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

    either, it’s just a matter of getting used to it…and the budget of course. ;)

  2. 102

    Now that Apple is taking sooooo much business away from Micrososft, I no longer feel moved to evangelise to avoid being absorbed by the “Borg.” I’m just happy knowing I’m no longer on the endangered species list. There are some rational reasons I prefer MacOS: I spend “zero” time running my computer and 100% of my time being productive; I don’t have to worry about criminals who live only to destroy my peace of mind – I have been connected to the internet since the early 1990s / have never run anti-virus software / have never run a firewall / have never caught so much as a sniffle; my computers cost more – but they come with a basic suite of “bugless” interoperable applications I would pay a lot to install on an IBMpc clone.

    To each their own – the article is factual and not overly opinionated in my opinion.

  3. 203

    The real reasons people switch to mac.

    #1 they look hip when they work in a coffee shop

    #2 apple spends millions making commercials paying off bloggers like you to promote their product, and microsoft spends nothing comparatively on marketing.

    This article is a piece of shit. Completely unbiased. Right. I like the negatives for macs… no right click button and control is command… Oh shit..

    Oh, I can drag and drop images from my browser into photoshop too…

    I think they both have their benefits, and I like working with macs, But come on, this reads like an apple advert. You are all sheep.

  4. 304

    It’s worth noting how vile and arrogant are some PC and Microsoft Big Brother defenders.

  5. 405

    This article is poorly written, poorly researched, and lacking substance one could find looking 5 minutes on a digg comment section. Way to state the obvious in an extremely large amount of words. Also right clicking on the buttonless macbook is SO.FUCKING.EASY. Why do people moan incessently about it? Its awesome.

  6. 506

    This is totally stupid! Retarded reasons for me as a designer to switch to mac :P

  7. 607

    I just wanted to let anyone know that the “OSX86/Hackintosh” movement has gotten very mature as of late and installing OSX on a PC is far simpler than it used to be. The simplicity depends on your brand of PC or the components involved as some are more Mac friendly than others, but just about every mainstream/popular PC from Dell, HP, Acer, etc has had all the bugs and kinks worked out.

    Any of new model Dells are very easy. I have a Dell e1705/9400, and I used a program called “iPC” (there are many others as well) to install OSX on a second partition and it was a SNAP! After installing OSX, I ran an app called “Post-install Dell Utilities” and then everything was working perfectly. I have full nVidia graphics, 1920×1200 res, full Sound, WiFi, ethernet, Firewire, and even Card reader. Bluetooth is the only thing being finicky. and for more info..

  8. 708

    Install noscript and you don’t need to worry about malware/spyware anymore.

  9. 809


    April 26, 2009 7:12 pm

    If you are a ‘real’ designer, then I think you realized that the skillful designer can produce good work regardless to platform. It’s 2009 right now man, software or hardware or even OS isn’t that much different like in the past.

    I’m disappoint with this article, SM. I always found design tips & trick regardless of platform here, but this article is just…a mistake.

    จะแมคหรือจะพีซีมันก็แค่เครื่องมือนะครับ ถ้าคนออกแบบไม่เป็นต่อให้ใช้แมคหรู UI สวยๆ งานที่ได้มันก็ไม่ได้สวยขึ้นแต่อย่างไรหรอกนะผมว่า อันที่จริงผมว่ามันหมดยุคที่จะบอกเครื่องนี้ดีกว่าเครื่องนั้นแล้วนะ แต่ก่อนอาจจะใช่ แต่ปัจจุบันมันแทบจะไม่ต่างกันแล้วนะผมว่า

  10. 910

    I’m a web designer who’s done quite of bit of work with Macs and I haven’t experienced anything compelling enough to cause me to want to make a personal switch.

  11. 1011

    I love reading the comments just as much as I love reading the article…

  12. 1112

    APPLE is for graphic designers and accounting’s! If you really work…MICROSOFT!!!

  13. 1213

    I just have to say that this article is almost full of *BULLSHIT*.

    Why? Because as a designer who uses the Creative Suite from Adobe, there’s absolutely no difference between working on a MAC or a WINDOWS machine. Btw, they are both called PCs or micro-computers. There might be a little differentiation for more money towards a workstation. But that would be more suited for a game/CAD/3D/etc. developer and not for the use of CS.

    Still, I appreciate this article, as it shows the features of OS X. I also believe that the article deviates from presenting the benefits which a designer might have by switching, to ones concerned with usability for a NEWBIE user, but that’s just my opinion.

    AND forgot to say that I love the tech support photo which shows iPhone service. Just lame.
    LE:check your contact form on your website, you big WEB developer! It doesn’t appear correctly neither in FF nor in IE. It might show up right in your Safari, but not in other browsers. Developer my ass.

  14. 1314

    Wow, a lot of angry and insecure weenies on this board. Get over it. I use both Mac and PC. I just got hired by a web company, and they use Macs. The company before used PC’s, and they gave me the old Mac cuz I was the new guy. It was an 800mhz G4 with 768 megs of ram….slow as a dog, about 7 yrs old, but you know what?? It still worked, and never crashed. Its a friggin living fossil. PC’s just dont do that. I used to own a first gen Mac Powerbook G4…500mhz G4. Bought it in 2000, ran great until I sold it in 2005. Been PC ever since. Yes, you can get plenty of PC’s for a lot cheaper. The fact remains the parts are NOT the same. It might be an Intel in that Mac, but the motherboards are pure Apple. The cases are pure Apple.

    I dont know why so many posts from PC users getting offended and claiming to never come back to SM because of this article. Its mostly true. I had a Toshiba Tecra M4 laptop….well, lets be honest, I had 3 of them. They all broke, all in a 4 year span. First one last just a bit over a year until warranty expired, nvidia card broke, but since its on mobo, entire laptop was a deadweight. So I bought a new one on eBay….paid $200 for a 2 yr warranty from Squaretrade…takes effect after seller 90 day warranty. 2 weeks later, once again, mobo died, returned to original ebay seller, he sent me another one. This one lasted about 2 years until the video to screen converter died, Squaretrade couldnt fix it, they refunded my entire purchase from 2 years ago….so I basically got a free upgrade to a brand new Sony Vaio VGN-FW laptop. So far so good. Previously I had a Sager Laptop….that POS worked great hardware wise, but the structure was horribly built. The lid kept on cracking and I kept on replacing the frame of the lid until I gave up sinking more and more money into it. I’ve had the PSU and video card of a Sony desktop blow for no reason….and a custom built by me from high end Newegg parts PC go through a PSU, video card, and both onboard network cards die. All these problems in the last 5 years alone, ever since I sold that Mac Powerbook. Not to mention the countless Winblows reinstalls, crashes, BSOD’s, and viruses. I hate Winblows, but I love to game more.

    My point being….both systems have their strengths, but Mac IS overall, just a better buy, a better deal, and a better OS. My 1996 Mac Umax S900 clone STILL works flawlessly, NOTHING has died in that machine. All the Mac’s I have owned worked flawlessly, and either have been sold off, or still work. BUT….they are pricey at first, and games are just better on a PC, period. Its the reason why I bought this Sony Vaio laptop instead of a Macbook….$1100 as opposed to a similarly configured Macbook Pro which would run about $2700….AND, I just ordered $1500 worth of new PC parts for my custom PC rig….an i7, ASUS X58 Deluxe mobo, 12 gigs of ram, and two (dual) nVidia SLI 260 GTX video cards to upgrade to a kicking gaming rig……a similar Mac Pro would cost around $3000.

    Again, granted, Mac’s are pricey off the bat, but I do feel they are worth it, IF you dont game. If I was a console gamer, I would be all Mac. My whole point is though…again, reading some of the insecurities from PC’ers. Why do you get so upset over this article?? Does the truth hurt you that much?? And I do agree that some Mac users need to get over their elitism. Both systems are fine, and in the long run, probably cost the same. Buy a PC for a lot less, but keep replacing failing hardware until the cost is the same as the Mac, and waste money with downtime due to those hardware failures and loss of time and productivity, or go buy a Mac and shell out a lot more from the get go, and not be able to play as many video games, unless you dual boot or run Parallels and run Vista or XP. Either or…WHO CARES!?!?!?!

    Everyone has their own opinions and experiences with each platform….but so many of you need to get over your insecurities. I buy PC’s for home use, and work on Macs at work. I dont care. My only needs are Adobe CS, Maya, Cinema 4D, Suitcase, Firefox, and COD4 and COD:World at War. =)

  15. 1415

    The reason there is so much outrage is because the article has actually pointed out the truth- most real designers prefer macs, it’s that simple.

  16. 1516

    7 or so years ago the argument was MAC was faster than PC. Was this because MAC’s were using SCSI and PC’s were slow IDE? Couldn’t you have spent the extra money to build a SCSI PC that could match the MAC SCSI performance? However, now they are the same guts in a different box. The bottom line for me and my business is higher productivity, which translates to higher profit. I can purchase 1 new PC (box or notebook) every 12-18 months for the cost of 1 MAC (box or notebook), which I would have to use for two – three years before being able to buy a new machine. Why would I purchase a MAC when hardware advancements happen almost overnight? I prefer to purchase a PC more often and stay up to date with technology instead of forcing myself and my employees to use an outdated MAC while technology moves to better possibilities. No one wants to sit and wait on an slow machine to process your design files. Higher Productivity = Happier Employees = Higher Profit.

  17. 1617

    Good article. I agree with it in most points, but even though I love Mac OSX, I can’t fully commit to it as my only OS for graphic design. I switch between OSX and Windows on a regular basis, because I find that some programs work well on the latter and not the former or vice versa. Also there are programs that are available only for one platform and never for the other, and the alternatives aren’t just quite cutting it.

  18. 1718

    I don’t know where people get that the MAC operating system is user friendly??? I have done a design course and music course where I was forced to use a MAC. I could not stand every moment of it, I found the MAC OS really unintuitive, so much so that the courses I attended basically wasted my time by trying to force MAC down my throat. In Australia most institutions use MAC by default as a kind of brainwashing for the easily led and people who can not think for themselves, so they choose MAC.

    Other operating systems can easily accept PHP or other programming frameworks by just installing the suitable opensource software. Is that all that hard, seriously

  19. 1819

    1. If I want Open Source friendly, Linux is actually far more open source friendly, and there is far more available out there that’s Linux-based than Mac-based.
    And I don’t prefer built-in tools because I like to find the right program for *me*, which may not be the right program for everyone else.
    The unified user interface has the buttons backwards from EVERY OTHER OS, which feels like they decided to be obstinate just ’cause, and since the makers of OS X have ultimate control over how things look on a Mac, they get to tell you “that’s the way it is, deal with it!” I’d much rather have extra control over things rather than have it all look like it was made by the same person.
    The “Macs don’t get viruses, so get a Mac” argument will lose its power as soon as Macs conquer a large share of the market–the virus makers will simply target them instead of Windows. So anyone making that argument must surely realize that they’re basically saying their OS isn’t very popular yet. Also, keep in mind which OS got hacked first in the browser hacking convention? OS X, with the Safari browser. Windows got hacked last. Security is more about user behavior than anything, though. I haven’t had a virus in several years, and the last time I got one was because I downloaded a crack and forgot to scan it before using it. I can’t remember the last time I got a virus or spyware when I didn’t do something extremely foolish. I simply don’t have problems with it, and I’m still using Windows XP.

    2. As someone else stated above, most people DON’T need to virtualize all three OSes out of the box. My fiancé virtualizes Windows now and then as necessary, but he runs Ubuntu natively and uses it for all his personal tasks. If he needed to, he could virtualize OS X too, but Apple makes that exceedingly difficult because they want to lock people into using their computers. Fortunately for him, he deals mainly with servers, and Linux is the most suited to that sort of thing.

    3. I actually would consider that MORE hassle. What one designer thinks everyone will be happy with, I might find very annoying. I want control over my computer; I want to make it look as I want it to look, to behave as I want it to . . . which is why I have Windows XP dualbooting with Ubuntu and will get myself a laptop for running Ubuntu only when I have the money. I get very attached to a specific look, and hated the upgrade to Internet Explorer 7 (which I thankfully rarely have to use, as Firefox is far superior) mainly because they locked down the ability to customize it.

    4. Again, if you truly want freedom, Linux, not Mac, is the antithesis of Microsoft. Mac is just as controlled as Microsoft is, just in a different way. In fact, it’s even more controlled in some ways, since Windows can be installed on any PC, but Mac cannot be legally installed on anything but a Mac-produced PC, as far as I know. Linux, on the other hand, can be run on just about ANYTHING, and will work with ancient underpowered machines as well as the top of the line, providing the same core basics to all users yet allowing them the freedom to change their OS around, install their choice from thousands of programs, and customize it exactly as they like.

    5. All this boils down to is that some people like the Mac look–and others like the look of other machines. I don’t see how the Mac look is somehow superior to any other machine, just a personal preference. This is the sort of thing that drives us Windows users nuts, when Mac fans ramble about how superior Macs are in some way or another that is really just personal preference. Just because YOU like doesn’t mean it’s the best thing and we’re supposed to want to switch to it!

    And the pitfalls are serious ones to some. I use keyboard shortcuts all the time, and would go nuts if I didn’t have all the ones I was used to, or if they didn’t work with every program. I’m extremely accustomed to right-clicking–as both Windows and Linux permit it, it’s actually a little odd for Macs to leave out such a handy feature. Just because it forces designers to think more doesn’t make it a good thing! The low economy may force people to budget better, but I can’t think of too many people praising that fact. And speaking of the economy, it’s more important than ever that people have solid-quality low-price machines to use. Apple likes selling high-priced stuff mainly because they know people will buy it for the brand name and the “aura”. “Ooh, see, I have a Mac! Now I’m cool!” But buying a computer with Windows or Linux on it may be the better way to go right now, especially if you’re scarce on money. And if you can piece together a computer from parts cheaper, then you can either install a copy of Windows (if you have one), or (at any time, whether you own a copy of any OS or not) install one of the many Linux distributions. Ubuntu is a popular one, and it is both user-friendly and powerful. You can also design your own gaming PC and install Windows on it (no such possibility for the Mac, even if the Mac were a good computer for playing serious games–it’s NOT). And lastly, the amount of freeware and open source software available for Windows and Linux each greatly outweighs the amount for Macs. For Windows, for instance, there are usually several different programs available for each major function needed, and a million little ones to do specific functions you never thought of. The are whole sites devoted to choosing the best freeware solution from a selection of several programs, and the contenders are usually very high-quality and have many excellent features. In contrast, some types of programs are difficult to find for a Mac, and often a user has only one or two options when a Windows user may have four or eight. Linux has almost as many as Windows and more are being developed every day, making it a strong contender too (plus more of the software for Linux is liable to be open source).

    And whereas previously there used to be a big difference between the programs and quality thereof available for the Mac and Windows when it came to design, that gap has shrunk considerably, and many people find that it doesn’t matter which OS they’re on if the computer has the right amount of power (some find that the Mac is slower with some tasks, even). Linux is not to be left out either–there are many high-end programs that work just fine on it (or even were designed for it), such as CinePaint, and it’s fully functional for many tasks.

    In conclusion, although there are some good points as to why Mac fans like the Mac, this post is not very objective, and underemphasizes some important details that show why the Mac is not necessarily superior.

  20. 1920

    I am a Linux user. And also use Windows also.
    Sadly, I haven’t seen anybody here near me using Mac. I think the main problem with Mac is that it’s too costly.

  21. 2021

    And one more last comment- I don’t buy the argument that you all “outraged” commenters work on BOTH a PC and a Mac. Who does that? Unless you mean you have a PC at home and a mac at work, which proves the point the magazine’s made in this post- which is most design firms use macs.
    I do not buy it that you use both at home, that’s a LIE. Switching between the platforms, not speaking of actual computers is inefficient and ineffective, and slows down the work flow.

    The main argument for owning a Mac for me is its sustainability. They last much longer, are a living fossil like one of the above posters pointed out, which means that there is less toxic waste thrown into landfills. Macs are greener in that regard, and that alone should be the reason to invest in a mac. You can always resell it and recover a large chunk of its value while recycling the machine at the same time.
    With a cheap PC, you can just throw it away when it breaks down.

  22. 2122

    A little heavy-handed, there nick…especially considering the singular point of view of the article and the condescension of the writer. And while you had good luck with your Macs, let me assure you that they too break, fizzle out and go bad, too.

  23. 2223

    I don’t buy the argument that you all “outraged” commenters work on BOTH a PC and a Mac. Who does that?

    Really experienced (or just really curious) designers for their own purposes. Workflows depend on the work. A print workflow is different from a web-design workflow…and both a different from animation. And some of my Windows audio production software has no Mac counterpart.

  24. 2324

    Awwwww… so nice to see that this largely turned into yet another ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ discussion. Good job to all of you whose arrogance lead you to somehow believe that you must be correct and everyone who has a differing preference is an idiot. And all in the name of such a mind-blowingly important issue. Holy. Innocent people die all over the world, but my identity is determined by which format I use. Go forth for the cause good soldiers. For all the others who just wanted a good discussion… sorry for the rant!!

  25. 2425

    I must note that the author develops in Rails. If you want to do Ruby on Rails, you will switch to a Mac. Otherwise, your life will be a living hell.

    Also, can we please talk about design intentions? I’m sick and tired of hearing “designers” relate everything to money and profits. If that’s what you value in life, then I guess that can be your basis for this argument. But I sincerely hope more people design with larger intentions than to simply make a buck.

  26. 2526

    Yea, no.

    I couldn’t help but notice the vast majority of “pros” listed for the Mac were eye candy and nearly all of the “cons” were deal breakers.

    Mac just doesn’t have the support from the market that PC has and when all of the software I want/need is either PC only, or available on both, there’s absolutely no reason to get a Mac. And this is completely ignoring the price tag, where Mac is simply unreasonably high on for all the true negatives with the system.

    If I wanted a blogging toy/word processor I’d buy some old Mac on craigslist. If I want a power machine the only option is PC.

  27. 2627

    That Windows doesn’t come with any development tools is technically true, but it’s only a half-truth. You can download and use, for free, C#, VB.NET and the Visual Web Developer product for ASP.NET development. The .NET Framework itself is now mostly shared source, and several of the newer frameworks, including ASP.NET MVC are available with full source code. Which frankly doesn’t matter, because championing open source on an OS that is not (OS X) is completely stupid.

    I have all Macs, but I develop on the Microsoft platform in Parallels. The tools are amazing, the evolving frameworks are incredibly useful. And people who can actually bill large sums of money are doing that instead of writing articles about which OS to use.

  28. 2728

    I’m surprised that the readers of SM cant realize that this is a paid advertisement for Apple. Its a necessity for SM to monetize their blog, so I don’t blame them.

    But why get upset? Its like yelling at your TV.

  29. 2829

    Don’t follow trends that the problem with some people they tend see be like monkeys(monkey see, monkey do). I use macs at school and I’m not missing anything i wish they had more PC’s there. I still don’t see why I would use a Mac instead of my 22′ HP Windows 7 Touchscreen monitor haha! I love my PC. Im a loyal Windows user!

  30. 2930

    nice advertisement.

  31. 3031

    It’s funny I read plenty of comments saying that the look of a program or a OS doesn’t make any difference. And only functionality is important, they’re right but whats wrong with liking the look of something. When cell phones became common people couldn’t really pick the style and there wasn’t much of one anyway, but then Nokia came out with all those covers and started the trend of pretty phones. Would anyone really want to carry around those unattractive bricks? I personally can’t stand doing anything on a computer with the Windows Classic theme on it just distracts me. As for software animations and stuff I was impresses with Coda’s Sites thumbnails that flip around and Apples minimize genie effect. No, it’s not necessary but it’s cool.

    I think GM said it best…

    “It’s not more than you need, just more than you’re used to.”

  32. 3132

    I find it annoying when people say “PC” sucks. These are the people who bought vista at best buy and spent 300 on a starter computer expecting it to run the same as $1200 (overpriced) hardware. They all use the same chip now, just go find better hardware to go along with your cpu and run what you want.

    of course mac runs faster than your average computer because there are companies like HP out there selling crap.

  33. 3233

    >>It means that the entire world of open source software out there is pretty much guaranteed to run without much hassle

    you are out of your fucking mind. cant we do better than this shitpost smashingmagazine? had come to expect much better.

  34. 3334

    Marie-Louise Gariépy

    April 26, 2009 8:31 pm

    You should correct that part about no second mouse button. On my MacBook pro (new generation), using two fingers instead of one is like a right click. This is actually a great feature and work much better than my old pc laptop.

  35. 3435

    Tim Kerrick Dot Com

    April 26, 2009 8:48 pm

    what about the Mac Mini??

  36. 3536

    Most of people that said they can’t stand Windows Classic theme or default Luna Blue,(I agree that they look very ugly) surely didn’t realized the customize capability of Windows that superior than a Mac.

    Did you ever heard of Visual Style? (I guess not) There are thousand of them for Windows, since a very long time ago. *yawn*
    browse theme here:

    oh, and these Visual Style is free, you don’t need to buy software like Shapeshifter or so to change theme. I think that’s the reason why people who loves aesthetics buy a Mac, they didn’t know that Windows can be customized!! (That’s why we always see XP with default Luna Blue theme, and default “Bliss” wallpaper!)

  37. 3637

    “You should correct that part about no second mouse button. On my MacBook pro (new generation), using two fingers instead of one is like a right click.”

    You don’t appear to understand the difference between a ‘mouse’ and a ‘track pad.’

  38. 3738

    very well balanced article, i have mac and PC, i test the websites that i build on both the platform, if single click mouse on mac is bothering than u can still plug your windows mouse to it.

  39. 3839

    I have been running OSX Leopard on my Acer laptop for a couple of weeks now, but I just switched back to Ubuntu. It ran very smoothly, as good as if I bought a brand new Mac (with only a couple problems, like having to rely on USB wireless, but nothing too obnoxious). But I really think that the best parts of Mac OS X Ubuntu has without too much effort.

    And I think the best parts are:
    – It uses a UNIX kernel, so open source software works on it without too much of a problem, mostly. Not nearly as well as Ubuntu, of course. You especially miss out on the open source GUI programs, unless you’re willing to run stuff with X Windows, which makes it run like crap.
    – Some of the flashyness (Spaces and Expose especially) are actually not only pretty, but very useful. Gnome has supported multiple desktops for a long time, and mixing it with Compiz (the flashyness for Linux) makes it so you have some more and flashier choices for using multiple desktops. And Compiz also lets you specify effects to get run when moving the mouse to the screen corners. My favorite part of the OSX interface is being able to select any of my open windows by moving the mouse to the top-right corner, and I can do that just as smoothly in Ubuntu.

    One thing that Mac OS X is seriously lacking is Free, open source development tools. TextMate is great, but it’s proprietary and costs money, which is quite frankly obnoxious. Linux has so many better choices (notable Bluefish and Geany) for programmers editors.

    And Mac OS X, as well as Windows, lack a package manager. This is a concept that’s foreign to a lot of people who aren’t used to using Linux, and it’s a shame, because I feel like smart package management that uses repositories is the single best feature an OS can have. MAMP and XAMP have made it easier to install Apache and get a working local dev environment, but actually running this stuff on Linux is so much better, and if you’re at all a sysadmin, it’s so much easier to deal real programming. For OSX and Windows, people are used to downloading programs off of websites and running the installers, and programs off of websites are notorious for installing in different ways, in different locations, and being kind of a pain to uninstall, not to mention not having good auto-updating features, and oftentimes containing spyware or malware. A good package manager makes this problem completely obsolete. Unfortunately, package managers are kind of hard to work when software costs money, but hopefully that problem will go away sometime soon too.

    The only reason I would consider using a Mac as my main OS is because Adobe hasn’t ported their software to Linux. Otherwise, it’s really not worth it. I think the author of this article hasn’t actually given Ubuntu a fair try, or they’d realize that things just work quite a lot more than they’re used to.

  40. 3940

    It’s amazing how quickly pretty much every post comparing a Mac to anything (in this case, no particular system) devolves into name calling and exclamation points.

    I would simply state that the primary reason I use a Mac instead of a PC is the window management/Quartz environment. I normally work with Mail, Safari, FireFox, VMWare, CyberDuck (FTP), Textmate, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Aperture, iTunes, iCal, iChat, NetNewsWire, Colloquy, Tweetie, TextEdit, and Illustrator all open at the same time. With Exposé, Spaces, and the ability to have windows from separate apps open next to each other without having to resize and reorder them, I can work about 10x more efficiently than I can on a PC.

    I tried switching to a PC at my workplace earlier this year and failed miserably. I could do my work, sure, but it took at least twice as long to do simple tasks such as grab a set of files from a server, edit them, build some graphics for them, save them all to the server, then check the pages across multiple browsers. Maybe Vista is way better than XP in window management, but I doubt it based on preliminary testing.

    The other nice thing is that I can do work almost as quickly on my 5-year-old iBook G4 as I can on my brand new 24″ iMac, even though the benchmarked speeds are many times slower. This is because even older Macs still run the main system and less-intense apps with ease. In fact, OS 10.5 runs *faster* than 10.3 on the old iBook. Show me a 5-year-old PC that runs Vista *faster* than XP, and I’ll give you a dollar.

  41. 4041

    total ads and non-sense

  42. 4142

    Does anyone REALLY believe Apple needs advertising to designer base???

    Ugh. Morons.

  43. 4243

    its good but what about ubuntui.I like pc but i love ubuntu its like having sex :)

  44. 4344

    Great article.. As a windows user and a Mac user, I enjoyed the comparison. Although one point was the secondary mouse click, you can now (on the newer macs) designate a corner of the mouse pad for the secondary mouse click in System preferences (very minor issue compared to what others are discussing).

    Also, I read a comment (or two?) about active directory. There is nothing simpler than doing it on the Mac, just need to go to your Utilities and use the directory service and add your domain (select Active Directory) then you are away… Its pretty easy. I do this all the time.

    The main reason I enjoy using a mac is primarily the ease and stability of the desktop… I understand that some people want specific tools, heck I have been known to use good ol bootcamp to use an app or tool i needed that isnt present on the Mac. With no problems whatsoever. As a long time Mac user, I have seen the development of many tools and apps that cover the gauntlet of ones that are available on the PC if not its pretty easy (ive found) to find ones that are equal (and a lot of the times) better.

    This is just my experience, I still use my PC for games (although less and less thesedays thanks to my PS3 and xbox360)…. but it still has its uses….

    Anyway thanks for the article… I loved reading it.. Keep up the goodwork….

  45. 4445

    2. Quartz Extreme
    Spaces, yeah? But the Photoshop CS3 and CS4 have bugs with spaces. This is the main reason to not switch to Mac!

  46. 4546

    At uni ten years ago, I studied design using pre-OSX Macs. It wasn’t the best experience. They would crash frequently when trying to use a browser and bringing up the console wasn’t as useful as CTRL-ALT-DEL on a PC. There were other reasons why I never adopted the OS. (And using Windows beforehand wasn’t one of them, I used MacOS before I heard of Windows).

    Ten years into the future, I use a PC. I don’t get blue screens. All versions of Windows since Win2K have been pretty stable.

    So while OSX may well be great, Mac’s OS was terrible for a time. While Windows might have been buggy in the past, it’s been fine since Win2K.

  47. 4647

    Personally, I am a Mac fan. I just couldn’t afford one around this time for my personal use. We use Macs where I work at and I love it’s usability and interface. But IMO, if you’re a designer, it doesn’t matter whether you have a Mac or a PC when designing. The thing that only counts is talent. I know someone who has the nicest Mac desktop and laptop but he still sucks designwise. And if he were on a PC, he would suck just as much. If you suck, then you suck whatever platform you’re using. Period.

  48. 4748

    I agree with what most of what is said. I have a small business and use Mac (12) for security/ease of use/reliability and Windows (2) for IE only suppliers.

    One thing that is not mentioned most of the time is resale. Last month when Apple came out with the new mini’s I replaced 3 that we had. We had bought them about 5 years ago for $600 (+$80 more for more memory). Last week I sold them on ebay for an average of $325, try reselling a 5-year old $600 PC for $325 (or any Mac-PC comparison) Mac’s also have great resale value, which I considered when originally purchasing.

  49. 4849

    One reason for NOT using a MAC: it’s far less environmentally friendly:
    – Apple uses more components that are harmful than PCs: see Greenpeace’s review of high tech companies… even if Apple has recently improved, that wasn’t difficult considering they were performing last on the rating scale…
    – Desktops and even worse, laptops are nearly impossible to technically upgrade. Some of you might say Apple last longer… but I don’t know any designers with machines older than 3-4 years… while you can virtually upgrade anything on a PC, from your hardware to your battery…

  50. 4950

    i’m ok with most of the reasons except for one: the support
    This is very poor as for me. And when it even comes to fixing, it’s too expensive.
    I used to have a Dell. As for the hardware it has a very good support.


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