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Mac Kung Fu: Over 400 Tips, Tricks, Hints, and Hacks for Apple OS X Paperback – December 9, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1937785079 ISBN-10: 1937785076 Edition: Second Edition
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Mac Kung Fu: Over 400 Tips, Tricks, Hints, and Hacks for Apple OS X + Mac Hacks: Tips & Tools for unlocking the power of OS X + Learning Unix for OS X: Going Deep With the Terminal and Shell
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Editorial Reviews Review

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!"

—Fred Daoud, Author of "Stripes...and Java Web Development Is Fun Again"

"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."

—Loren Sands-Ramshaw, Orglist

"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"


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf; Second Edition edition (December 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1937785076
  • ISBN-13: 978-1937785079
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,729,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Keir Thomas is a 100% unofficial Mac and Linux "genius" who writes the kind of books ordinary users value and need. His most recent title is Mac Kung Fu, a collection of over 300 tips, tricks, hints and hacks for the all-new Apple Mac OS X Lion operating system.

The author of more than 10 best-selling computer books, his work has been read by well over 1,000,000 people and translated into many different languages. In addition to Macs, Thomas has also written extensively about Ubuntu Linux, with one of his books winning a Linux Journal award, and he has recently created several $0.99 Kindle ebooks that consistently top the Amazon charts.

In addition to writing computer books, Thomas runs a small poetry publishing press called Puppywolf. He lives in Britain with two cats and counts walking amongst his hobbies.

More more details, see

Reader reviews of MAC KUNG FU:

"Simply amazing. This is a fantastic book. I've been using Macs since the System 6 days, and I learned several new things reading through and trying these tips. Even very advanced users are going to find something here they didn't know."
-- Patrick Burleson, Owner BitBQ, LLC

"I love how accessible this book is. No fluff, no filler, and no extraneous content to weed through. Just lots of interesting things that I could put into practice immediately."
-- Angela Murtha, IOS Consultant, Girl Meets Bit, LLC

"If Mac customizations are an orange, this book must have squeezed out every last drop of juice there is. I would be surprised if there were more that could be done that this book does not cover."
-- Jon Kurz, President, Dycet, LLC

"This book is easy to read and should be a staple for anyone using a Mac. The tips and tricks are invaluable. There are tips for every user type, from the beginner to advanced users. I would recommend this book to everyone, from my mom to my fellow coworkers."
-- Wesley Matlock, Mobile Team Developer Lead, (also known as

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brian Tarbox on January 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
I've read other books by this author and so came to this one with positive expectations. I'm been a programmer for 30 years on Windows and Linux but converted to the Mac about nine months ago. I figured this book would help fill in some of the tribal knowledge about how the mac works.

My approach to reading a book like this is to just start reading and then highlight tips I'd like to remember later on. While I found a number of tips that seemed somewhat interesting none of them seemed interesting enough to highlight.

Given how many tips were of the form "you can access feature X via shift-command-3" I was surprised not to find a summary table of these keyboard shortcuts (I got the Kindle version, perhaps they're only in the print copy??).

I was surprised that several of the most powerful (and hidden) behaviors of the OS were either not covered or were buried. First example is multiple workspaces and three finger swipe between them. After reading the whole book I went back and Kindle searched for three finger swipe and multiple workspace and didn't get anything. Second example is that you create folders by dragging files on top of each other. These are the kind of things that are considered so obvious to Apple users that no one mentions them, except they aren't really obvious if you come from a different OS.

So, I'll keep the book around and browse through it some more I guess but it didn't rock my world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bakari Chavanu VINE VOICE on February 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I've been a Mac user for almost 20 years, and I write a lot about OS X features and related software. While I'm already familiar with about half the tips in this book, there are some useful how-to's like creating your own Safari extensions that I plan to try.

I would say that most of the tips in this book are very practical for anyone wanting to get more out his or her Mac. While the book could have used more screen shots, the written instructions are easy to understand. There are lots of Terminal hacks in the book, but I found most of them to be user interface changes that are not useful to me; but it is fun to be familiar with the Terminal.

I suggest flipping through the book and highlighting tips you think will enhance your workflow.
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Format: Paperback
While the Mac is generally perfect as is with its intuitive interface and easy to understand menus and help screens, a group of Mac users simply want more out of their systems. They know the Mac can do more, but can't quite figure out what they need. Similarly, the Mac has annoyances and quirks a user has learned to live with, but might like the Mac even more if they could only change some aspect of how it works. This book is for that group!

The ideal audience of this book is an intermediate Mac user who isn't afraid of making changes to program settings or going into terminal and typing a command or two. Knowledge of UNIX or programming isn't required, just an adventuresome attitude and a willingness to learn.

Most of the tips were commands and functions I never knew existed and wasn't looking for them but now that I've found them I couldn't imagine life without them. For example, a simple terminal command will turn off that annoying question about using TIme Machine on a new hard drive when it's plugged in. Another amazing tip is being able to show the full path names of file locations in the title bar. Saves me the confusion of knowing which disk is the original and which is the copy.

Probably all of these commands, tips, and tricks can be found online somewhere but Kung Fu puts it all together from a reliable source so you can take your Mac skills to the next level.

Pros: Amazing tips and tricks
Cons: No blackbelt issued at the end
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By vrto on August 28, 2014
Format: Paperback
Not much to say here. This really is just one big collection of tips and tricks for OS X. If you use it daily, you can be pretty damn sure that you're gonna learn new stuff!

400 tips is a lot. I personally found roughly ~50 of them to be interesting for me. Doesn't sound like much, but trust me, it is. I really improved the way I use OS X quite a bit.

Another really cool thing is that most tips are roughly 1 page long. That's extremely useful if you got like 5 minutes of free time and want to learn something new. I read this book in my job during small pauses.

One star down, because this book lacked pictures quite a lot. I am lazy and I don't feel like trying out every single tip. Had it more pictures, I'd be able to tell whether tip was useful for me just by looking at the picture.
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