OS/2 Warp for Dummies, 2nd edition- by Chris Williams

OS/2 Warp for Dummies is yet another in the popular series of "Dummies" computer books spanning the range of PC based operating systems and applications. Unfortunately, it, like OS/2 Warp, also appears to be one of the rarest PC related items you can find. Once you do find a copy, this book lives up to the tradition of all the books in its series. It's informative, well organized, and above all, written in a language most nontechnical computer users can understand - plain English!

When I began preparing to review this book, I decided to go about it the way a nontechnical person would view it. For me, that meant studying a book that, up until now, I had only glanced over a couple of times. It also meant going out to locate a copy for my very own. I soon learned that finding a copy of this book is probably the most challenging part of using it.

I decided to start my search at the bookstores of my local shopping mall. My first target: Waldenbooks on the upper level. I knew I was in trouble right away when I saw the big picture poster advertising "The Nation's Next Best Seller" - Bill Gates' new book is coming soon! Sure enough, this store's PC section was chock full of Windows 95 material and propaganda, including the recently released Windows 95 for Dummies. Of the 75 or so PC books on the shelf, about 75% were Windows 95 related. There were two OS/2 books. Both were technical and one was outdated. Asking about Warp for Dummies produced a series of funny looks and a polite offer to order it. I went on to the next store - B. Dalton's. This store had many more OS/2 books (and Colin Powell instead of Bill Gates in front) including OS2/Warp Programming for Dummies. Alas, the book I sought remained elusively absent. The store clerk here couldn't even find it on his inventory system and suggested that perhaps the book didn't exist! I remained undaunted.

Finally, a call across town to the Barnes & Noble store revealed several copies in stock. They were happy to hold one for me. People wonder why OS/2 Warp users are so dedicated. After this experience, I think I understand better than ever. You have to be dedicated to use OS/2 Warp, even as a beginning computer user. Any true newcomer to computers would have given up on this search and gone with something else long ago.

Book in hand, I could finally settle down to the task of evaluating. OS/2 Warp for Dummies delivers on it promise, "A Reference for the Rest of Us!", in classic fashion. A reference is not the type of book you read cover to cover. Right up front, the book lets you know this, along with advice on the best way to read and use it. Follow the advice! I have yet to find a computer reference that can keep me, someone who can watch blinking Christmas lights for hours at a time, entertained long enough to start at one end and finish it. This book, despite its humor, is no exception.

An OS/2 Warp "Cheat Sheet", printed on heavy paper and perforated so it can be easily torn out, sits just inside the front cover. On it you will find quick instructions covering most of the essentials needed for navigating Warp, broken down into easy to understand categories like "Everyday Stuff", "Fixing Mistakes", and "When OS/2 Screws Up. . ." Areas on the Cheat Sheet that provide instructions use a two column format with a "To Do This" heading the left column and a "Do This" heading the right. Quick and simple.

Getting further inside, the book is broken down into an introduction followed by six sections covering broad topics about life with OS/2 Warp. Titles for these sections range from "Bare Bones Stuff" to "OS/2 Applications (Those Free Programs)" to "Help!". Each section contains three or more chapters covering more detailed topics that relate to a given section. This was meant to allow you to quickly locate the section of the book most important to you at any given time. Each chapter can stand more or less on its own. When a chapter suggests you get more information, it tells you where to go to find it. Everyone should read the introduction on pages 1 through 6. Then decide what they need to read next.

All of the chapters are filled to the brim with loads of instructions for getting things done and tidbits of trivia about OS/2 Warp. Pictures highlight the way things should look when you're doing something. All of this is lightly sprinkled with the well known, slightly off color sense of humor that makes this series of books so successful. What's most impressive is the way this book explains technical and abstract concepts meant for the most geekish in a manner that Grandma, who thought a mouse was something you kept a good cat around for, could understand. It's really that good. Along the way, it points out things to remember, neat little tips, and stuff that DOS and Windows users will relate to, using easy to spot icons printed in the margins. My favorite is the little bomb icon marking areas of the book that tell you what NOT to do. These can really keep you out of trouble. It also warns you when you're about to get into some of that "technical drivel" so you can skip that part if you like.

Overall, this book presents OS/2 Warp in a positive light. The answer to the question "Why bother with OS/2 Warp?" is fair minded and logical though not emotionally inspiring. Each of the BonusPak applications are also reviewed and assigned "IQ levels" for ease of configuration and usability. Comedy runs throughout. For example, most people understand why IBM would make it more difficult to use a competing Internet Service Provider than to use IBM's own Internet service through Advantis. IBM makes more money if you use Advantis. The IQ rating for configuring the Internet Connection application reflects this. It's 80 for Advantis and 160 for other providers.

The author is positive about most of the BonusPak applications and Warp itself. The only big exception to this is chapter 3: "Installing OS/2 on Your Computer without Crying". Warp for Dummies is very tough on OS/2's installation program as being poorly thought out and filled with pitfalls that can lead you and your computer down the path of despair. Installing OS/2 Warp isn't for someone with a weak stomach, but I don't think it's quite that bad.

Unless you're installing it from 5 1/4 inch floppies.

As someone with lots of OS/2 experience, there was little new information for me to learn from this book. It is clearly evident, however, that a beginner would find this reference a valuable source of information they can use to improve their productivity. If you are a new OS/2 Warp user, or you know someone who is, OS/2 Warp for Dummies is a reference they shouldn't be without. It's definitely worth looking for.

OS/2 Warp for Dummies, 2nd edition
SRP: US$19.99
Author: Rathbone
Publisher: Gage
ISBN: 1 5688 4205 8
Chris Williams has been actively involved with OS/2 systems for the past six years. A former IBM employee, OS/2 Ambassador, and long time member of Team OS/2, he is currently a PC and network specialist for Perot Systems Corporation.

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