Before I start this post, I just want to say, that I may have a bit of a bias on this issue. I’ve been designing on, and religiously using a mac for my entire life. That said, I’m not going to try to tell you whether Mac or Windows is better for web design, but the benefits and difficulties that arise during the design process. Perhaps later on Sean will give an alternative viewpoint on the issue, and give us the pros and cons of Windows.
We’ll start with the cons.
Yeah, Internet Explorer was on mac. It was bundled with the OS until 2003, when it was replaced by Safari. What does that mean for you as a web developer? You can’t test your websites on Internet Explorer. That is, unless you want to code it for IE5.2. That cuts you off from cross browser testing for nearly 50% of internet users. There are a few solutions though. First off, there’s IE4OSX. IE4OSX uses the WINE environment to emulate Internet Explorer 6. This still cuts you off from IE7&8 though. Our second solution is to simply put Windows on your Mac. There are a few ways to do this. One is to use Apple’s Bootcamp software. It’s a pretty useful piece of software. It partitions your hard drive into a Mac disk, and a Windows disc. This seems all fine and dandy, but it’s really not all that fun to have to boot back and forth to check how IE’s doing. You’ve also got to set up your whole web development environment on Windows anyway, to fix your site for IE. The second fix is to buy Windows virtualization software like Parallels. Parallels is a fine piece of software if your willing to shell out the money for it. It saves you a lot of trouble by letting you run Windows inside of your OSX environment.
Macs really don’t have a very good free image editor. Photoshop is great if your willing to pay the money, but a lot of what is so enticing about web development is that it’s something that doesn’t require an investment to get into. All you should need is time. Yes, there is Gimp, but it’s horrid to work with regularly. If your someone who doesn’t work with images regularly it’s fine, but it just wasn’t created for the Mac. There are two versions; the native version, and the XWindows version. To be honest, neither of them are particularly good. The XWindows is basically an emulation of the Windows and Linux versions, which just doesn’t work well on the Mac. The native version is just plain old buggy. Half the features don’t work, and the ones that do look weird. It’s like taking the skin of OSX and draping it over some ugly, other unfortunate program.
There’s a reason so many web designers use Macs. They simplify a whole lot. There is some great software out there, like Coda and Espresso that really simplify your coding experience if you want to make the investment, but today we’re going to stick to free and open source software.
Cyberduck is a great piece of software. I use it almost everyday. It’s an ftp client, that’s simple, easy, and free.
TextWrangler is another great one. TextWrangler is a text editor that’s designed for web development. It supports hundreds of languages and has built in FTP support, but it still manages to function like a pro.
ImageOptim is about as basic as it gets. Just put it in your dock, drop your images on top of it, and watch as their file size gets into a portion of what it was before.
Mamp is like OSX’s verion of WinAmp, except better. It’s not that it has any extra features that WinAmp doesn’t have, or any special little catch, it just does what it says it does. It runs a local server. I’ve never had any problems with it. I run a local version of every WordPress blog I have on the internet to test everything. I’ve never had any problems yet, and don’t expect to.