GraphicVisual QuickProject Books

Visual QuickProject Books
Manufacturer: Peachpit Press
Retail Price: $12.99 each

Peachpit’s Visual QuickProject series of books is designed to take readers through a specific project from start-to-finish. They’re written by industry professionals and richly illustrated with full-color graphics and screenshots in the fashion that Visual Guide users have come to expect and appreciate. Reviewed here is a small selection of Peachpit’s available titles in this series. These four books are intended for the beginner.

Peachpit BookCreating Resumes, Letters, Business Cards, and Flyers in Word
Maria Langer
ISBN: 0321247515, 160 pages
In this platform agnostic book, Maria Langer begins with a tour of Microsoft Word basics for both Mac and PC users: changing view, scrolling, menu choices, toolbar, editing text, copy/cut and paste, formatting characters and paragraphs, saving and printing.

Following this brief yet thorough introduction, the author gives straightforward tutorials on: creating a letterhead template, writing a letter, preparing a resume, creating business cards, producing a flyer, printing an envelope and creating return address labels.

Maria Langer takes the mystery out of many of these tasks, guiding the reader safely through the myriad toolbar and dialog box options and formatting choices. This is a very good book for someone starting a home office or small business. Langer covers all the tasks needed to accomplish office chores quickly and efficiently.

Peachpit BookManaging Your Personal Finances with Quicken
Tom Negrino
ISBN: 0321293657, 160 pages
You don’t need to be self-employed to get value out of either Quicken or Tom Negrino’s Visual QuickProject book, Managing Your Personal Finances with Quicken. The author has written earlier versions of Quicken volumes for Peachpit’s Visual QuickStart Guides series (intended more for the intermediate user) and, as such, has his subject well in hand.

Negrino covers both the Mac and PC versions of Quicken 2005 and includes instructions and screenshots for both. He steps through creating the initial data file, setting up accounts (checking/ savings/credit card), setting up paychecks for scheduled deposit into Quicken, manipulating transactions including money transfers, writing/printing checks, managing online accounts, tracking credit cards and mortgage, creating reports and graphs and tracking investments. He includes invaluable advice on deciding how best to manage one’s finances and how to use categories to track the flow of money.

This is an excellent book for anyone who would like to take charge of their finances with Quicken, even if all you have is checking and savings.

Peachpit BookRetouching Photos in Photoshop Elements
Nolan Hester
ISBN: 0321321189, 144 pages
Nolan Hester’s book is the shining star among these four books. Again, this book is geared for both Mac and PC users. The author jumps right into Photoshop Elements 3 and describes the File Browser and the Elements Editor and advises on how to arrange your workspace within the application to best advantage. He concludes the introduction with a very quick lesson on how to set monitor colors and calibrate a CRT monitor but he doesn’t get into advanced color theory; it’s a straight lesson on where to find the display and calibration settings and which options to choose.

Hester quickly moves along to detail how to use the File Browser to find existing photos on your computer, how to retrieve photos from digital cameras and import them from scanners, and how to get photos from iPhoto.

The next four chapters give lessons on how to use the Quick Fix mode to make quick photo adjustments (fix red eye, rotate and crop photos, fix lighting and colors, and sharpen,) how to use the Standard Edit mode to correct exposure problems (lighten shadows, reduce contrast, use levels, and add fill flash,) adjust colors (fix hue with layer, fix skin tone with mask, remove color noise and warm or cool colors,) and how to use special Elements tools to repair and transform photos (remove dust/scratches, fix blemishes, restore areas, remove objects, combine photos and create panoramas.)

The final chapter explains how to print and email photos and how to save photos for the Web.

If you use a digital camera or a scanner and need to manipulate photographs, then get Photoshop Elements 3 and this book. You won’t regret it.

Peachpit BookUpgrading to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
Tom Negrino
ISBN: 0321357566, 144 pages
The last of the Visual QuickProject books I’ll cover is another book by Tom Negrino and one that is purely for the Mac user: Upgrading to Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. This book is a bit more than just how to prepare your Mac for a software upgrade to Tiger: it also has a complete introduction to OS X 10.4 once you’ve successfully installed it.

Negrino describes how to prepare your system for upgrade; system check, driver and utility check, backup strategy and tools and how to execute the upgrade;(hard drive check, upgrade selection and options, how to set up Tiger software reinstallation, user setup, printer setup, and how to customize Tiger finder windows, sidebar, toolbar, desktop, dock, Exposé.

He continues with a description of what’s changed (Safari, Spotlight, Dictionary) and takes closer looks at Spotlight, Dashboard and Automator. I especially liked the author’s section on Automator and building workflows. This short introduction is enough to get the beginner addicted to creating his own workflows.

Negrino also includes a selection of freeware and shareware applications that add productivity value to your existing OS X system: TigerLaunch, LaunchBar, Default Folder X, iClip, PDF Browser Plugin, GraphicConverter, and TextWrangler, among others.

Overall, this is a terrific book for the Panther (or Jaguar) user who would like guidance on achieving a problem-free upgrade to Tiger.

Each of these books is well written and full of precisely the information that will enable a novice to become proficient in the chosen subject. Each book has a clearly defined goal and the authors capably lead the reader from beginning to end in a clear fashion. There are enough tips (“extra bits”) to encourage the reader to explore further but not so many to cause confusion or to stray too far afield. Each book contains references to additional titles for further learning. These books show that the Visual QuickProject Guide series is a worthwhile addition to Peachpit’s family of books. And don’t forget that User Group members qualify for discount purchases from Peachpit!


Review by NCMUG member Mary Norbury-Glaser