are written and tested against the latest OS X Mountain Lion operating system, although a great many of them will work just fine with older versions of OS X.
Q. I have a MacBook Pro. Is Mac Kung Fu for me?
A. "Mac Kung Fu" is for every kind of Mac—all MacBooks (including the Pro and Air ranges), all iMacs, Mac Pros, and Mac Minis
Q. I've just switched to Mac from Windows. Is Mac Kung Fu for me?
A. Yes! "Mac Kung Fu" is the perfect introduction to getting the most from your new Mac.
Q. How many Macs have you owned?
A. Many, many, many! Right now I’ve got it down to a MacBook Pro and an iMac. But I'd own even more if I could and am slowly equipping my family with Macs (it means I have to do less tech support). My dream is to own a mint quality original Mac from 1984, or maybe even an Apple Lisa. I'd probably set up a Mac museum if I had the time and money to spend buying what are turning into astonishingly expensive antiquities.
"All levels of Mac users will enjoy this book. I particularly like the types of tips that the book offers that boost productivity, customize the working environment, and just make using a Mac more fun!"
"Mac Kung Fu, Second Edition contains a plethora of excellent Mac advice. It is accessible to new users, and even experienced Mac enthusiasts will find ways to make their lives simpler and more efficient."
"Keir Thomas has compiled one of the most useful and interesting assembly of Mac tips and tricks available today. Packed with how-to insights and easy-to-follow steps, Mac Kung Fu, Second Edition is a knowledgeable guide to have by your side every step of the way."
—Mike Riley, Advanced technologist and author of "Programming Your Home"