Missing Manual

So I’m writing a book.

I signed a contract last month with O’Reilly to write a book about Apple’s iWork software for the publisher’s Missing Manual series. I couldn’t be more tickled. O’Reilly is hands-down the best there is when it comes to tech and computer books, and I’ve always loved the Missing Manual series. Created by New York Times gadget guy David Pogue, the series emphasizes friendly down-to-earth explanations and a lively editorial tone. I’m humbled and altogether delighted to find myself among the ranks of O’Reilly authors.

Both personally and professionally, the project is a nice fit for me. I make humane software for creative people; my professional mission is to help smart folks get clear of technical hassle to share their ideas with the world. Now I’m writing a book for a series with the same mission, focused on software that is itself incredibly friendly and elegant. It’s a nice evolution for me, explaining to the average Jane how to make her life easier with thoughtfully designed software.

iWork icons
Pages, Keynote and Numbers: a svelte software suite.

So, what is it? iWork is Apple’s productivity software, an alternative to Microsoft Office in a tidy bundle of three programs: Pages (word processing), Keynote (presentations) and Numbers (spreadsheet). I’ve griped and groaned about Microsoft Word in the past, finding it so miserable that I simply stopped using it around 2000. By contrast, Pages provides a lovely, sleek writing environment. It doesn’t have Word’s kitchen sink of features, but in a word processor, less is truly more. Pages’ slender diet of toolbars and other “window chrome” helps you stay focused on actually getting stuff done, and that’s what it’s all about. Hold the “Word art”—I’m happy to take a clean, intuitive workspace instead. Keynote and Numbers provide similar experiences in their particular domains.

The software is a pleasure to use, and it’s turning out to be a pleasure to write about, too. I’ve been working on the book for a couple of weeks now, and with over 100 pages behind me, I’ve discovered some distinct similarities between writing a book and spinning code. More on that over the next few weeks, along with details about the publication date etc.

In the meantime, forgive me if I’m a bit quiet here as my writing efforts shift to my offline project. I’m excited about this project, and I think you’ll like the result. Stay tuned.

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