Five Reasons Why Designers Developers are Switching to Mac

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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.

Support

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.

Conclusion

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.

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.esecurityplanet.com/views/article.php/3658121/Is-the-Mac-Really-More-Secure-than-Windows.htm
  2. 2 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-rss.php
  3. 3 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-rss.php
  4. 4 http://twitter.com/smashingmag
  5. 5 http://twitter.com/smashingmag

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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.

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  1. 1

    While you did try to be balanced i think you are missing some important points- Macs are PC’s. They use all PC components. I am a power user – who works across may different development environments. There has been a new trend to use multiple computers – I use five – each targeting a different set of tasks. I build them all, one is a mac clone – its very easy to build if you choose the hardware very carefully with what is know to work – you will realize with his option you have far superior range of hardware to work with than Apple offers and it can be upgraded. I regard the hardware and their associated parts as consumables – i throw out and move stuff around every two months – its not about being cool or a status symbol – its very practical and functional. I am not a windows fan and i dont expect MS to put out a perfect operating system (for me) that will be used by 95% of the population, but I will consider myself to be a jackass if I paid 2000$ for a very basic system system that i cant upgrade. I think this article at Toms Hardware which came out earlier this year puts things in perspective.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/apple-windows-linux,2080.html

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  2. 202

    The comments are better than the main article.

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  3. 403

    I think we should rather ask: Why Adobe has such a tight grip on all of the graphic industry? The workflow is so bad as shortcuts and functions change between PS, ID, AI … :(

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  4. 604

    I use a Mac at work and a PC at home, I’ve never had a problem with my Mac and I’ve had problems with every PC I’ve ever owned. I’d like a Mac at home, if only it didn’t mean purchasing new software… Ok, rant over…

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  5. 805

    I swear if I see another comment about how “I play games so I need a PC” I am going to lose it. Mac’s come with Boot Camp… you can play games for god sakes. I was just playing some Call of Duty 5 on my Macbook Pro a week ago. Argh.

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  6. 1006

    Dominik Jakubowski

    April 27, 2009 4:04 am

    I think we are not in a Kindergarten anymore. Apart from that the funny thing is that only Mac-user start such discussions, maybe the have some deep complexes.

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  7. 1207

    Thanks for the ad!

    – Apple

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  8. 1408

    Good article..

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  9. 1609

    Nice post, like the reasons why designers are switching, not really sure about pitfalls for mac. I mean some of the pitfalls are really not a big deal such as right clicking, maximizing windows and affordability. In my mind, you get for what you pay for, comparing the price of a mac to the price of a pc is like saying to a designer oh well you can spend thousands of dollars on Adobe Suite and make incredible designs or you can use Paint which is free and get the same results.

    Just does not work that way. Mac’s cost what they do because they are dependable and durable. I know that if I purchase a Mac, nothing will happen to it while on the other hand if I get a PC, you never know.

    Besides, if you are a serious designer, money is not so much of the problem because the way I see it, I am a good designer and a $3000 investment on a Mac is worth every penny when I am going to be able to create designs that will bring me in so much more money than that. Just a thought.

    Anyway, good post just wanted to put out what I thought some downfalls might be.

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  10. 1810

    “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.”

    This is a load of bull, show me an 8 year old Powerbook that can run the latest OSX that smooth, its the same with vista you cant expect a windows 98se machine to run vista at best performance.

    “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.”

    Its not that Mac does not want to compete with the lower end market, truth is because they cant OSX requires a pretty hefty amount of hardware thats why the cost is higher and the “Mac certified hardware” is a load of bull too.

    Comment #8 really sums up everything. If you really need a mac to “design” something better think twice of claiming to be a “designer”

    btw im typing this on my Air ;)

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  11. 2011

    I use both a mac and pc and agree pretty much with everything stated in this article. I am using my mac more and more and my pc less and less – particularly because of mac only software titles (such as coda and css edit) that blow away anything for the pc.

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  12. 2212

    Lets face it. It worked!!! We all know who likes what better now….

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  13. 2413

    A Lot of the replies that favour Macs and Dont favour Windows/PC have some falacies that are almost what you’d expect from a religious following:
    “in the long run they are the same price”
    “Mac’s cost what they do because they are dependable and durable.”
    “you can play PC games with bootcamp”
    “the hardware on a PC has to be changed frequently”

    I could go on

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  14. 2614

    I have to say, you are dead on when saying that it is a pitfall that you can not maximize a window on a Mac. I use Windows, OSX and Linux and the one and only aspect of a Mac that kills me is that you can not maximize the windows. Though, the windows retain memory. This means that if you leave a window at a large size when it is closed it will open to those same dimensions. But it still drives me crazy.

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  15. 2815

    The main reason why I use a Mac is due to OSX. At school and quite possibly down the line, I’ll be developing on Unix and so OS X provides me with the best UI for Unix and a Unix terminal. Cygwin on Windows just doesn’t cut it.. MSN on Windows is probably one of the reasons I still use Windows. And the fact that it’s cheaper to set up 3 monitors..unless someone knows how to do it with something cheaper than a Mac Pro?

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  16. 3016

    I like Apples and Macs. But, as a lead C# and .NET developer for around the past 8 years, I find that PCs facilitate my needs for the software I use on a constant basis:

    Visual Studio 2008
    Adobe Photoshop CS4
    MS Outlook + Office

    Also, most project management and file repository software (sans TFS) are becoming web based; which is nice for cross browser compatibility. If I was purely a designer, and not jack-of-all trades developer / PM I would be working on a Mac. But once I need to create a web based application that incorporates several different database types, AJAX, LINQ, and tons of functional requirements; I need my Visual Studio.

    Is it a perfect world, no. But thats what I do.

    PS. I’m also a gamer, so Macs are out of the question as far as home (work)place.

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  17. 3217

    I wonder why when a magazine talks about windows no-one complains, but as soon as one tries to say that there are alternatives some shout “AD” & “religous”?!?

    Also I have never met someone who bought a mac mainly for it looks. That’s just a stupid argument by some people. Probably they rant at high class fashion clothes aswell. Everybody got their taste and arguing about it is stupid & childish.

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  18. 3418

    Programming on anything on a Mac is like programming in Notepad. CSS is not “development”.

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  19. 3619

    Nice Spot Commecial!
    There is no reason that i read on this article to change to Mac Platform. I love the diverse software and hardware that i have, and that i Can’t have on Mac platform.
    And Develop is not write some text on textmate.

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  20. 3820

    I’m not a “hipster.” I’m a practical guy who wants a platform that lets me do my work with little OS drama. And that’s what a Mac gives me. And when I want Windows, I’ve got that too on my MacBook Pro. Two computers in one.

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  21. 4021

    I agree fully with this article with the statement. The operating system X is one of the best, even as to reliability!

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  22. 4222

    Hilarious how the old Mac v. Windows question riles some people up. Personally, I want Apple to stay small. It’s a proven fact that the bigger you get the more quality suffers. Look at the banking industry as an example.

    Anyways, I use Windows at work (required) and a Mac the rest of the time. At work, we replace PC’s around every two years and they aren’t your typical business PC’s (you know, bare minimum base model); my current PC is running XP Pro (they weren’t dumb enough to switch to Vista), 3 GHz processors and 2 GB RAM. But, it will be replaced in a few weeks because it’s already dying. Are there things I could do to improve it’s performance? Sure, but my IT department wouldn’t be happy that I did their job for them.

    On the other hand, I just bought a new MacBook and love it. But I still have my old PowerBook. I’ve owned it since January 2005 and over four years later it’s still running strong. In fact, it runs better than my work PC even though the Windows PC has better tech specs. Passed it down to my kid. So for those who say Macs have two years life at best, you’ve obviously never owned one.

    What does it come down to? OS X. Since it was introduced Windows has never been able to catch up and I doubt Windows 7 will be any different. And the fact that Apple makes the hardware is nice too. Nice not having to ask “Is this a software co. issue or a hardware issue?”. I can just go to Apple’s support page or an Apple store and get help. But these points have already been mentioned several times.

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  23. 4423

    As a Mac (home mobile) and PC (work; home gaming) user, I find this article to make too many assumptions without proper research and statistics. And, generally, it “feels” like something that would have been written three or four years ago.

    Extremely poor article, Smashing; I don’t see how this article is serving anybody. For Mac research, there are far more comprehensive articles (and entire sites) dedicated to such (it would have been great to include those), and it will only seek to alienate die-hard PC users by fanning a rapidly-diminishing anti-Microsoft fire. Additionally, the author never seemed to decide if this was a “reason to switch” article, or a “should you switch, here are some ways ease the transition” article (could have been a good one!).

    Who approved this one for publication?

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  24. 4624

    This is definitely the reason I use and prefer a Mac: (“it feels intuitive” or “I enjoy using it more” or even “I can’t explain why I like it better, I just do.”) Nothing against a PC, but I don’t feel the same. There is just something about the Mac that draws me in and causes me to use it more.

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  25. 4825

    No matter how one sided or balanced an article is, the “Mac vs PC” war is always a field day for nerds around the world.

    For most _successful_ developers, they are probably using macs. They have probably nailed down their work flow, and work significantly faster than the average windows user, and is most likely worth a bit more because of this. There are so many little things that can speed EVERYTHING up (that yes can most likely be emulated on windows) that just help so much.

    I love developing on Macs and PCs. My workflow includes both. Primarily, most of it happens on the Mac side.

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  26. 5026

    One of the best mac/windows reviews I’ve ever seen!
    The point with Quicksilver, Growl, TextMate & Adium could have been my own. I love those 4 pieces of amazing software so much :D (especially Quicksilver)

    Thank you so much for this article, I will right now “spread the word” ;)

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  27. 5227

    Dexter Barsinister

    April 27, 2009 6:50 am

    Excellent piece and right on target. One minor quibble: you mean to say that Macs “have 2-3 fewer USB ports,” not “have 2-3 less USB ports.” “Less” applies to a continuous quality; “fewer” applies to a discrete, integer-like quantity.

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  28. 5428

    There is some parts I don’t agree with:
    1. You can run LAMP on Windows use XAMPP or you can just run Linux if you want.
    2. What about virtualization? You can run Virtual machines on Windows too.

    If you have talent you can do anything on any system and PC doesn’t equals Windows.

    The reason OSX is better because Apple controls hardware.
    And it has nothing todo with anything else.

    FREE Apple Ad from Smashing Magazine!

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  29. 5629

    I don’t get the PC’s die faster argument at all. But, it’s because in my personal experience with PC’s all of them have lasted 7+ years and they never died on me. It’s only because a 7 year old PC is pretty much a dinosaur and you always want to upgrade that I’ve replaced. But they were still working.

    I’ve been running an Alienware now for the past 5 years, only did an upgrade in memory and it’s pretty much perfect for me. But my itchy finger to buy something new is bothering me. I checked the specs on the low end MacPro and compared with what I can get with Alienware for the same price. I am going for my alien yet again.

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  30. 5830

    From my point of view, it doesn’t matter what system or OS you use as long as you get the results you want.

    My only problem is with folks who chose to be snobs about their choices. From my observation, Many Mac zealots justify their attitudes by spreading technically illiterate nonsense and factually untrue assertions that equate to, “Macs are magic and make you creative while PCs are evil and make you incompetent.”

    Those types deserve all the scorn and ridicule anyone can hurl at them.

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  31. 6031

    I had horrible experiences with every single WIndows machine I’ve used (running many different iterations of the OS). I switched to a MacBook Pro and iMac two years ago and both have been a dream to use – no glitches, no crashes, no viruses, no problems.

    I think the article presented some good arguments for switching – some were, granted, simply personal reasons, but largely the article had good points.

    And I’m not a fanboy – really – I gave Windows every chance I could (98, 98SE, ME, NT 2000, and Win7 beta). All had many of the same problems. While I do run XP in VMWare for site testing, you contrast my WIndows experiences with my problem-free Mac(s) and I’d never touch a Windows computer again as a day-to-day, primary or secondary machine.

    @jesse: You stand corrected: CSS *is* development. XHTML is development. PHP is development. Etc.

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  32. 6232

    Man the fan boys came out of the woodwork for this one. Your commentary aside this article was excellent comment bait. Well Done!

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  33. 6433

    “Being able to do things like drag an image off your web browser directly into your Photoshop project are a boon to productivity.” — You can do that on Windows.

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  34. 6634

    I would say that Macs are more expensive to buy but cheaper to run. I never have to waste time reformatting, defragmenting, virus scanning, getting rid of the cruft. My macs run as well today as the day I bought them. Contrariwise, my PC enthusiastic friends always need help fixing a printer, re-connecting to the internet, getting rid of some mal-ware. These are the hidden costs of Windows that you continue to pay for.

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  35. 6835

    never read that much bullshit.
    it all depends on your workflow.

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  36. 7036

    There are some good and some hilariously bad comments on a generally good article.

    As someone who is creative is 3 big areas and wants to use one computer to do it all, I have no choice. It’s a Mac. If I wanted to get consistent great running in the music world, the web design world and the video world (I’m no Adobe user either, geez that stuff costs more than my Mac does anyhow) if I wanted to do all this on one Windows machine it just wouldn’t run well enough. 300 apps added to the system, and it runs the same, no slower, no crashes. Could I do that with Windows XP or Vista? No. I’ve seen it tried. They ended up with 2 machines (separated the music) both of which fall over more than my Mac. They even have a 3rd for office stuff, I just have 1. My Mac is so much cheaper than 2 Windows machines (let alone 3).

    So to all those who think Macs are just for being cool, wrong. For some of us (I know it’s not everyone) they are the only sensible choice.

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  37. 7237

    It is just a shame that the memory management is poor. As soon as you hit the limits everything grinds to a halt.

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  38. 7438

    i cant deny that mac is a really powerful machine, and it comes with really cool features and stuff , but its expensive and i’d bet my left nut that a good designer can create the same amount of work with the same quality on the same amount time using a pc for half of the money, So i dont really see the need to change. Mac doesnt offer anything for me that makes me earn more money, so im gonna stick to PC for now.

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  39. 7639

    I just built a hackintosh yesterday and so far I like it. I’m a die hard Windows guy and ASP.NET developer, but I want to write iphone apps, so I needed a machine with osx. My current problems are all with adding hardware, but I know thats because I have an illegitimate box. I have liked the OS overall, but as a .NET developer, I don’t see it becoming my primary machine anytime soon.

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  40. 7840

    Macs are for the rich suburb kids, and Windows are for their older brothers.

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  41. 8041

    This is kind of like comparing a Maseroti to a Ford Taurus. You can argue that the Maseroti is faster, and more elegant, but who has more drivers, and why? If Macs were truly superior they would own the market. The fact is they cater to a specific type of consumer, which is precisely what this article presented.

    I am skilled on both Macs and PC’s and I, frankly, prefer PC’s. My personal preference is the only arena which matters in terms of superiority.

    That said, Windows, for better or worse, is ubiquitous across the print and design markets primarily because of its bang-for-buck-iness. I work at a high end print shop which uses Xeon-based, PC workstations. On rare occasions we get properly formatted, ready to print PDF’s. More often than not, we usually need to refer to the original creation files to fix the stuff we can’t in Acrobat/Pitstop. The fact is this: in smaller markets 95% the creation files we get, are created on PC’s, not Macs. We have a Mac in the office for just such an occasion, but otherwise it gets used very little.

    You can argue that, with Macs you can just emulate Windows to open PC files, which is true. But at the same time, there is a significant speed trade-off for running the Windows emulator to open PC files. Consider that the Adobe Suite already runs faster on PC’s than it does Macs and you’ve got yourself a recipe for constant aggravation.

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  42. 8242

    These are facts:

    – If you use Windows, everything around you will explode and you will die a very painful death. Every single project you start on a windows machine will disintegrate and then a little popup will appear and point at your crotch area and laugh. That’s a fact.
    – If you use a Mac, women will make sweet love to you 24/7. Anything you design/develop will become an instant success… Money will actually shoot out of the DVD drive!

    …or maybe… we should all STFU and get back to work…

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  43. 8443

    No, thank you!

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  44. 8644

    1. Windows, Mac, Linux, BeOS, etc. It’s personal preference. Let your work define you as a designer or developer. Not your tools.

    2. Smashing will usually post a follow up to this article with a Windows slant. I’m an Apple user personally, but I’d love to see the counter point.

    3. It isn’t “MAC”, it’s Mac. There is a difference and programmers and developers should know that “MAC” stands for “Media Access Control” or MAC Address. “Mac” as in “Apple Mac”.

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  45. 8845

    I’m a designer first and a user second, My primary tool? a Sketchbook. I don’t care what tool I have. I will design the hell out of something regardless. In the 90’s I used Macs exclusively, now almost PCs exclusively. Having used Macs and PCs in the work place for the last 10 years I believe the choice comes down to preference. Security, intuitiveness, cost, style, compatibility – you can throw all of that crap out the window. As we continue to suffer the great homogenization of our society the perceived differences between the platforms with shrink to nothing.

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  46. 9046

    I have yet to join the Mac family, primarily because of the price. I’ve used Mac’s a good bit before in college and yah they are nice, but I don’t see myself gaining much from them. I am in need of a new laptop soon and it would be nice to get a Mac. But I just can’t bring myself to spending double the amount for a similar laptop and having to buy another copy of Creative Suite that I already legally purchased for Windows.

    Who know’s…maybe I’ll bite the bullet, but I can get a really nice laptop for $600-800 from Dell or HP that will run just as fast.

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  47. 9247

    I’ve been designing websites for nearly 11 years, probably when many of the commenters here were still in junior high (or worse elementary school). If we’re talking about EXPERIENCED designers, I’d say I prefer a PC over a Mac any old day. I don’t feel that Macs are worth what you pay for them and having worked on both, PC’s have always seemed to run the programs I need to use on a daily basis much better than a Mac.

    This whole “real designers use Macs” talk just disgusts me. A “real” designer is good on any machine they happen to be on. If you can only design on a Mac, maybe the issue isn’t the machine, but your own skills.

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  48. 9448

    I bought a PC 3 years ago. It runs XP and all the software I need to do my development work. The OS doesn’t crash and it isn’t slow. I’ve never had to “re-image” or “re-install” the OS. I have had multiple hardware crashes on hard drives but that has nothing to do with the OS. I still use that same PC for development. I haven’t had to refresh my hardware over the years to go to a new slicker looking version. It weigh’s 4.5lbs and I get just under 5 hours of battery life off it still. It does what I need and I spent a whopping $1200 on in at the time. Not bad but considering my investment of $400 a year it’s pretty good. I’m not worried about the look of it as my clients just care about the final product.

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  49. 9649

    Er, am I the only one who’s slightly mystified about all these arguments based around designer preferences when this part of the article is trying to address developer issues?

    In other news, I remain unconvinced that a Mac can provide all the developer software that is available for windows, or for that matter linux. There’s a -lot- of developer based stuff on sourceforge etc which is free and open sourced. While I know the Mac workflows are a good one, many of my friends who are developers have customised their setup to such an extent that it would take crowbars to move them over to a Mac.

    Also the argument about Macs having Rails, etc set up by default is also not really the point. Developers set up their dev environments and that’s a good thing. I wouldn’t want my dev setup done for me. I’d have to go through the full config to make sure it reflected my online environment anyway.

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  50. 9850

    Seriously, half of the people did not even read this article, if you did, you would know its not about designers on a mac its about why -SOME- developers are switching to a Mac.

    I work on a Mac, and I prefer working on a mac. I multitask like you wouldn’t believe, and MAC’s OS for devleopment is 1,000% more efficient then any PC. I work on a PC at work because I have to do C# coding and I need the windows environment, but if I could use a Mac I would.

    Anyone who has worked on a PC and a Mac consistently and says working on a PC is better is out of their goddamn mind.

    If half of you idiots read the article, they are specifically saying why SOME developrs are choosing to switch over to Mac. It’s true, they are. With virtualization & dual boot, why the hell do you even NEED a PC anymore? Seriously? I have played games on a bootcamp partition of XP and can play games flawlessly.

    Also to the idiots who keep saying “Its all about the work you do not your tools”, I dunno bout you, but I’d rather use a SHARP axe to cut wood, not a dull blunt rusted one. But hey, that’s just me who wants to be productive and efficient.

    Seriously, I’m not even a Mac enthusiast, in fact I hate people that are. Especially the people who sit in coffee shops. I grew up using PC’s my whole life. When I started using a mac I still didn’t like it, but after DEVELOPING (yes I said developing) on it for some time, going back to PC is like driving a 1985 honda civic with a shitty exhaust. I dunno bout you, but I prefer my Beemer.

    1. I am right. 2. You are wrong. 3. If you object see #1

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