Get the last word on Mac OS X terminology!

Take Control: The Mac OS X Lexicon

Sharon Zardetto
Andy Baird

If you’ve ever felt uncertain about some bit of Mac jargon, help is here in the form of a trip through over 500 Mac- and Internet-related terms. Written by veteran Mac authors Andy Baird and Sharon Zardetto, these definitions are loaded with useful tips, practical advice, humor, and empathy.

This product has been discontinued.

We Mac users sling technical jargon around every day, but if you’ve ever felt uncertain about what a term actually means, help is here. Take Control: The Mac OS X Lexicon is your definitive guide to over 500 of the most important Macintosh- and Internet-related terms. And we’re not talking about some dry old dictionary here, either—these definitions—which include 30 new definitions for Leopard— are loaded with useful tips and advice. Check out the free 39-page sample to see what we mean!

This ebook is somewhat old. It was ripe for the picking in 2007, shortly after 10.5 Leopard was released. Since then, a few more big cat operating systems have come along and the overall tech industry has moved forward. However, if you have an older Mac running 10.4 Tiger or 10.5 Leopard, there’s still a lot of goodness for you in this ebook.

“Got a relative who is new to the Mac or computers? This is the perfect book for them, but even old dogs like me will find useful information.” —Rich Lefko, review

This book is a great guide for Macintosh users everywhere who have trouble keeping up with the latest jargon, for new and intermediate level Mac users, and for anyone who enjoys smart and witty technical writing.

Questions answered in this book include:

  • What’s the 501 folder for?
  • What’s the deal with all the different CD and DVD disk formats?
  • Where can I find my Mac’s MAC address?
  • What does snapback mean, and how can I find and use it?
  • How do I type the different kinds of dashes?
  • What’s the difference between composite and component video cables?
  • What are cookies and breadcrumbs on a computer?
  • Why does a TextEdit file with images becomes a folder on a Windows machine?

“The voice is that of a droll but knowledgeable buddy.” —Joanne Tighe

“I’ve never had an ebook before. It is a clever idea and lends itself so well to cross-referencing and searching. And this is the most interesting, useful book I’ve come across for ages. Funny too.” —Hazel Findlay

About Andy Baird

A Macophile since 1984, Andy Baird has taught about Macs, written about them (including The Macintosh Dictionary), written software for them, and spent way too much of his adult life sitting in front of them. Andy lives and travels in his motorhome, "Skylark," keeping in touch via satellite Internet.

About Sharon Zardetto

Sharon Zardetto has been writing about the Macintosh professionally since 1984, including nearly a thousand articles in Macintosh magazines and over 20 books. She’s best known for writing several editions of The Macintosh Bible, along with The Mac Almanac.

Is there a MacVoices podcast about this ebook?

Yes! Here's the blurb: MacVoices #784 - Sharon Zardetto Discusses Take Control: The Mac OS X Lexicon

The Mac world is full of acronyms, abbreviations and terminology that can be confusing to the novice and expert alike. Sharon Zardetto, the co-author of Take Control: The Mac OS X Lexicon, talks about the challenge of creating a reference tome that helps make sense of it all while remaining entertaining and useful in ways that a normal lexicon isn't. She shares some examples from the book, (Do you know why a standard CD holds 74 minutes of audio?), discusses how she and co-author Andy Baird kept the size of the book down to a manageable level while still covering an amazing number of terms, and why this is the perfect companion to any other Take Control book you may already own. Get more info and listen to the podcast.

To see what Take Control: The Mac OS X Lexicon is all about, you can download a 39-page sample showing the first page for each letter (and thus the full list of terms), or you can read the first three pages of the letter M right here.


Macintosh. That's right, it's not an acronym, so if anybody writes "MAC" when describing your computer, you can look down your nose at them. And it's not an apple (although it is an Apple), so folks who write about "McIntosh computers" are picking their fruit from the wrong tree.

MAC (Media Access Control)

The unique hardware address built into every network adapter on your computer, and every networkable device—including Palm PDAs, VoIP over Wi-Fi phones, and printers with Ethernet. No two devices in the world have the same MAC address, allowing devices on a local network to easily differentiate themselves. MAC addresses are used only on local networks, not routed to wider networks or the Internet, so this is not the address the outside world sees—that's your IP address. The MAC address for a Mac's built-in Ethernet or AirPort adapter is sometimes accessed when you register or "activate" software so the software will be associated with that specific machine and not work if you copy it to another machine. You can find MAC numbers in the Network preference pane: choose the adapter from the Show menu, and then look for the AirPort ID or the Ethernet ID (for the Ethernet ID, click the Ethernet button).


dot.MAC. Apple's subscription-based Internet service is a peculiar beast. It isn't an ISP (you don't get a dial-up account, so you still have to supply your own Internet connection), and it isn't a content provider. So what do you get for your hundred bucks a year? Well, .Mac can host your Web site... although just about every ISP does the same at no extra charge—and you still need an ISP to use .Mac. The storage space it provides for your online iDisk has recently increased ten-fold, to 10 gigabytes (a combined limit for data and email)... although the usefulness of this feature is severely limited by the speed of your Internet connection and Apple's slow servers. .Mac gives you an email address... but if you have an ISP, then you already have one or more of those.

So, does .Mac offer anything special? It lets you synchronize your calendar, Address Book, bookmarks, and email between computers; that's handy, even if there are other, free, ways to do it. .Mac's main advantage is its ease of use, and its level of integration with the Mac Desktop; you can even easily set up a Web site that allows users to access files in your (password-protected!) Public folder, a trick one of Sharon's designer friends uses for her FTP-phobic clients.


A series of commands triggered by a single click or keyboard command—with the underlying assumption that the user has defined the commands to be carried out.

Automator's somewhat clunky build-it-yourself workflows are limited both in what they can do and where they can do it; AppleScript is great, but difficult to learn and overkill as a macro utility. Photoshop provides "actions," which are program-specific macros, while Microsoft Mac Office 2008, due in late 2007, is, sadly, dropping its internal macro support. So, check out Startly's QuicKeys, the best all-round macro-maker for more than a decade, and a newer kid on the block, Script Software's iKey.

MacRoman, Mac OS Roman

MacRoman is the early font-encoding scheme unique to the Mac; the first 128 characters matched the ASCII standard, while the encodings (and some of the characters) in the second 128 were unique to the Mac. It's called Mac OS Roman in Safari's View > Text Encodings submenu, which helps on only the extremely rare occasion that you're viewing an old made-on-a-Mac, for-a-Mac Web site.


The nifty magnetic connector for the power adaptor on newer Mac laptops. If somebody trips over the power cord, it simply pulls off the laptop, instead of pulling the laptop off the table. Apple's site refers to it as "a magnetic connection instead of a physical one." Hmm... so magnets are... what? Metaphysical? Spiritual?


Apple's email program (someone obviously forgot the i prefix). In the previous version of this book, before Leopard came out, we complained about Mail's lack of integration with iCal, the absence of a To-Do feature, and the fact that the thread feature didn't include messages sent on a topic unless it was a part of a Reply All to a group. We said we were looking forward to Leopard's version of Mail with crossed fingers.

Well, we've uncrossed them: Integration with iCal? Check! Point to a date in a message, and turn it into an appointment. To-Do's? Check-- and shared with iCal, no less. Threading including your own replies-- well, at least in smart mailbox setups. Along with other nice features, (Notes), cute (?) features (Stationery), and great features (RSS feeds treated like email messages)... Leopard's Mail is finally Mac-worthy.

Please don't send us any cute emails with Stationery: it unnecessarily clogs the Great Bandwidth; it's usually hard to read; even when it's not hard to read, the text doesn't start until it's an inch or more below the edge of the message area, so it requires extra scrolling. (Unless, maybe, it's a birthday greeting; cute and special occasions can go together.)

mailing list

An email discussion group managed by software such as LISTSERV. The list server has a directory of all the members' email addresses; when an email comes to the list server from a member, the server sends a copy of the message to every member. Since group members can become overwhelmed by the number of messages, there's also a digest option. In this mode, the list server collects the messages received in a 24-hour period (or until a certain file size is reached), and sends them out in a single, long message to members who have chosen this option.


malicious + software. Any kind of nasty software—virus, worm, Trojan horse—whose purpose is to cause problems. "Prank" software that unintentionally causes harm is not usually labeled malware, but maybe we can name it: moronware?

Hope you enjoyed this brief excerpt!
The book has over 20 additional M definitions.

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