Read Me First: A Take Control Crash Course
by Tonya Engst

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Table of Contents


Many amusement park rides have height requirements—you must be this tall to ride. Although they lack big warning signs, most how-to computer books and magazine articles have a similar requirement. If you don’t know enough before you start, you won’t learn much. Fortunately, a lack of knowledge won’t cause you to slip between the safety bars and plummet to an untimely death.

This problem is easy to address. You need to learn the core set of basic skills upon which more advanced instructions are usually based. Because these basics are so fundamental (and easy to pick up), tech writers usually skip explaining them in order to go into more depth within the space allotted or to appeal to more advanced readers. But as much as the goal of this book is to make sure you can carry out basic tasks that are usually glossed over, it doesn’t always go back to first principles.

Almost nobody needs help with some aspects of using a computer these days—or if they do, they aren’t advanced enough to be reading this book. For example, nearly everyone knows how to use a pointing device—such as a mouse, trackpad, or finger on a touchscreen—and if you’ve managed to get this page open on your screen, it’s a good bet that you can run a pointing device well enough to get around. So I don’t say much about the mechanics of mousing or the concept of clicking.

Plus, there are plenty of basic bits of information that are unnecessary for understanding how-to instructions—they‘re not building blocks on which you can learn more. For instance, it’s nice to know how to add, remove, and rearrange icons on your Dock, but instructions seldom rely on that knowledge, so I’ll cruise by such tasks in this book.

On the other hand, if you don’t know how to open files, you‘ll be stuck when you try to follow instructions that assume you have such basics under your belt. To ensure that you can easily follow instructions in a how-to tech book—and in a Take Control book in particular—this book offers a hand-selected collection of basic information that will help you unlock more advanced information.

Even better, because sharing is wired into this book, you can share everything in this book easily with anyone you know who may not have a solid technical foundation.

This book is based upon content that has been written repeatedly in the Take Control series, especially in the Basics topic that appeared near the beginning of each title. I hope to excise much of that content from future books, and direct readers to it here. That way, each book can focus more fully on its special topic.

Most of this book is about the Mac, but a few chapters focus on Apple’s mobile devices, such as the iPhone and iPad.

Here we go!

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