I can't say "money wasted," because this is the first time I can recall ever purchasing a computer book that was beneath my comprehension and abilities (feels almost empowering). If you've never used computers before--Windows machines or Macs--this could very well be your best bet. The author doesn't even waste time trying to be cute and funny (recalling the many Dummies and Idiots books, or early Pogue). It's just the basics--mostly in pictures on glossy pages with explanations that most 5th-graders (I'm tempted to say 3rd) could probably handle.
But you can go up several levels (preceding this volume in my collection was Pogue's "The Missing Manual") and still not find the answers you require. Even the experts patrolling the "support" boards on Apple's site sometimes are at a loss for clear explanations, choosing instead to excoriate the questioner ("Read some books so you know enough about the Apple OS to ask precise, intelligent questions about it!"). For me, quite the opposite is true: I've got too many books about Snow Leopard, and would be happy to unload several before the OS is history.
Here are two examples of questions that you may be hard-pressed to find in the manuals and guides: 1. Why do 2 identical yet discrete applications appear in your dock when, as we all know, you have only a single Applications folder on your hard drive? (And why are the Applications on your hard drive sometimes at variance from the Applications in your Home Folder?) 2. Is there any way to trash duplicate applications, programs, files, etc. without requiring literally days for the operation to be completed?
The answers finally appeared, but it took patience and repeated questioning. The answer to the first question is that your Home Folder and its Applications folder is NOT an alias, a short cut, a mirror of your Hard Drive's Applications folder (one of 4-5 folders that came with the original OS). Rather, the Home Folder contains an Applications Folder that is an alias of the Home Folder! You can accumulate and store your own applications there for eventual use and not even have them in the Applications folder of your Hard Drive folder. (Or, to reduce confusion, you may simply wish to remove your Home Folder (just drag it out of the Finder window. Poof!) and/or the Application folder it contains (should you wish to retain a Home Folder but avoid the confusion of two different Applications folders). Just be extra careful never to trash the Applications folder, or any of the other folders, that came with the computer's Hard Drive folder.) The answer to the second question about trash requiring an eternity to empty is that the trash comes with 2 modes of emptying. The first removes stuff but also writes over the resulting vacant space to ensure that it can never be retrieved. It requires infinitely more time than using the 2nd method, which merely empties your trash, leaving it retrievable should you (or anyone else) feel so motivated. Obviously, it's the 2nd method that I required to increase the efficiency of my machine's waste elimination. Unfortunately, the computer came with a default setting for the first, or "secure," trash-emptying method. (You can set it right by going to your Finder window>Preferences>Advanced.)
The above struck me as essential, vital information, yet most of the manuals simply don't explain it. Some Apple users may be content to have 4-6 apparently duplicate Applications, Programs, Folders showing in their Finder window without knowing which is indispensable and which is an expendable Alias. But some of us--especially those of us who deal with large amounts of space-eating media--want to know what to make of so many apparently duplicative items. It's knowledge that can keep you out of trouble. That, and becoming suspicious of all downloads and upgrades (many of them are time-consuming window-dressing that can make your computer less functional, less efficient than before). Steve Jobs and all of the computer gurus are under immense pressure to "make it new" every six months, as a way of goosing sales, regaining the public's interest, improving the bottom line on quarterly earnings reports. But no where does it say you're required to "buy into" each of these over-hyped changes, most of which are not necessarily improvements.
Before going too deep into your computer's programs and uses, take the time to "learn" the Finder window, getting to know it well enough to go to Preferences and place check marks alongside only the desktop and sidebar items that you actually use. The mistake of many Mac users is to regard Finder and Spotlight as the same thing--as search functions. Better to think of the Finder as the Driver's Seat of your car; Spotlight as the map for locating the place you want to go to. Finally, consider disregarding any Mac manual that doesn't explain the distinction between the Home folder and the Hard Drive (HD) folder with its aliases.