Is web development better on a Mac or a PC?

Two months ago, I bought an imac. The reasons for doing this were plentiful, and overall I’m happy with my experience so far, but I wanted to talk about why I switched, what’s better and what I miss about a PC. Hopefully this will be useful to anyone thinking about switching in the near future.

My history with apple

The first computer we ever had at home (when I was about 10) was an Apple mac and I though it was awful. Why? because you couldn’t get any games for it – while my friends were able to buy new PC games in the shop – I was stuck playing the default games. Ever since, then I’ve owned PCs.

At my first proper job since leaving uni, everyone in the department used a mac but I still wasn’t 100% sold on them. I kept getting told by all the other mac fanatics that I’d soon change my mind. They seemed very similar to PCs except with a few distinct disadvantages:

  • Office documents created on a mac often looked funny on a PC
  • Virtual PC was pretty awful and it was very difficult to test websites in Internet Explorer on Windows
  • The # key was missing – it took me ages to find out it was alt+3 *

* In Virtual PC, the # didn’t work at all so I had to copy and paste

One exception was, as opposed to Windows Ctrl+Alt+Delete technique which allows you to close troublesome programs, Apple’s ‘Force Quit’ (Apple+Option+Esc) performed its duty marvelously.

The Turnaround

So what caused my turnaround in opinion? One word; Vista. I installed Vista as soon as it was released (because my PC had a virus, which I had a feeling Vista would cure – and it did). I immediately hated it. It gave my PC a low Vista compatibility rating which meant it never ran the sexy Aero interface. It also crashed a lot more, gave me grey screens that asked me to press OK a lot and often froze for minutes at a time with the screen literally frosted over with a light blue tint.

I started to think about macs – a lot of the bloggers, that I read and respect, seemed to be using them and getting good results. I’d also heard about Bootcamp/Parallels and knew running Windows on a mac and, therefore, testing on Internet Explorer would be easier than the other way around, but I was put off by the price.

After months of deliberation, and waiting for the new OS X to come out I finally bought a mac. I felt I could no longer be without one for the browser testing factor.

2 months later

After 2 months I am still happy with my purchase and these things please me:

  • how the mac looks: the computer is beautiful and can site in any room and actually be a feature
  • how few wires are needed. I know have 3 plugs: 1 for the mac, 1 for the printer and 1 for the router
  • stacks
  • it isn’t vista

and these things don’t:

  • the mice are rubbish (even the mighty mouse) it randomly stops scrolling and gets very dirty very quickly
  • Parallels is good but its only seems like a (much) more reliable version of Virtual PC and not the ground breaking amazing piece of kit promised by the blogosphere
  • Finder isn’t great: I think Windows’ Explorer edges that one: I don’t ‘get’ the usefulness of cover-flow


I’m glad I’ve now got a mac, I don’t the miss the PC. I certainly don’t miss Vista, in particular, my computer now freezes less, CDs are recognised and iTunes works again meaning I can use a computer properly again in my post-Vista world.

To answer my original question which I just realised I hadn’t, so far web development isn’t any easier on a mac. Maybe Ruby on Rails development is but I use PHP. Windows has the excellent xampp so setting up a local web server is easy – it also has great FTP programs like Filezilla, awesome CSS writing programs like TopStyle but you can’t use it to test CSS in Safari/Camino and thats where a mac edges it for me.

3 responses to “Is web development better on a Mac or a PC?”

  1. I’ve just recently switched to using a Mac at home too (after my PC died at Christmas), although I’ve had a Mac at work for the last couple of years.

    Aside from the complete lack of games (don’t care any more, that’s what the Wii is for), I find it much better for just about everything. To address your specific complaints:

    – don’t bother with Finder, get Quicksilver for super-fast keyboard shortcuts to everything you need
    – MAMP ( is the Mac equivalent of XAMPP, and is actually much easier to set up, and has a built in port and PHP version switcher in the GUI
    – Aptana has a pretty decent FTP manager built-in, plus it has site synchronisation as well
    – If you like TopStyle, wait until you try CSSEdit; it is hands-down the best CSS editor I’ve ever used (and is also included in the MacHeist bundle at the moment, which I highly recommend getting)

    As for Parallels – have you got the most up-to-date version of both it and Windows? I’m using XP SP2, and it’s super zippy, very usable, and perfect for browser testing.

    I agree about the mice, although you get used to it after a while. Another thing to add is that having a Mac means you can sync your Address Book and iCal with your iPhone. :)

  2. Thanks for your comment Matthew:

    I’m currently using a combo of MAMP Pro, Transmit, DreamWeaver to get things done and it’s working out very nicely.

    I’ve downloaded Quicksilver but haven’t really worked out what the its actually for :(

    I think I have to update Parallels from 3.0 to 3 point whatever. Parallels worksmuch nicer with XP than it does with Vista – I think that’s Vista problem rather than Parellels.