Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide by Daniel J Barrett

Macintosh Terminal Pocket GuideThe Tem­inal Pocket Guide by DJ Bar­rett is a short (well 230 pages — it could be far longer of course), con­cise quick ref­er­ence to ter­minal com­mands on OSX. It is to date to ref­er­ence OSX 10.7 Lion and bears the hall­marks of O’Reilly’s Pocket Guide series. I was sur­prised that there was no prior ver­sion of this very valu­able guide. It is a handy, use­ful volume that provides a brief sketch of the gen­eral oper­a­tion of a par­tic­u­lar object, in this case the Ter­minal applic­a­tion in OSX, focus­sing on the most com­mon and widely used pro­cesses. I have the eBook ver­sion on my Kindle which does fit in my pocket, but as I men­tioned it might take a slightly lar­ger pocket for the paper-based ver­sion at 230 pages. True to form this volume sticks to this proven prac­tice of being com­pre­hens­ive without being exhaust­ive. It is tar­geted at users from novice to advanced, but is really dir­ec­ted towards ensur­ing that an abso­lutely begin­ner will have all the con­text neces­sary to feel com­fort­able with the Ter­minal applic­a­tion and how it can be imme­di­ately util­ized to make life on OSX sim­pler.The struc­ture of this Pocket Guide is logical and fol­lows a path of use­ful top­ics rather than increas­ingly com­plex­ity. The final few short sec­tions deal with tasks such as work­ing with a pack­age man­ager or work­ing with shell scripts that are very ter­minal spe­cific and would be new ter­rit­ory for those unfa­mil­iar with ter­minal. Oth­er­wise, the bulk of the book deals with vari­ous file manip­u­la­tion tasks and sys­tem tasks that can be accom­plished using other GUI tools, but as the author states, can be used with far more power through ter­minal. The premise of the book really revolves around mak­ing life sim­pler and accom­plish­ing tasks faster and with greater efficiency.

One aspect of the author’s approach that I was par­tic­u­larly focus of was draw­ing dir­ect ref­er­ence between how the GUI tools accom­plished a task and how this is accom­plished in Ter­minal. I think this helps the reader appre­ci­ate the con­nec­tion and feel far more com­fort­able with how Ter­minal can be integ­rated into exist­ing prac­tice as opposed to be seen as a dif­fer­ent tool for dif­fer­ent tasks. The desktop is dir­ec­ted to demon­strate how it is merely a layer on top of the file manip­u­la­tion tasks that can be accom­plished in ter­minal. Through this approach a novice user can most eas­ily deduce how Ter­minal can work for them.

There is a sur­pris­ing amount of back­ground mater­ial presen­ted around spe­cific com­mands which will be of par­tic­u­lar value to users entirely unfa­mil­iar with sys­tems tools. In the area of per­mis­sions for example, Bar­rett provides a con­cise and highly use­ful dis­cus­sion of how per­mis­sions are man­aged in gen­eral on a UNIX-based sys­tem and then shows how this can be accom­plished using ter­minal. This why, how and then example driven approach is a per­fect way to use this guide as a tutorial. As a ref­er­ence manual, syn­tax and options for com­mands are quickly iden­ti­fied which per­mits more exper­i­enced users to quickly refresh their understanding.

Finally, and this is most spe­cific to the eBook, links between related top­ics are copi­ous through the text as page ref­er­ences and as hyper­links so that the guide can be tra­versed as a prob­lem solv­ing manual. This ver­sion of the guide is con­cisely delivered, and up to date for the latest ver­sion of OSX. It is use­ful for a vari­ety of levels of exper­i­ence and is eas­ily adapt­able for each of these levels. As a ref­er­ence source it is simply the best on offer for Ter­minal in OSX. As a tutorial for a novice use it offers very use­ful examples and instruc­tion for a self-paced approach.

I review for the O'Reilly Blogger Review Program

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