Five Reasons Why Designers Developers are Switching to Mac


Designers and developers have many choices to make when it comes to getting work done, from what frameworks, languages, and image editing software to use, to what platform to run. The latter is an oft debated and controversial topic and the mere mention of it risks setting off flame wars of epic proportions, so in the interest of sanity, we’ll try to avoid any direct comparisons to other operating systems.

It’s no secret that there has been a growing trend in recent years toward developers, especially of the web variety, choosing a Mac as their main dev machine. In this two-part series, we will examine some of the reasons behind this trend, look at some of the pitfalls of switching to the Mac, and go over the must-have software and configurations every switcher should be aware of.

First Reason for Switching: Mac OS X

You may have noticed the rise in the number of colleagues and fellow developers who are choosing a Mac as their next computer. If you haven’t, you’re probably either working for Microsoft or you have an MBA. So why is it so compelling?

If you were to ask a die-hard Windows user why he or she thinks people like Macs, they would almost invariably say the reasons are purely about aesthetics. If you were to ask most web developers why they have switched to a mac, however, the refrain would be loud and unanimous: OSX. To be fair to Windows, in terms of raw capability the two offerings differ very little; with enough elbow grease, both systems can be configured in pretty much any way its users wish.

When pressured to explain why they prefer OSX, Mac users often rest on qualifiable and subjective arguments such as “it feels intuitive” or “I enjoy using it more” or even “I can’t explain why I like it better, I just do.” The Windows user, when presented with these arguments, usually rolls his or her eyes and continues on their way. It isn’t until someone truly makes up their own mind to give OSX an honest chance that they can understand what all the fuss is about.

A Few Quantifiable Benefits of OS X include:

1. Open Source Friendly

As a web developer, if there’s one skill you invariably have to develop, it’s the use of a *NIX terminal. Luckily, because OSX is built on top of UNIX, the terminal is ready and waiting. Every Apple ships with a wide variety of open source programming tools and frameworks built in such as PHP, Apache, and Ruby on Rails. Linux users who have grown tired of dealing with hardware issues, especially on laptops, often choose a Mac as their portable solution because it is UNIX based.

It means that the entire world of open source software out there is pretty much guaranteed to run without much hassle. In a world where open source software is a way of life, web developers need a friendly environment to operate in.

2. Quartz Extreme

Quartz is the OpenGL powered windowing system used by OSX. Quartz extreme utilizes the graphics card exclusively, which means no processor cycles are taxed. This allows for a variety of useful features such as Exposé, which dynamically resizes every window on the screen giving you a bird’s eye view of your entire workspace.

Spaces, a feature introduced in OSX 10.5 (Leopard) takes the bird’s eye view a step further by providing a view of multiple desktops. To further illustrate the point, you can activate Exposé inside Spaces and drag these windows from desktop to desktop – any videos that are playing will continue to play and the windows will dynamically resize to accommodate the extra window. Once you get used to this sort of thing, you wonder how you ever lived without it.

3. Core Animation

Core animation provides a way for developers to produce animated user interfaces via an implicit animation model as well as an ‘explicit’ model. In other words, it means some very flashy and useful features are going to start showing up in OS X applications much like the animated menu help system shown in the graphic above. Prodiving developers with a toolset to implement these types of animated effects means software will become more intuitive.

4. Built-in Tools

There are so many useful tools that are built in to the Mac that come in handy for designers and developers that it’s easy to see OSX was built with developers and creative professionals in mind. Take the built-in screen capturing utility “Grab” for OSX, which has a wide variety of options, from selecting down to the pixel the area you want to screenshot, to providing window captures complete with the window frame, to outputting directly to the desktop as a .PNG file.

In fact, some tools were created specifically for designers because Apple has long catered to the creative professional market (indeed, it sustained Apple during their darkest times). More built in tools include:

  • The Digital Color Meter – a tool that allows you to grab the color value of any pixel on your screen.
  • Console – Useful for viewing very large log files
  • Terminal – Mentioned above, complete with many OSS tools like VIM
  • XCode Tools – The Apple development IDE
  • Zoom – easy-as-pie down-to-the-pixel zooming
  • Safari Debug Mode – Similar to Firebug for Firefox
  • Time Machine – dead simple automated backups

5. Unified User Interface

As any student of design knows, consistency is one of the most important principles to adhere to, and it is clear the OSX UI was designed with this in mind. Because of the strict user interface guidelines provided by the Apple software development tools, applications and utilities on a Mac feel like they are all part of the same system.

The menu bar, which for some switchers can be a difficult feature to get used to, adheres to this unification by standardizing the location and layout of the menu options. Drag-and-drop functionality is ubiquitous. Being able to do things like drag an image off your web browser directly into your Photoshop project are a boon to productivity. If it feels as though you should be able to drag-and-drop something, you probably can.

6. Security

Now before you crack your knuckles and start composing your diatribe about why Macs aren’t any more secure than PCs, let me point out a trite but undebatable fact: there’s simply less malware out there for Macs than PCs – a LOT less (partly because Unix is inherently more secure than Windows and partly because Windows is just more wide-spread and Mac users aren’t targeted that often – read more in the article Is The Mac Really More Secure Than Windows?1). If you are on a Mac, at least for the next few more years, you can pretty much rest assured your days of worrying about virus and spyware scans are a thing of the past.

7. Textmate, Growl, Quicksilver, and more

There is no shortage of text editors available to developers, but one that seems to keep coming up in recommendation after recommendation is Textmate, the lightweight GUI text editor for OSX. The project management drawer makes it easy to keep track of folders, which for monolithic MVC frameworks like Ruby on Rails and CakePHP is a godsend.

Nested scopes allow users to create their own syntax highlighting which is important in the ever changing world of web development. To speed up the development process, one can utilize “snippets” or pieces of reusable code that can be inserted with a few key strokes. While there aren’t any features that are revolutionary, they are combined in a way that makes for a very unobtrusive coding experience that seems very in tune with the overall feel of a Mac.

In addition to Textmate, there is a whole host of other beloved applications that seem to have been created by people who truly understand and want to emulate the Mac experience, like the quick-launch solution Quicksilver, the system notifications app Growl, and the chat client Adium. These are pieces of software of a caliber that is sometimes difficult to find on Windows. It seems that quality, not quantity, is the best way to describe the Mac software library.

8. Quick Look

OS X not only has icons that display an actual miniature version of the file they are representing, but it’s possible to view the contents of the file in their full glory without having to launch the program they are associated with simply by hitting the space bar. Furthermore, if a group of icons are highlighted, they can be expanded into a gallery view.

9. Virtualization

OSX is the only OS you can get that can virtualize all three major operating systems out of the box. This is a must have for checking browser compatibility. To make life even easier, you can do it right from within OSX using programs like Parallels, Virtualbox, and VMWare Fusion. And if you think web browsers render websites exactly the same regardless of the operating system they’re running on you are sorely mistaken.

Second Reason for Switching: Intel Inside

When Apple made the switch to Intel chips, it upset a lot of Mac fans out there who liked the fact that Apple wasn’t the same as any other X86 box on the market. With the rise in mobile computing, however, Apple was forced to face the fact that the PowerPC wasn’t offering as good a solution as Intel.

They also knew that by offering a system that could run Windows in addition to OS X they would put to rest any compatibility arguments. It turned out to be a good strategical move, and droves of would-be switchers were finally able to take the plunge without being forced to give up their entire libraries of Windows-based software.

OSX can virtualize all three major operating systems out of the box. This is a must have for checking browser compatibility. To make life even easier, you can do it right from within OSX using programs like Parallels, Virtualbox, and VMWare Fusion. And if you think web browsers render websites exactly the same regardless of the operating system they’re running on you are sorely mistaken.

Third Reason for Switching: Less Hassle

Opinionated Software

Some people like hassle. In fact, developers typically love getting their hands dirty customizing, maintaining, and tweaking their operating systems. If you fall under this category, Linux is probably your best fit, followed by Windows. OS X is more opinionated than other platforms. It’s more difficult to customize its look and feel, there’s no easy way to get it to run on anything but Apple hardware, and OS X can be very particular about the way certain things are done.

Opionated software, however, can have its benefits. While it may be more difficult to customize and hack every last aspect of your OS, sometimes it can be nice to have a system where a good many of these choices have already been made for you. Because Apple provides a complete solution, from the operating system to the hardware to a lot of the software that’s bundled in, they have an easier go of making sure the experience is seemless and well tested. Opinionated software can be a very polarizing concept, however.

Take Ruby on Rails for instance, a web development framework where many decisions are made for the developer based on the core contributors’ opinions about best practices. Rails has a preferred javascript framework, database ORM, templating system, and more. You can choose other configurations if you want to, but it shines brightest when you do things the “Rails Way.”

You spend less time customizing and more time actually developing. This hands-off approach can be a major turn off for some developers, but for others it removes a lot of the hassle and reinventing of the wheel. The high rate of Mac ownership among Rails developers could be directly attributed to the analogous nature of Apple and Rails. The analogy is made more apt by any number of PHP vs Ruby on Rails flame wars you can find out there.


Because Apple provides the whole solution, they are obligated to provide support for the whole solution as well. Most developers are perfectly willing to trouble shoot their own computers, but when deadlines need to be met it can be nice knowing that you can offload some of that hassle to people who already know the system inside and out.

Apple has impressive customer service specifically because they support the entire system, rather than just one aspect of the system. It’s also handy to be able to take your machine into an actual brick-and-mortar store rather than deal with outsourced phone support.

Let’s face it, when it comes to a non-technical spouse or family member, we can expect to do a lot of troubleshooting. Just like its nice not to have to worry about troubleshooting your own computer, it’s even nicer not to have to worry as much about other people’s computers. It is reasonable to assume that because Macs typically have less security issues (at least for now), there’s less time spent trying to explain how to avoid malware and actually removing it.

Fourth Reason for Switching: Microsoft

If you like it or not: a big reason why developers have been flocking to Apple is in part due to the fact that it isn’t the big M. When personal computing was still in its infancy, the reverse was true. Microsoft understood that it was the developers (developers developers) that would make their OS successful while Apple’s closed model ended up being a huge mistake.

Once Microsoft started dominating the marketplace, however, the pungent stench of monopoly sparked the open source movement, and more and more developers were starting to wonder if there were better options out there.

Linux is of course the golden child of the open source movement, but despite the efforts of Ubuntu it is still a ways off in terms of being a turnkey solution for most people. Enter Apple: a Unix based system that despite being every bit as closed as Microsoft, is in large part the antithesis of Microsoft.

Microsoft software has the unfortunate feeling of having been designed by committee. Features are packed in with little regard to their usefulness, and aesthetics are seemingly an afterthought. When Vista first launched, the Aero user interface was so flashy it required higher end machines to even run it, somewhat defeating the argument Microsoft was making about the affordability of PCs. OSX was designed to run as well on the most expensive Mac Pro as it would an eight year old Powerbook because they control the solution from hardware to software.

Unfortunately, Windows doesn’t come bundled with PHP, Rails, or any other open-source web development frameworks or languages any time soon. More and more of what we do is in the cloud these days anyways and it is almost starting to feel quaint when you come across new software that runs solely as a desktop client. Microsoft has painted themselves into a corner – they rely on closed formats and standards in a world where open source software, open formats, and open standards are king.

Fifth Reason For Switching: Design and Minimalism

Good design gets out of the way. It doesn’t demand to be seen or appreciated. Most of all, good design is something you don’t even notice at first. Bang & Olufsen understands this, and Apple understands this. As of this writing, there are only two styles of Apple notebook: silver and white, and white is only available in the cheapest configuration. Apple notebooks are free of stickers, screws, vents, buttons, switches, and graphics.

What this leaves is a system with little to look at other than the screen in front of you, which is as it should be. The benefit of the entire product development cycle being done under one house is that Apple creates a system that truly feels as though it was created by one person.

At the heart of Apple’s design philosophy is the concept of minimalism. It is a concept that has worked well for companies such as Google. We all remember the gratuitous placement of links and ads on most search engines before Google came around with its simple search bar. After all, it was the search that was the important part, not the content the provider was hoping we would want. Apple figures if not including a feature angers 1% of their consumer base but makes things easier for the other 99% it’s probably worth doing.

Take, for instance, the lack of a second mouse buttom. It may seem like a glaring omission on Apple’s part, but it has had some unintended consequences: because developers can’t simple throw commands into a bloated right-click menu they are forced to think more about the one-click usability of their applications.

Minimalist design has its downsides too, however. Macs lack card readers, often have 2-3 less USB ports than even low end machines, and are typically difficult to customize. For those of you who value a product that gives you many choices, Apple is going to fall short. It is often pointed out that upgrading a Mac is easy: “Just throw it away and buy a new one.”

Humor aside, this isn’t too far from the truth but the good news is that Macs hold their value better than any computer on the market. Instead of throwing it away, sell it on Ebay for healthy head-start on a new machine.

Mac’s Pitfalls

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows for everyone who switches to a Mac. There are the inevitable bumps in the road that everyone experiences when making a major platform change, and for some people these bumps are outright road blocks. Here’s what to be aware of:

1. Control is now Command

Breaking the habit of using control as the main modifier key on your system can take a bit of time and some people never quite get the hang of it. Old habits die hard and muscle memory dies harder. This is a problem that can be solved by re-mapping command to the control key, but when you are using a system that assumes a certain configuration you may run into confusion later on.

2. No Second Mouse Button

Unless you use an external mouse with your Apple laptop you will have to get used to the lack of a second mouse button. The truth is there is no optimal number of mouse buttons. Luckily, you can enable right-clicking in a number of ways on a mac, such as tapping the track pad with two fingers simultaneously or holding ctrl when clicking.

3. No Maximizing of Windows

This is actually starting to become less true as time goes on as ex-Windows users who develop software for the Mac include the feature (for instance, maximize on firefox for the Mac works as expected). But the typical maximize you are used to in Windows cannot be found on the Mac, and for some this can be extremely frustrating. In fact, the whole “stop-light” window controls can at times feel stale and unintuitive.

4. Lack of an “affordable” Mac

Perhaps the most popular sticking point of non-Mac users, price is always at the heart of the debate. Under $1200 or so, there is no question that byte for byte, ghz for ghz, you can get a better raw value by avoiding Apple. Apple has chosen not to enter the sub $1000 PC not because it doesn’t want to grow sales, but because it wants to avoid the dogfight that Sony, HP, and other brands are in for the lower end market.

Profit margins are razor thin in that range, after all. Apple is certainly catering to the botique style consumer. If you are pinching pennies these days the price issue may just be the one pitfall you can’t bring yourself to overcome.

5. Much Smaller Software Library

While this is somewhat mediated by the fact that you can virtualize Windows on a Mac, it is a far cry from being able to run your favorite programs natively on your system. If you are using software on a regular basis that only runs in the Windows environment, you may want to think hard about whether moving to a Mac is worth the trouble.

6. You Can’t Build a Mac (Easily)

Part of the success of Windows was the fact that they licensed it to run on any PC, anywhere. Apple has been closed since the word go, save a brief period where they allowed Mac clones to exist in what turned out to be a devastatingly bad idea. If you’re the type who loves building your own PC from scratch, a Mac is not going to offer much for you.

In general, even the most jaded Windows user is inevitably going to miss at least a few features or aspects of Windows during their switch to a Mac. The best policy to follow is to keep an open mind during the learning process. Try doing things “the Mac way” for a week and keep your skepticism to a minimum.

Above all, ask questions before you make assumptions. There’s a fervent Apple community out there (in case you haven’t noticed) that have solutions for every issue you find, thanks in part to the fact that most of them are switchers themselves. Remember, if you’re having the issue, chances are good some other switcher experienced it before you and created or found a solution.


While not the right solution for everyone, it’s clear that many people are switching to a Mac these days for a good many reasons. Nevertheless, Macs are expensive and require user’s patience and willingness to adapt his or her behavior to a compltely different interface. Mac is certainly not an option for every user, but it is definitely an option worth considering – particularly for designers or developers.

Join us in Part 2 of this series where we examine some of the must have software, configurations, and tricks that every new Mac user should know about. Please feel free to subscribe to our RSS-feed2 Subscribe to our RSS-feed3 and follow us on Twitter4 Follow us on Twitter5.


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Mark Nutter runs a web development shop in Minnesota. You can follow him on Twitter where he occasionally says something worthwhile.

  1. 1

    Here’s another point to make: if you are a true designer, and you cannot afford to buy or finance a mac, then you are not a designer.
    SM may lose some readers, but the true designers are here to stay. ;)

  2. 52

    Wow – Smashing Mag used to actually have useful, interesting posts about design stuff. But I can understand it’s a lot more profitable to simply run an Apple commercial instead.

    If I want shallow, biased tech “reviews”, I’ll go to Engadget instead – thanks.

  3. 103

    Its true that the tool is important in design, but this article is a shameless plugging of MAC… not that I am a die-hard PC user, nor a MAC pisser. C’mon, arent these up in the Mac site already? Why must we post a remake in SM?

    Design, regardless of machine… is nothing without the persistence, creativity, inspiration… and the latest Adobe.

  4. 154

    We’ve been burned too many times from these sorts. They always fail and

    deliver sub par work.


    I’ve been a designer for a long time and I’ve worked in every media – print, web, video, animation and even signs. I’ve also used both Macs and PCs and still do. I don’t know anything about who you hired before, but blaming it on their use of PCs over Macs is lame and suggests that the problem was more likely you.

    Admit it FrankG…it’s not about sub par work. It’s about Mac-obsessed PC hatred.

    I’ll bet you can count on one hand the number of times you’ve ever used a PC and each time you went at it with an agenda of gathering yet more things you could hate about them.

    It’s an irony, of course. Ask any Mac-obsessed designer why they like Mac and they’ll say, “It’s just so easy and intuitive.”

    That it is. I picked up everything I needed to know about each new Mac OS in about 5 minutes. What advantage would “heavy Mac experience” give you over light Mac experience – say, a month? In my experience very little.

    What’s so much better about working on a Mac over a PC? I use the full Adobe suite and everything I use works almost exactly the same on both machines. Working on a Mac doesn’t make me more creative or make be do better work any more than PCs do the opposite.

    So why was a job in your company so challenging to a PC user? The only challenge your former employees had was you looking down your nose at them because of a computer choice. Which was pretty sad.

    These PC designers you spoke of…so they love design and they love to create and unfortunately, as a cash-strapped student, they couldn’t bust out $2500 for a new MacBook Pro. So instead of taking advantage of an opportunity to introduce them to a new OS, you decided to hold it over them and judge them unfairly because they don’t use the same tools you’re obsessed with.

    BTW, from what I’ve observed, the shift is exactly opposite of what this article suggests. 10 years ago, I couldn’t find a designer who used a PC. Now, their everywhere. Most of them grew up using PCs at home and in school so most new web designers are more and more PC-oriented. And knowing both is like speaking two languages – something most people would consider an asset.

    At least the up-and-comers will more than likely evaluate their computer choice based on actual experience rather than snobbishness and hysteria.

    But not a Mac-obsessed guy like FrankG.

    Most non-Mac-obsessed designers have a keen appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses in both machines, I, like many fellow web designers I know, have used both. I like Macs for print design and Music production while prefer PCs for web design (Safari is an astonishingly crappy browser and all updates are bound in increasingly crappy versions of the formerly awesome iTunes). For video and Flash, I can go either way.

    Both computers crash or hang and both have occasional hardware glitches, though I will give Apple an edge for overall stability. Still, PCs crush them on available apps and overall cost-effectiveness.

    And there ain’t nothing to be proud of in the Mac mouse. It’s a piece of junk. The ball is too small and refusing to put a right mouse button on one is pointlessly absurd. A company that rightfully prides itself on it’s awesome achievements elsewhere, sticks users with a low-function device with lousy ergonomics.

    But you can’t tell that to guys like FrankG. Sadly, his close-mindedness – and the close-mindedness of the article writer – is still all too common in the design world.

  5. 205

    I think there are plenty of reason that are really true (expose and spaces, quicklook, textmate, growl, security, stability…)
    But some other like core animation… I dont really care if my app do little eye candy animations. I just care if they do the job the are supposed to do.
    About the design of the computers… this is too something that it didnt make any diference to me…
    So to me, the main mac features to switch are productivity ones, and no beacuse “mac is pretty”.

  6. 256

    Incorrect fact on “No Secondary Mouse Button”.
    Seriously, all new unibody Mac laptops have the secondary button. It is up to you that you would like to activate it or not.

  7. 307

    Good article but needs some tuning. I got nothing to add but this picture.

  8. 358

    2 words…

    Appl€ Sucks! 8D

  9. 409

    I use both mac and pc as they both have their respected pros and cons but to be brutally honest I don’t like the people who use macs. They are just so anal. As a designer you are taught not to be close minded yet the die hard mac users are all about rules. It’s like they are their own religion. “Genesis 1: And God made the Apple Mac…Do not use a PC. Do not get a second mouse button or you will perish in the hell of diversity.”

  10. 460

    By the way: Glenn Gould exercised on a Yamaha or even on very cheap pianos. He didn’t use a Steinways. You can find Steinways in many houses of rich people in the middle of the living room.

  11. 511

    The main reason I switched, two years ago, to Mac was I had finally had it with having to reinstall my machine every six months due to Windows crapping out. I swore that the next time I found my machine not able to restart due to some obscure blue-screened code, I would bite the bullet and get a Mac. I am so glad I did.

    Now, whenever I have to play “help desk” for others in my family who are still saddled with Windows, I find my jaw dropping at how slow their systems are. No doubt I’ll be rebuilding them each soon (or getting them Macs!).

    The best reason, and one you don’t mention (that I saw anyway) is: Windows is unreliable, breaks down constantly, and is maddening to use. I’ve become quite spoiled by my Mac Pro. But on the other hand, it does just what I expect it to: it works. Always.

  12. 562

    I made the switch 2 years ago, best move I ever made. More stable, no OS slowdown, no defragmentation, no spyware/viruses, no microsoft verification process for the bits of software. Most Mac haters have just refused to use a mac or are going off a 1 hr experience they had with a mac in 2000. Macs are dominant in professional fields for a reason, they are excellent to work on.

  13. 613

    Most of the positives are present on linux. Of course 1 reason they will never be equivalent is the lack of popular multimedia software (All adobe’s stuff, final cut, etc). That is one reason I want a mac – a non-windows computer that can run photoshop naively. If only the mac mini cost <400, then I might buy one. Until then, I can only hope for second hand or a lottery/giveaway.

  14. 664

    i used to be a die hard fan of PC, i had ms dos, windows (in all its versions) linux and i used to hate the mac until i got to college where i study design (i had never touched a mac before)
    the whole lab had macs…and only one pc with ubuntu…
    i had to learn to use them and then i realized they were not that bad…
    most of the students have macs and when we share files like for example indesign files it was a mess with my old laptop. fonts were not the same, even if i had the same font installed in some cases it would not recognize it exactly as i wanted…
    so i had to change manually everything each time and redo all the layout sometimes, i would waste lots of time.

    my old laptop had lots of problems because fujitsu siemens give no support and release no drivers for this model since 2006 so..when i installed directx 10 everything started crashing and if i had directx 9 nothing would work fine…

    everything was slow, and it was so hot and noisy my classmates would say “what’s that noise??” and i would be ashamed to say “its my laptop” in a room full of mac and the only noisy pc …

    I would hesitate to take my computer with me because it was over 5 kilos and 1 kilo and half for the charger…plus all the books i need to carry and stuff…my back hurted…

    so i finally got tired and got a 17 inch macbook pro and i’ve had it for a month and im not regretting it, it works nicely it dont make noise, easy to carry, don’t heat as much as my old laptop…and its fast :)

    as for the software i used to wonder “what kind of software will i find? will it be difficult to find something to do what i do?”…most things worked out of the box…and the rest…open source software really help a lot…the only thing i miss are some games but i can install a windows emulator for that…so it’s not really a problem

    one of the things i like the most is the magnetic power field, with my pc i was constantly nervous when it was plugged at school because i had to watch that noone passes by and get the cable in their feet and crashes my pc on the floor…

    also, 8 hours of battery that is just great, i had only 1 hour and half and i could not even finish one class without being plugged

    i guess that is why most designers change to a mac…

  15. 715

    Floris Fiedeldij Dop

    April 26, 2009 4:18 pm

    When my PC broke down and I got a powerbook at the end of 2005 .. I realized after a few weeks I haven’t touched my PC at all .. The switch was completed. I turned my PC into a ubuntu server and got a mac pro 12 months later. And an iMac this year.

    I am never switching, my computer frustrations dropped from 80% to 5% and my workflow went from 45% to 80% .. easily.

    Snow Leopard, true native 64bit .. I can’t wait.

  16. 766

    Of course people love Mac, on Mac, you can only do things the way Apple says you will do them. On Windows you can actually choose and wow thats something the “Generation Sheep” just can’t do, they need to be spoonfed by Apple. Instead of few hundreds of components, you can choose only a few “blessed by apple”…
    I use PC, I have everything I need, design tools (photoshop, illustrator), developer tools (apache, php, mysql) and of course all other multimedia, I built it myself, it’s 100 times sexier than the Apple’s white nonsense, has a hardware thousand times more powerful than Apple at the same price range and not even the most expensive Apple (that costs around 5 times more) is as powerful as this. I’m free to do anything I want, not just Apple approved things. Current Windows operating system is few years ahead of Mac OS X. Mac OS X has: poor application compatibility, small application portfolio (I’d say there is few hundred thousand apps on Win, does the Mac has atleast few hundred?), limited acessories (yay I like that printer, what, doesn’t work on Mac? what, this one doesn’t either?… ), primitive user interface (seriously, one application menu on top and you have to switch apps and travel to the top to get the other one’s menu? thats like retro from era of old VGA monitors) , uselessly huge “dock” that fails at showing whats on and whats not and I could continue. Mac OS X is all about effects, not effectiveness and productivity. I’m pretty sure all of the Apple Sheeps will either totally ignore this or point out that I’m some kind of an imbecile – go ahead, feel free, I don’t care, I’m not the one using Mac OS X… Apple has only one good thing and that is its marketing department, they can sell anything, however bad and crappy for any ridiculously huge price and people will even stand in line whole day for it.

  17. 817

    I am not a tech person so I cannot offer anything innovative to say about the tech side of macs vs pcs, but as a designer my work improved from the point of aesthetics after the purchase of my first macbook in September last year. The minimalism of the machine is non distracting, and as a matter of thought progress, the same became true for my web designs, which became much more space aware, cleaner, transparent, more efficient and more logical, whereas I’ve begun to abhor the screaming, color bursting, busy designs of so many websites, even some showcased here at SM.
    So yes, the switch to a mac has made the difference and it’s quite apparent in my design process.

  18. 868

    “Mac might have been more stable, but that time has long passed. The price is not justifiable anymore.” ?

    I disagree with this one. I’ve seen more issues in 4 months with my wife’s Vista laptop than I’ve seen in 2+ years with a MacBook Pro.

    Realistically I think PC is perfectly fine for any use, but you really can’t discount the great features inherent with the Mac and the lack of baggage by not using Windows. Bottom line is that if you care about gaming or want to save money, than a PC is for you. If you don’t care about those things as much then a Mac provides less danger of virus problems, a more stable environment (you can crash one program on a Mac and still save and shutdown others, not sure I’ve ever seen this as a possibility in a PC).

    All that said, designers are “switching to a Mac?” Seems to me that most designers originated on the mac.

  19. 919

    I heard JJ Abrams loves Macs

  20. 970

    I use both Macs and PCs regularly, and I still can’t agree with most of your points besides perhaps the first one. Expose typically annoys the shit out of me (where windows will move unintentionally) but some of the productivity stuff can be useful. Enough to justify the price? Absolutely not.

    PCs — and I think this is pretty fair — are a much greater value.

  21. 1021

    I’ve never understood number 6 (less malware out there for the MAC). Why would anyone be stumped by the extra vulnerabilities of Microsoft Windows to the degree it would become a factor in deciding which platform to develop on? Any “webmaster” or web programmer will surely spend 5 minutes installing a virus scanner – on either platform – so how is this even a remotely viable concern?

    I hear this “Microsoft is more secure because there is less Malware for it” argument all the time, in the general sphere of the OS debate. But I think it’s bogus that the higher level PC user would ever be worried about it. I give you, perhaps if it is a new webmaster and a new PC user all at once, maybe then. But otherwise, meh.


  22. 1072

    Wow, I remember when this was a site about web design. Out of the many reasons given here, most have absolutely no application to design.

    Also, I love how the article pushes open-source, despite the fact that Apple charges far more for their apps (which are just as closed and proprietary as any other vendor). When I was using Mac running OS 10.1, I was pretty pissed to find out that I need to upgrade my whole f’ing OS to update Safari and iPhoto.

    Finally, how can the author praise the whole one vendor solution aspect in the same article that knocks MS for being too controlling.

    Windows, OSX, Linux it doesn’t matter they’re all the same in many ways. Each has pros and cons. However, it’s nice to see irrelevant, opinion pieces instead of actual design content.

  23. 1123

    Gawd is Smashing ever sucking these days. This article is a prime example of why. Mindless blathering with misinformed opinions that are completely irrelevant to design. Newsflash: a tool is just a tool, and focusing on the tool rather than the output of the designer makes you look like a total tool. That’s why Mac fanboy/girls are so hated these days.

    I’ve been in design for nearly 20 years, and guess what? The reality is that designers are switching to PC. When I started out in design, everyone used Macs. Now, more and more designers I meet are PC users. My position? Whatever floats your boat, as long as you promise to just get to work and not evangelize about why your choice is so much better than someone else’s. It’s totally gauche and lame, and has no bearing on the quality of work one can do.

  24. 1174

    No offense, but…there are designers who don’t use Macs?

    I’ve been in this business over 15 years and I’ve never met a single person or shop who counted on anything else. Shops will sometimes have a few Windows machines around for cross-platform issues or Windows-only solutions such as imposition software, but 99% of actual work is done on Macs.

    Though I admit it’s not all that unusual to run across “designers” who use Publisher and then wonder why their pieces cost twice the amount to print.

  25. 1225

    We also need to be honest and cite clever advertising.

  26. 1276

    Another pointless Mac vs. Windows Article – I’m disappointed, would have expected better from Smashing Magazine!

    “Mark Nutter runs a web development shop in Minnesota. You can follow him on Twitter where he occasionally says something worthwhile.”

    Pity he says nothing worthwhile in this article

  27. 1327

    Open Source Friendly
    And yet the freeware offerings are slim pickings. How is that free FTP software working out for you? Ohhh Cyberduck… yeah, nice. It’s simple to say the least.

    Built-in Tools
    Windows has these in the form on non-built in tools that you download if you want them. Vista has them, but I don’t want them.

    Unified User Interface
    I work with people who can’t even copy and paste to the correct folder in OSX. They are smart people who have worked with the system for years and still have issues getting things in order. I can’t help but think it’s a OS issue.

    Just as vulnerable. The fact less people use the system is the reason why it has less attacks. Recent articles suggest OSX is becoming a target. Hooray for Mac users, you get your spotlight now.

    No doubt, I bet I’m not the only one who touched on these subjects. It’s not a bad system but it has just as many faults as any other. Post was a little long and as always from a Mac user, self infatuating.

  28. 1378

    I am still playing with Windows right now and not switching to Max. If i need unix based, I will choose ubuntu or opensuse. But I admit, in Linux, there are lots of software but not as easy to use as in mac.

  29. 1429

    Nice Mac propaganda!

  30. 1480

    I recently switched to Mac and I love it – most of it. But two things itches me
    – battery charger heats up so quickly and hence have to charge while shut down and have to work on battery. Not so good design
    – To use function keys (on laptop), I need to press two keys (fn + function key). Again, not so good design for often used keys

  31. 1531

    Macs is better at graphics and they have lots more fonts so are better for designers.

    Seriously, Macs have a nicer interface, but most of the “main player” apps are on both and run equally well on both (though PC’s seem to have a speed advantage on Adobe stuff). Frankly, if you have worked on any major production, debates about PC vs Mac are quite pointless. You use whatever runs the software you need to run. Unfortunately, in the high-end film graphics area, Apple has really dropped the ball. FCP is good enough for TV stuff I suppose, but the slow death of Shake was embarrasing and has cost Apple dearly in the high-end market. The majority of studios have shifted away from Apple hardware and software solutions.

    However, it is obvious that Apple is not “about” computers anymore. Music players and phones are their core business now and it shows. The intel Macs are hardly impressive pieces of hardware.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my Macbook Pro, but I am not drinking the Apple kool-aid yet. It is just a computer and anyone who defines their lifestyle around a computer is more than a little sad.

  32. 1582

    I’ve been designing on Macs and PCs since the beginning of computer based design. PCs lost this battle many many years ago. I know Nobody who designs on PCs. Designers don’t have the time to put up with the crapolla that comes along with a PC.

  33. 1633

    The Mac vs. Windows debate will wage eternal, and the comments to this article make some really good points for both sides of the argument. Better points than the actual article does, so I’m not sorry I took a look.

    That said, the condescension and blatant hypocrisy in this article really rubbed me the wrong way.

    The opening stated:

    “…in the interest of sanity, we’ll try to avoid any direct comparisons to other operating systems.”

    And yet, the body of the article is rife with such diplomatic gems as:

    “If you were to ask a die-hard Windows user why he or she thinks people like Macs, they would almost invariably say the reasons are purely about aesthetics.”

    “The Windows user, when presented with these arguments, usually rolls his or her eyes and continues on their way.”

    So… apparently it’s not okay to directly compare the two systems — In the interest of sanity, you understand — but it IS okay to make broad-based, negative assumptions about the people who use Windows. I’m glad we cleared that up.

    Argument of Mac vs. Windows aside, this is horrible, unprofessional journalism, and is the latest in a disturbing trend of the same at a site that I used to value for it’s smart and informative content. Fail, Smashing Magazine. Huge fail. What a disappointment you’re becoming.

  34. 1684

    Expose alone is worth the price of admission. I have typically used a pc at work and mac at home, and I am always amazed at how much smoother my work flow is on a mac. I think it is due largely to expose and the speed at which I can switch between programs/windows.

    The KB shortcuts in adobe products also seem much more intuitive. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I doubt it, macs have been the choice of graphic designers for eons, so there has always been close ties between adobe products and mac.

    I was a pc person, and then for a long time, I wanted to be a mac person but couldn’t justified the cost and the “apple tax”. However, I eventually got a used mac, and now couldn’t imagine going back.

    That, and you can’t beat an os that allows you to upon a terminal and use vi on a default install.

  35. 1735

    @ Anita
    Just because of one tiny post, now SM has become a disappointment? That’s funny. Just one blog post, and move on to next! That’s the way blogs are, as inconvenient truth that may be.
    (now a mac user is rolling her eyes)

  36. 1786

    In the time it takes to bitch about what brand of glowing box you use, you could have designed something. Seriously, use what you like and shut the hell up.

  37. 1837

    I felt this article was semi-decent.

    NOTE TO THE EDITOR: I would love to see your sources for this article. Otherwise, this is a bad example of what a Smashing Magazine article should be. Please continue to read below.

    There are so many false within this article onto what’s going on in the PC world. Bare in mind that I am a designer and web developer, with experience between Mac and PC. I love my MacBook Pro, and I will continue to use it proudly.

    “Apple has chosen not to enter the sub $1000 PC not because it doesn’t want to grow sales, but because it wants to avoid the dogfight that Sony, HP, and other brands are in for the lower end market.”

    An Apple Computer does not compare to a PC computer. Apple factors the cost on the laptop, OSX, support, and convenience, without the hassle. Due to recent stock reporting Q1 2009, Apple has reported an increase in revenue (mostly from their iPhone products); therefore, they have no reason to lower prices if consumers are willing to pay a hefty amount for their product. Also, If you notice the difference in prices between each Apple Laptop within the same series, you’ll see that they’re spaced out by roughly $300-500 (we’re talking about Apple stores, and their vendors such as Best Buy). This is done due to limiting selection, so choosing the Mac that’s right for you is easier. If they did introduce a laptop within that factor, there would be a decrease in sales of the higher-end laptops, and an increase in lower end.

    “Unfortunately, Windows doesn’t come bundled with PHP, Rails, or any other open-source web development frameworks or languages any time soon. More and more of what we do is in the cloud these days anyways and it is almost starting to feel quaint when you come across new software that runs solely as a desktop client. Microsoft has painted themselves into a corner – they rely on closed formats and standards in a world where open source software, open formats, and open standards are king.”

    If you’ve been following up with Smashing Magazine articles, you’ll find there are several websites that offer free development solutions to downloading onto a Windows PC. Not all solutions are available right out of the box, but I feel that would be OK. Microsoft has developed asp.NET, and allows you to download a free version of Visual Studios Express 2009 from their website. It’s not the essential choice for web development, but I wouldn’t go as far as lack of solutions available. In terms of your cloud computing statement, OSX includes development software out of the box. Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of referencing cloud computing to begin with? Please, explain to your readers.

    Your article does express valuable information for why designers switch to Macs. You’ve clearly outlined it, but few of your reasons are subtle without including several more sources to back up your statements. It’s a pretty big deal.

  38. 1888

    I use both every day and both for graphic design.

    Beasty PC = 2 grand, beasty MAC = 6 grand.

    Nuff said.

  39. 1939


    Thank you for pointing that out. I completely agree 100%. I expected something a little better from Smashing Magazine than to see this.

  40. 1990

    SmashingMagazine we are done. You have just lost another viewer. This article is just complete crap, I cannot say it any better then it was said above

    “…this isn’t really about designers, per se, as much as a general “OSX is cool” article.”

    Here is some of the bs you “claimed” in this article.

    “It means that the entire world of open source software out there is pretty much guaranteed to run without much hassle. In a world where open source software is a way of life, web developers need a friendly environment to operate in.”

    Uhmm what.. Yes it may have been based on unix when it was started but not any more… OSS is more widely available on PC then mac, and 100% on linux.

    “…partly because Unix is inherently more secure than Windows…”

    Wait which OS got hacked in under 5 seconds by a year old exploit? O yea… Mac. Which os did he state was hardest to hack? Windows, which browser? Chrome.. No safari, no OSX.

    OSX can virtualize all three major operating systems out of the box. This is a must have for checking browser compatibility. To make life even easier, you can do it right from within OSX using programs like Parallels, Virtualbox, and VMWare Fusion. And if you think web browsers render websites exactly the same regardless of the operating system they’re running on you are sorely mistaken.

    Yes you said this twice, but all 3 OS’s can do this, just not right out of the box. Honestly how many people do this? Only a select few which is exactly why it should not be included in the OS by default. As you said Minimalism, but I say bloat.

    Opinionated Software

    This is a very bad thing, I have lost a lot of respect for you by saying this is a good thing. This gives apple complete and total control over everything. If apple wanted every window to have a big pink and purple button in the middle of the window, what could you do about it? Nothing

    Most developers are perfectly willing to trouble shoot their own computers, but when deadlines need to be met it can be nice knowing that you can offload some of that hassle to people who already know the system inside and out.

    Heres a true story for you.
    Apple: We need you to send your computer in for us to check it. You should have it back in 2-4 weeks….
    I never have a problem meeting deadlines when I don’t have a computer for 2-4 weeks. Great support my ass.

    Unfortunately, Windows doesn’t come bundled with PHP, Rails, or any other open-source web development frameworks or languages any time soon.

    Just as you said minimalistic. Why would anyone but web developers want php and rails running on their computers? Noone wants that crap on there except web developers and we make up a very small percent of computer users.

    As I stated above you have lost another viewer. I hope you change and write quality articles again so you don’t lose more.

  41. 2041

    The reasons above are not the reasons for switching to a Mac at all.

    I only agree with two statements above, the feature “Spaces”, it eases my workflow and saves me a lot of clutter than working on XP.

    Second, the small amount of software available to Mac. While all Adobe products are available, Mac is certainly not for 3D designers.

  42. 2092


    You might want to read the entire comment, as I said, “…is the latest in a disturbing trend of the same…” IE, a lot of the articles I’ve been reading here have been sub-par. I’ve been faithfully following and recommending SM for a couple of years now, and the recent content just doesn’t seem up to the quality I’ve come to expect.

    You seem to be making the assumption that my criticism is to do with the Mac vs. Windows debate (As in, I’m a Windows user and I just want to complain about a Mac article), as you’ve mentioned being a Mac user. My complaint has nothing to do with Mac vs. Windows (I love Macs), it’s to do with crappy and biased journalism posted under the guise of objectivity.

  43. 2143

    I’ve got the best of both worlds. I was always a windows guy and plus, I never wanted to pay so much money for a mac when you can build a 10x faster PC for the same price. I recently discovered that you could install MAC on a custom PC. Sure it was a little tricky but it was THE BEST thing i have ever done. I now have a custom mac that i can upgrade just as easily as a PC. And its hella fast.
    I have dual booted Leopard and Vista on my custom built PC, so when uni work comes I boot into Leopard, and its great because I cant get distracted by any games(since they are all on windows). If at any time i need to do anything on windows, i restart and select windows. Voila.
    If you’re interested I’m sure a search engine should give you all the information you need.
    Just make sure you own a copy of OSX to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal.

  44. 2194

    I don’t really care about the whole Mac/Win debate. From a productivity perspective, Adobe runs good on both, and there is plenty of webdev software on every platform.

    Now, what would be useful is an article on how to do cross browser testing for free on any given platform. Safari on Windows is easy, but what about IE6 7 and 8 simultaneously on both Mac and Windows?

  45. 2245

    Dominic Whittle

    April 26, 2009 6:14 pm

    How about that CS4 on mac runs like a dog compared to CS4 on windows?
    Yeah, so if you’re a designer and you don’t mind your productivity slowed…. get a mac.

    (I have a brand new top-spec 15″ unibody MacBook Pro)

    “Unified User Interface” — Macs are let down by a total lack of consistent keyboard shortcuts. And don’t pretend people don’t use keyboard shortcuts. MY TIME IS IMPORTANT.

  46. 2296

    While the cost of a Mac might be more competitive with the PC-equivalent in North America or Europe, down under the cost of a Mac with the same specifications as a PC is nearly double.

    For example, last year I would’ve bought a MacBook Pro but the cost was too much – $3000 NZD MacBook Pro vs a $1300 NZD Dell Vostro. I then used the remaining money to go on a holiday and to buy/update Adobe software.

    For me, cost is the only factor in the PC vs Mac war. If cost weren’t an issue, I’d definitely have both. PC desktop machine for home, MacBook Pro for a laptop.

    In regards to employers hiring Mac-only staff, I think that’s silly but as designers we should be more prepared and skilled with multiple operating systems.

    A good chunk of design companies down under use Macs but most use PCs, while a lot of the general public are brand-whores and spend their cash on Macs just to be cool.

    Oh and if your PC has got spyware or viruses, then stop looking at stupid email forwards, porn or warez websites. I haven’t had trouble with those things for years with WinXP for both work and home (and I’m still using it!). I haven’t even bothered with Vista yet…

  47. 2347

    I have the real reasons:

    1) Because they are hipsters
    1) Because it’s trendy
    1) Because they think they’re “supposed to” since they are designers
    1) They think it will make them look cool
    1) They really think it’s better, since they never used a PC before

  48. 2398

    I’m a Mac whore and simply hate PC because of Microsoft and Windows. Exactly as SM pointed out.

    We all know PC is a powerful tool. But you people pointing out price and power are totally missing the point of this article.

    Intuitiveness people……intuitiveness………..

  49. 2449

    I’m not switching to any company that nicknames their new Operating System version “Snow Leopard”.

  50. 2500

    @ Anita
    This is a blog. Not journalism. A blog is an opinion driven content since its inception.
    I am not a part of SM staff, I just think your comment isn’t just, quite on the contrary- I find the content very useful. You can’t find it anywhere else, if you do, give me a link or two.
    You always have the option not to visit this or any other particular blog, so the complaining is useless, a waste of your and our time.


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