There is a secret to unlocking the vast wealth that is the promise of computing and, in particular, the promise of the Macintosh system. That secret is tutorials. By simply seeking out and spending a few minutes with one or more of these amazing tutorials, many of which are free, you will become blessed with talents that are sure to impress both you and your friends. My 12-year-old son, who started playing the piano at age five, has had the remarkable application GarageBand on his computer since it came out. Aside from opening it and pressing a few buttons here and there, he found no use for it. I discovered a free online tutorial ( http://comtechlab.iupui.edu/tutorialsfolder/garageband.html ) that uses Quicktime videos to introduce the novice to the wonders of GarageBand. I had him watch it with GarageBand running in the background. For days afterwards, he was making music with the application and was as proud as punch of his creations. All it took was getting to know a bit about the application and its capabilities, and he was off and running. That is also what will enable you to move up to the next level of computer expertise and take a giant step towards accomplishing your dreams. As a connoisseur of the software tutorial, I warn you that not all training programs are equal. Some of the better ones burn the knowledge into one's soul while the lesser ones will leave you with a glassy stare, mesmerised by the whole computing experience. My all-time favourite tutorials are the ones created for Nemetschek's VectorWorks computer-aided design (CAD) application. These are sequential, searchable, non-condescending, in plain English and edited to eliminate chit-chat and waiting for a computer to do something. The instructor's voice is not a monotone and the graphics are more than just a single camera showing an instructor sitting with a computer monitor. The best part is that, after you watched the tutorial, you can use an index to return to any spot you want, which saves you from having to memorise everything the first time through the video. However, as nice as the videos are, they are expensive - US$75 each. There are two CDs - one for novice and one for more advanced functions, and of course they are of no use if you do not need a CAD application. Nonetheless, they set the standard if you are looking to create a tutorial for your product. My next favourite tutorials are the ones created for Adobe by Total Training ( www.totaltraining.com ). They are not as searchable as the Nemetschek tutorials nor are they as concise, but what they lack in precision they make up for in abundance. The Photoshop CS2 training set includes three DVDs with 21 hours of instruction. The set sells for US$299. They also use celebrity instructors such as the well-published Deke McClelland. As with any in-depth tutorial, I recommend setting aside a regular scheduled time each week to do and redo the lessons to get the most out of them. Complex CAD, photo-editing and publishing programs obviously need tutorials but, as with the GarageBand example, doing tutorials for simple applications will dramatically improve the magic they can deliver. The best value for software training comes from Apex Web Training ( www.computer-training-software.com ). It offers an online university through which you can access 27,000 tutorials totalling 2,000 hours of videos covering 170 different applications - all for only US$30 a month. It also offers hours of demo tutorials free on the website. But I must mention that these tutorials are a long way from the Nemetschek and Total Training quality. Ideally, high quality and free is what I look for, and the best source for this is on Apple Computer's website. It has free tutorials for iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes, Quicktime Pro and .Mac. These are excellent tutorials, often including 12 or more videos for each subject. Since they are aimed at non-expert computer users they are a little oversimplified for more advanced users, but not so much that they are condescending or tedious. Apple has a firm called Digital Medial Training Series ( www.digitalmediatraining.com ) that creates the tutorials for its Pro applications, and they are quite reasonable (US$49 per DVD) and almost as good as the Total Training DVDs. There are also an incredible number of free speciality tutorials created by fans and webzines.