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Review: Inside Panther

March, 2004



Inside Mac OS X: Panther

Inside Mac OS X: Panther
Magnet Media, Inc.
Format: DVD for Mac (Director-based; won't play on set top boxes).
Total Running Time: 7+ Hours

$49.00 (lafcpug price $24.65)

Purchase in the lafcpug Store


By David A. Saraceno

Many digital content creators can disassemble and reassemble a Panasonic AJ-SDX900 camera in the dark. But an equal number couldn't explain the difference between deleting a preferences file and repairing permissions using Apple's Disk Utility. We all need to treat our operating system with the attention and respect it requires as essential tool in our digital creation arsenal. In many respects, the Mac OS is the most important tool we use.

That's the premise behind "Inside Mac OS X: Panther," a DVD-based training tool produced by Magnet Media. The company's previous instructional offerings were almost exclusively related to digital media creation tools. The release of this DVD focusing entirely on how Panther works is testimony to its crucial role in creating digital content.

The lengthy Director based video presentation explores in five chapters the intricacies of Apple's latest incarnation of MacOS X, coded named Panther (10.3.x). It covers System Set-Up, Applications, Internet and Networking, and Troubleshooting in a fast-paced, informative video presentation heavy on video screen shots and narration. At $49.95, it is cheap insurance to maintain an effective content creation workflow.

Workflow and System Set Up. This section reviews how Panther has changed Finder file management by implementing a new multi paned Finder window to access, move, copy and organize files located locally on your volume, or remotely on a network. Narrator David Marcus provides shortcuts for copying files, searching for files in specific volumes, saving/opening documents, and using Finder menu items. He also explains in detail how Expose, Panther's new "wow" feature, significantly streamlines workflow when working with multiple open document and application windows.

In my view, Expose is worth the full price of admission in Panther, although its stock F-key presets conflict with existing F-key commands in FCP. Marcus explains how to properly configure Expose to make it compatible with FCP. If you're not familiar with Expose, you'll soon appreciate how it eases navigation among multiple open documents in Photoshop, After Effects, and Final Cut Pro.

The training series also examines the role system preferences play in customizing system wide workflow. Information on setting computer, display, and hard drive sleep and spin down preferences are included. Marcus explains how these preferences should be set when working in a production environment.

The DVD provides some Final Cut Pro suggestions as well. For example, Marcus details the steps to customize menu commands in FCP using the keyboard preference panel. Customized keyboard commands can be added or changed for any menu command in FCP or any of your video applications.

Panther Applications. This section explains in detail the improved functionality for Address Book, iCal, and Sherlock, which are bundled with Panther. It's easy to ignore these applications, but you'll be surprised how they can assist in the business side of content creation.

Marcus's discussion of the Address Book discloses new capabilities I didn't know it possessed. For example, change some personal information in Address Book, such as your email address or telephone number, and the app automatically e-mails the changes to a predefined group of recipients, such as your video-editing clients. iCal, Apple's calendaring application, directs email notifying you of the event you've scheduled, and automatically opens the pertinent file, or project. Nice.

Sherlock has been reincarnated as an Internet search engine with access to specific "channels" or categories of information ­ everything from local movies and restaurants to a thesaurus and language translation. Importantly, it will also directly access the entire Apple Knowledge Base for articles in troubleshooting system and application issues, including all the professional apps. Type a few words in search tab identifying an issue such as dropped frames in FCP, and a prioritized list of applicable articles is displayed.

There is an extensive section on Apple's iLife applications, but they do not include a discussion of iDVD4. The section on iMovie is a video presentation with no narration ­ a departure from other presentation technique. It is effective, however. A short discussion of Apple broadband video conferencing hardware/software, iChat, is included. A discussion of how the Font Book application operates is included.

Internet and Networking. Basic Internet configuration, by either Ethernet or modem, is discussed in this section. Marcus also provides an overview of Safari, Apple's web browser, Safari, and an excellent discussion of the application's web security features.

The overview of Apple's Mail application is excellent. It explains how to configure Mail to automatically direct messages to customized mailboxes filtered by subject matter or sender. In this way, you can organize your received messages by topic, sender, or any other criteria you establish. For example, I configured an e-mail folder that received every e-mail message from product developer for a product review I was writing. This is a real time saver. In addition, the highly configurable "junk mail" filter is explained well.

Although the "Panther in the Office" section is interesting, its suggestions aren't advised for dedicated video editing workstation. In my view, workstations should be single user and configured, and "clean" systems in every respect. However, some suggestions are applicable to your non-workstation Mac, if you have any. Users should review the sections on adding a second administrator account to deal with issues that arise when passwords are lost or forgotten.

Optimization and Troubleshooting. This chapter contains most useful information on the purpose and intended use of the Disk Utility, located in the Utilities folder of Panther.

Conclusions. I'm a strong believer in video based learning aids, particularly those, such as this one, that provide random, interactive access to the tips, suggestions, and troubleshooting. This DVD is well organized by chapter and section, and the video and narration is nicely paced and informative. More than that, the price is right, especially at the lafcpug Store

I urge every Panther user to learn how the Mac operating system works by buying some instructional aid ­ and reading or watching it completely. At $49.95, this DVD is an exhaustive seven-hour bargain of content rich material. Spend a few hours with it, and you'll have less of computer related down time, and spend a lot more trouble free time editing video.

Copyright ©2004 David A. Saraceno

$49.00 (lafcpug price $24.65)

Purchase in the lafcpug Store

David A. Saraceno is a motion graphics artist located in Spokane, Washington. He has written for DV Magazine, AV Video, MacHome Journal, and several state and national legal technology magazines. David also moderates several forums on

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