Can you design on Windows?

Ask the average person who’s ever heard about these new fangled “computer” things which kind of computer is best for design, and you’ll probably get an answer like this: “Well, my cousin does Photoshop, and he says that Macs are the best.”

The Apple brand has become almost synonymous with design, and with good reason. They set the trends and led the way for years. Some people would argue that they still do. The confluence of Apple products and the modern perception of design is so deeply entrenched in western culture, that even some of the most non-technical people I know believe there’s a connection between Apple products and good designers.

It’s enough to make a Windows/Linux-based designer feel really lonely…

When I got started in design, I wanted a Mac. One day, I’d walked into the only Apple-certified retailer in our small Mexican city, and I fell in love. What can I say? I was thirteen years old, and easily impressed by shiny technology.

As a surprise for my sixteenth birthday, my brother bought me a computer. It was a custom desktop shipped all the way from Canada. It was not very powerful — and there were many like it — but this one was mine. I didn’t forget my nascent love for the fruit from Cupertino, but I had something to start with. I installed Windows XP pro, and so my journey began.

Since then, I’ve created websites on all three major platforms: Windows, Linux, and Mac. The simple truth is that once you get used to and/or customize the environment, each OS can be used quickly and efficiently for just about any task you could imagine. I can be productive in just about any environment as long as I can install some relevant software.

This means that from my perspective as a user, there’s nothing wrong with Windows. Okay, Windows 8 really needs the start button back. Other than that, Windows has always served me well, with a little bit of maintenance. God knows Linux has crashed on me often enough. You don’t even want to know the words I’ve used to describe Apple’s little beach ball.

Why, then, is Windows treated like the red-headed stepchild of the design world? I suspect it’s because us nerds tend toward fandom and/or idealism. Besides, Microsoft is often just too easy to make fun of.

With many designers and coders so far removed from the Windows environment, WDD asked me to write about what it’s like to design on Windows. I shall try, dear readers. I shall try…


I get jealous

I’m not going to lie. I get the Mac envy often enough. It’s not just because my experience with a Macbook was so… smooth and fast. It’s not just because Apple hardware is so very, very pretty.

It’s because… well… Macs just get more love in the form of really awesome apps! Oh, Windows has more of them, but the Mac apps… I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to try Coda. I’d drop the money on it in a heartbeat if it supported Windows or Linux.

Or how about Hammer? Seriously, I am getting a little tired of PHP includes in my static sites. I love the concept, and I want to try it… but I can’t. All I can do is read Elliot Jay Stocks’ testimonial about the app and weep on the inside. (Incidentally, you can sell me almost anything if you can get Mr. Stocks to say something nice about it.)

I could go on, but suffice it to say that I’d be a lot poorer if some of these app developers would go cross-platform.


Windows makes things easy… sometimes too easy

Windows is cool in the way that there’s an installer for everything. Before I got over my fear of the terminal, there were technologies that were downright inaccessible to me, except by automated installer. Being able to simply install and run a server with a couple of clicks got me started with using WordPress, and other content management systems, where I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

Times have changed, and I recently installed and configured Apache, PHP, MySQL, and PHPMyAdmin all by myself (I’m a BIG BOY!) on an Arch-based Linux system. I’d have never been able to do that, though, if someone hadn’t made XAMPP easy to install on Windows.

Just the other day, I wanted to try out the new blog platform, Ghost. It’s built on Node.js, though, and I wanted to try it out quickly without figuring out how to make Node.js work on Windows. Fortunately, the lovely people over at Bitnami made an installer for it.

This can backfire, though, whether you’re on Windows or Mac. Making things too easy can cause people (i.e. me) to rely on some technologies without delving deeper and learning more about them. I could write books filled what I still don’t know about servers, for example.


Okay, but what’s the best thing about designing on Windows?

Not having to mess about with file permissions. Ahhh… I’m kidding. Windows has its benefits. There’s ease-of-access to new designers and front-end-developers (with a little research), an over-abundance of software to try out (even if I still want Hammer), and its community.

Seriously… Windows nerds are pretty helpful.

But the best thing doesn’t have anything to do with the actual software. Being stuck with Windows early on forced me to realize that a designer’s most important tools are all in his head. Software comes and goes, but the principles of design, mental discipline, and truly creative problem-solving will always be with you.

God, that sounded trite; but it’s true.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go turn my computer off, and then on again, for no apparent reason other than the fact that it seems to fix everything.

Can you design on Windows, or should you use a Mac? What are the benefits of working on Windows? Let us know your views in the comments.

Featured image/thumbnail, uses different image via Shutterstock.

  • Matt Clark

    I use Windows for one simple reason, it’s cheap.
    I know mac’s are fantastic, and they look great. But they are also “designer” computers. A large chunk of their price isn’t based on the hardware, it’s the name you’re paying for.
    A custom built PC of similar, or superior performance can cost around half the price. And as a self employed freelancer, that is the most important factor for me.
    (don’t get me wrong, I’d love a mac, but I just can’t justify the extra cost as it’s not going to bring in any more revenue for me)

    • mcpcguy

      I agree, you can do the same thing on a Mac or a PC. It is not the tool, it is the artist behind it that counts… As a freelancer too, it is not justifiable to have a Mac… There is not added benefit on the end result.

      • Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

        Out of interest, how do you test sites if you don’t have a Mac as well as a PC? Do you rely on simulators?

      • Matt Clark

        The majority of my clients are small businesses with relatively small scale websites.
        I build fully html/css validated websites and rarely have any platform specific issues.
        I actually rely on friends in the industry using macs to test my websites as I don’t have access to them.
        They’ve yet to come back with any issues that need fixing though and none of my clients websites have more than 10% traffic from OSX so its not really something I’m personally overly concerned with.

      • Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

        I think the actual percentage of Mac users is currently closer to 7.5%, although that’s obviously going to change depending on who you’re targeting. I think it’s probably a lot higher in North America.

        Personally, having run IE and Safari alongside each other on the same screen and looked at the different implementations of web-standard HTML and CSS first hand, I wouldn’t be comfortable without testing on both.

      • Matt Clark

        Oh, I test all the browser version available on my windows. Chrome, IE, Safari, Opera. And past versions.
        I simply can’t test cross platform as I don’t have access to a mac.
        I figure if its working perfect on all mentioned browsers, iphone and ipad, the chances of there being a disastrous break on mac is small.
        Like I said, to date all my sites have had a once over by friends on macs and they’ve yet to find an issue.
        Ideally I’d have a windows PC and a Mac, but the day that my bank balance can justify that has yet to arrive!

      • DCDS

        if you have an intel cpu you can install osx via oracle virtual machine

      • TestShoot

        90% of people in a Starbucks are on Mac, 90% of the enterprises I work in/for (Fox, Yahoo, NFL, Herbalife, Experian, Walmart) use PCs. Therefore the unemployed use Macs ;) (said tongue-in-cheek of course)

      • Christopher Payne

        There are great tools like Browser Stack to help with that problem. Also, dual booting a Hackintosh or visiting the local university/library is the other way around this.

      • Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

        That’s a great solution for students, but for the amount of time you’d lose travelling back and force to fix a CSS bug, you’d be far better off spending $200 on a second hand iMac.

      • Christopher Payne

        BrowserStack is in your browser and has development tools installed if you prefer not logging off. I think booting up a second machine and running it on that would take just as much time as booting an hackintosh and it only requires one machine. Traveling to a remote location is the alternative for those who are not looking to dual boot their machine.

      • Mike Burroughs

        The issues with rendering websites reside specifically in the browser’s rendering engine itself. By testing Chrome on any platform, you’ve pretty much tested Chrome, Safari and more recent Opera releases on Mac and Windows since they all use webkit. The only OS difference would be font rendering, mainly with smoothing.

        As for the Hackintosh conversation, a decently powered machine can sufficiently virtualize any OS. If you’re going to go through the trouble of building a hackintosh, it would be significantly easier to just create an OSX VM.

        Also, There is BrowserStack and Adobe BrowserLab if you’re into that.

      • Matt Clark

        If you can find me a second hand iMac for $200 I’d be impressed! (assuming it’s not 10 years old or bricked)

      • Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

        Not 10 years old (for a few months) and only $52:

        You will have to collect though ;)

    • Andrew Nyland

      You aren’t really paying for a name, you could be, but you are paying for security, depency, and for a guarantee. Anybody can use a mac, and when you buy a mac (from Apple directly), you are guaranteed that it will work. You won’t have any hardware or OS compatibility problems, and you don’t need any IT experience. At least half of the people that I know who use windows daily are frequently having problems with their computers that they don’t understand (even if they have IT experience), and some of them occasionally have viruses, even though they are constantly running Sophos and other security software like that; I’ve never heard of a mac user who has gotten a virus (not including the ones who use illegal downloads which are insecure). However, most of this does not apply to designers, so price is a good thing to go for if you are willing to work with a custom build or just a plain PC.

      • TestShoot

        When you are 90% of the Web traffic, chances are people will target you. If the roles were reversed, Macs would be just as infected.

      • Mike Burroughs

        In a few years, Mac will be experiencing much of the same security headaches as Windows. It’s a popularity contest.

    • James

      Spot on. Manufactured desire & planned obsolescence are areas apple excels in, and which far too many people fall for.

      I am yet to hear a substantial argument that concretely puts one OS above the other (other than price, of course) and I am yet to find a design task that I can’t achieve on either platform.

      At the end of the day, a crap designer is going to be crap on a mac or a pc. OS has little to do with it. To each their own.

    • bgbs

      I kind of disagree. Mac hardware is not cheap. You’re not paying for the name only. When I hold a windows laptop made by common manufacturers, all of them feel cheaper in the hand than holding and using mac laptop. The plastic shell looks cheaper, the keyboard feels cheaper, and opening and closing the laptop feels really clumsy. When my friend brought to me his 6 month old windows laptop, I couldn’t believe how old it felt. The plastic squeaks when you press on it, the hinges that open and close the laptop already make the screen shake. I mean, after six month, the laptop already looked like it was running on its last leg. So no Matt, its not in the name, its in the quality of the hardware. Mac’s quality hardware is what made its name.

      • James

        LOL that’s amazing that you are able to tell the quality of something’s hardware by examining its case…

      • Ivan Pacheco

        I have an Ultrabook (Lenovo) with unibody aluminium case. No screw in sight. The tech specs are very similar to any MacBook. However, I’ve saved half the price because there’s no an Apple logo on top.

      • Matt Clark

        Of course a cheap, plastic case laptop is going to feel like that.
        And I will be the first to admit that macbooks are probably the most well made laptop cases out there.
        But you can get premium windows laptops with cases that are built to very high standards, using aluminium (most are pretty much copies of macbooks) that feel just as good and are a fraction of the price.

      • Christopher Payne

        My HP Pavilion laptop literally has most of the same hardware (different motherboard and fans) but cost $600. The case should have been built better but when I upgraded it last year, I bought the same ram sticks that a Mac Mini uses. If I wanted to upgrade the processor… same processor as the Mac Mini.

  • Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

    I think it’s yet another legacy of print design; you really couldn’t design for print on a Windows machine 20 years ago. But that was 20 years ago. It’s ironic that Macs are now seen as credible programming tools but PCs haven’t seen a similar change in how they’re perceived.

    I personally use a Mac, because I can run MacOS and Windows on it, and you can’t do the same on a PC. From a testing perspective alone, needing just one machine to preview work saves an enormous amount of time.

    Ultimately any kind of digital work is affected far more by the machine it’s viewed on than the machine it’s built with.

    • Kevin Johansson Candlert

      You can run OSX on a ‘normal’/home-built, call it whatever, PC – It’s called hackintosh most features works without problem and few people notice that it is a hackintosh.

      Also most applications today have a OSX version and a x86 windows version.

      • Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

        Or I could buy an actual Mac and have all of the features work?

        A PC is certainly an option for students or those on a budget, but realistically a Mac is not expensive when you consider that you’re earning your living with it. Given the lifecycle, it’s about $260 per year so I don’t buy the ‘Macs are expensive’ argument.

        The bottom line for me (and I suspect many others) is that whilst the technically proficient can do anything on either machine, the learning curve on a Mac is less steep, particularly for those people who learnt on Macs at college.

        Can design work be done on Windows? Yes. Can design work be done on Windows by *me*? Probably not.

      • iDon’tHaveAName

        Wait, so a Mac has an easier learning curve if you’ve already learnt to use a Mac at college?
        Am I missing something there or does that just go without saying?

        Also I’m yet to meet someone who can’t figure out how to use a windows machine. They’re not the LHC. You click on what you want to use.

      • Benjie — WebdesignerDepot

        There’s a comma in that sentence.

      • Christian Nielsen

        The only reason that you can’t install OSX on a PC is that apple won’t license their software for use on other hardware, that hardly seems like a benefit over Windows which Microsoft will license to anyone for use on any hardware including a Mac. This just supports the assertion that you’re paying for a name.

        Regarding the learning curve, when I use a Mac I can’t find anything because I’m used to working in a Windows environment. Even running an app that isn’t pinned to the task bar is challenging.

      • DCDS

        you can install OSX on a pc you just need an intel processor…..

  • Ramón Ramos

    SublimeText is cross-platform. Coda has nothing to do against that kind of workflows.

    • EzequielBruni

      Good to know I already made the right choice. :D

    • Ben White

      SublimeText is great! I love that it has everything I need for website project management, but without the extra stuff that is almost never needed (I have better tools for the extras anyway).

  • Pavel 2Nine Antolík

    I was raised on Windows, now in my new job I chose Mac over Windows just to learn how to work with it (and yeah – partly because Mac is considered to be the right machine for designers), but to be honest, I really can’t figure out any significant reasons, why should be Macs better than Windows. If you do know any reasons, please, share them with me, I’m generally curious. To me it seems like both systems do have their brighter and darker sides and it’s just a matter of personal preferences, which one to choose.

    • Andrew N

      The reason I can quickly think of is that Macs are far more secure.

    • James


    • Mike Burroughs

      The only reason I can think of is actually the web server that is built in is Apache, the same server Linux typically uses. This means that the transition to localhost dev testing to hosted production is pretty minimal. Windows, however, uses IIS, which is quite a bit different.

      The security argument is not quite as valid anymore as Windows is getting more locked down, and Apple’s main argument of security was brand obscurity, which they’ve lost.

      • Pavel 2Nine Antolík

        Well, yeah, but forget the servers, we are speaking about getting design jobs done :)

        (Just a side note: On Windows you can install WAMP, XAMPP or similar solution, makes developing on Apache quite easy. But I have never worked with Apache on Mac so I really can’t compare.)

        I kinda agree about the security (well, how many viruses are there for Mac, besides other stuff), anyway – we are still talking about design, not common features :)

      • Mike Burroughs

        Yeah, though, at least for me, the development sort of goes hand-in-hand with design since I’m heavy in app UI/UX. And WAMP is certainly a fantastic tool if you want to develop for Apache on Windows, though it comes with limitations. Honestly, I design on Windows and test on CentOS Minimal, since I can also test surrounding apps in the stack, like APC and IPTables to optimize every aspect of the design. Way I figure, if production is Linux, test needs to be Linux to preserve the stack.

        As for the actual design part, Mac is easier for non-tech people. That and the displays are great IPS panels. I think it comes down to not having to configure and shop and wonder if it will be up to the task of designing. Personally, I always choose Dell.

  • henrik mandelbröd

    Design, yes.

    However the overall act of creating comes together better on Mac due to OS X being Unix-based, that makes Mac the go-to platform if you do any development on the side as well.

    • bradwestness

      Reality disagrees with you on that statement: the vast majority of consumer-grade software is written for Windows, in Windows.

      • Ramón Ramos

        The vast majority of consumer-grade software is now mobile software. Developed for Android (usually Java), iOS (ObjC) and HTML5. Not for windows, and rarely in windows.

      • dizko107

        There are many frameworks where development is done in a non-native language and compiled down to Java/ObjC. I do all my development on Windows, even iOS app development.

    • dizko107

      What type of development are you referring to where unix is a requirement?

      • Mike Burroughs

        I would guess server-side applications, as most SaaS applications run on Linux servers due to cost and security, as well as flexibility.

  • Adam

    I’ve been designing and developing websites & apps for nearly 15 years, and a Windows computer has always been my main tool. We used Macs in school, I even used a Mac at my old job. However, at home – the place where I do my best work, I use a computer. A computer more powerful than what Apple has to offer.

    A couple of years ago, it was time for me to upgrade my hardware to something a little faster and more efficient. I had thought about what to go for – for over 2 months. I looked a reviews upon reviews.

    I was torn between a 27″ iMac with all the works, or getting a customised Alienware computer again – with all the works. It took some deciding, but then I saw the price. Take 2 iMacs and put them together, and thats the windows computer i’m running today.

    A lot of designer friends have macs, i’ve used macs at work.. and I always come to the question of why are more and more designers & developers are going the mac route. Simple answer from the majority is that they look nice, they’re fast / smooth and what knot. Don’t get me wrong it’s definitely some form of brain washing technique being used because there is NO designer out there that can do something on a Mac that I can’t do on a Windows PC.

    In essense, it’s all down to personal preference, some designers use fireworks / illustrator to design websites. Because they prefer those tools.

    Yeah even though that is wrong, with a mac and pc however, its simply a prefered tool to use. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to designers / developers using a Mac or a PC. And any designer / developer that says a Mac is better, is ultimately – stupid!

  • Ivanov Karmazov

    I am a designer/developer. I have to say that for design, Macs are great machines. For development… not so much. My personal opinion. I just can’t seem to get used to all the extra steps it takes to get things done on a Mac.

    For now, I will stick to my PC for Design and Development. I will continue to use my Mac for other things. Like… facebook.


    • anami

      I’ve used Linux (Ubuntu) at home for several years until I got a Macbook Air and I was very productive using that. At work, it always has been Windows and I get annoyed when people diss Windows just because it is Windows. Why would the majority of the world continue using it if it was so bad?? Windows is easy and you are able to gets things done easily.

      All of my money comes from using a Windows machine and there are tons of free software. TortoiseSVN is just so cool.

      I got the MacBook Air to develop iPhone apps and I have to say I was pretty disappointed. Sure it is fast and silent but you have to pay through your nose for software that you’d get for free on Windows and Linux.

      All the X11 apps, like GIMP and Inkscape (my graphics tools of choice) look ugly, more like they are old Windows 3.1 apps or something. You’d need to configure your keyboard to input an hash (#) symbol (where is it, anyone?) and how the copy and paste from OS X to X11 apps work.

      Apart from these gripes I love my Macbook but I just wish it was ‘free’ as Windows and Linux.

  • dj2lip

    I’ve used Windows from the beginning and it had mainly to do with gaming and budget. As I don’t own a console, I still rely on my PC to play games occasionally. Last year, I’ve bought a macbook for when I am on the go and now I have the best of both worlds. Especially since using Adobe Creative Cloud, I can use all their tools on both machines with the same license. Most of my work is done with Sublime Text and a few cloud tools, so I am not really married to either Apple nor Microsoft. There’s pros and cons for both sides, so whenever someone wants to start a Apple vs. Microsoft debate with me, I normally try to escape as fast as possible. I work on both systems and I am happy this way.

    • Ben White

      Yeah, I have a similar setup, and I agree. These days, it’s mattering less and less (unless you use a lot of exclusive software, which I purposely avoid).

  • Minnix

    I’m a designer and I never used a Mac.

  • bradwestness

    There’s nothing you can do on one that you can’t do on the other – the most popular design tool, the Adobe suite, is identical on both. Macs are literally just “designer” PCs. It’s like asking if it’s possible to drive to work a Jaguar and also in a Honda Civic.

  • JakeU1701

    There is something else that was not touched on in the article, but will prolly upset some Mac Only folks. You can build a PC for half the price of a Mac and install the Mac OS. Enter Hackintosh.

    Mac OS, half the price, build what you want, within a certain but large hardware set that Mac OS will recognize.

    The other option is to build a supped up system and run Mac OS in a virtual session.

  • ikkf

    I used to be a Mac person, but all the work I was doing at the time, which was non-design-related, was on Windows, so I switched out of practicality. Plus, all the good games were made exclusively for Windows then. I do design work now and a well-spec’d PC can run graphics stuff as well as any Mac.

    For the design work I do, I prefer viewing my content the way the majority of users are going to view it–on Windows.

    I never could understand the pretentious religiosity and resulting jihad that goes on between PC and Mac people. In the end, it’s just a bunch of pixels on a stupid little rectangle.

    • Andrew Nyland

      “In the end, it’s just a bunch of pixels on a stupid little rectangle.” True, but that little bunch of pixels on a stupid little rectangle creates a lot of people’s paychecks.

      • ikkf

        Yeah, but we aren’t exactly curing cancer or ending world hunger.

    • James

      “For the design work I do, I prefer viewing my content the way the majority of users are going to view it–on Windows.”

      So true.

  • Tim

    Why use a Mac for design? One word: Pixelmator

    • EzequielBruni

      That’s another one that makes me jealous. I have no problem admitting that.

  • Joe Vale

    Windows and Mac are just tools. Design is not about tools. It’s about how to use them.

    • les

      Yes. It. Is.

  • Ben White

    A lot of designers I know use Macs because, in most cases, they really do “just work.” While there is always maintenance and such, they like that they *almost* don’t have to worry about most security issues, malware, etc…, and that any software or hardware issues can be “quickly” fixed by a visit to their local Apple store. They like that buying a new computer (or a screen or any other accessory) isn’t hours of price, feature, and quality comparisons, and instead is just the decision of which tier of Apple computers they want. Now, this way of thinking doesn’t really fit me, but I can understand how a less-technical user who wants to be able to just turn on their computer and go would prefer it. It’s just simple and quick, though at the expense of your wallet, of course.

  • lhrybyk

    I was a lifelong Mac user, illustrator, and designer and I recently had to upgrade my computer. Being in grad school and lacking money I reluctantly bought a new PC (it would have been double the cost if I got the equivalent mac). Honestly I am so glad I went this route. There is largely nothing I can’t do on this PC that I could do on my Mac. It’s also crazy that the Windows 8 interface is way more modern than the Mac has strived to be. Only trouble was reformatting all my hard drives.

    • Alan Ralph

      Interesting – you don’t hear many testimonials from people who’ve gone from OSX to Windows 8. I’ve used various versions of both Windows and OSX for years now, and have no problem switching between the two. I’ll admit I was a bit confused by Windows 8 when I first tried it, but that was mainly because the predominance of the Modern UI broke my normal work routine. I’m hoping that Windows 8.1 will be more to my liking, as it fixes some of the things that annoyed me in Windows 8.

      • Linda Mtthews

        I was a PC user from the mid-80s until a few months ago, and had built many, many web sites with no problem. However, when it was time to upgrade my system, I fell for the Apple marketing stuff and its avid users raving reviews. BIG mistake! I bought the 27″ iMac with 32mgs memory, 4 TB hard drive, top of the line graphics and video cards with dedicated memory, built-in camcorder and an external CD/DVD unit because it didn’t come with one. To make sure my equipment would work with the iMac, I Confirmed models of all audio/video professional equipment, including $3900 video camera, video editing equipment, headphones, etc,. and was told specifically by the sales person that all would work perfectly with the iMac. Wrong!!! Not a single piece of equipment was/is compatible with the iMac. Bought Parallels 8, installed windows 7 Pro, all of my windows software which now works, but still can’t use the video/audio equipment so had to buy a PC to work with it. Also ordered the adapter and cable for a 2nd monitor, and was told the price quoted by the salesman included both. Not so! When they weren’t in the shipment and I called Apple, I was told that they were not included in the price quoted, and when I asked for an itemized invoice to compare with the individual item prices quoted by the salesman — was told that was against their policy. Yes, the screen is bright and shiny, yes the email program is fast (but won’t permit me to add an attachment in PDF format when I place an order with a vendor, but the font size is so small it requires a mag glass, and when the resolution is changed to take advantage of the 27″ screen’s space — it degrades badly. The camcorder was horrible, blurry, and of such poor quality I have never used it. Also did not like that the bloat-ware, iTunes, garage band, and other stuff couldn’t be removed (although I later located a program that enabled me to do so). As for the software in their store — I won’t even comment! It wasn’t until I stumbled across a users forum only accessible to Mac owners that I discovered I was only one of many who had encountered some or all of the above issues.
        I now use it only in Parallels/Windows so I can use professional quality software unavailable for Macs.
        Bottom line: it was a very frustrating $3,500.00 learning experience; one I won’t make again. No way will there ever be another Mac computer in my future.

  • Mauricio

    A good designer CAN also design on paper!

    • Andrew Nyland

      Yeah good luck successfully sharing that with clients. Works great as a vector.

  • Sean Ryan

    My previous job was Windows. My current is Mac. I am happier with the latter for two reasons.

    1. Some really cool software for design is Mac-only. Did my designs suffer because I was on Windows? Probably not, but I do believe it might have been easier in the overall process if I had some of those tools at my disposal.

    2. The command line. As someone who codes, I love being able to use a cli that doesn’t suck. Can you get some of those things working in Windows? Sure, but it always felt kludgy to me when in actual use. Plus there was usually some sort of GUI in front of part of the process – particularly the install – when there just doesn’t need to be.

  • Elli

    I’ve never understood the obsession with Macs in the design world. Sure, they’re pretty, but overpriced, and won’t really make you any more or less skilled in your profession. Why not just build a custom PC for half the price? It’s very silly, consumerist nonsense in my opinion.

  • Ulrik Groth-Andersen

    I actually find Windows much easier to work on on a daily basis because of the fast ways for rearranging windows on the screen. Windows key + Arrow keys are extremely useful and makes it alot easier in my opinion than any of the thousand different mac os ways of handling windows.

  • Dale Davies

    It is not the tools we use which make us good, but rather how we employ them.

  • Rakel

    I’ve used Mac for years and really need a computer, but Macs are expensive. So, I’m probably going to keep using the frankenputer my hubby put together for me with Windows 7. Maybe upgrade the processor and add more RAM. Maybe someday I’ll get a Mac again. I really miss how superior the Mac’s render type.

  • Joenel Arroyo

    Technology is just a tool.

    • Andrew

      A rather important one, and relevant because I saw that you commented that.

  • anon

    Great article, I use a Mac at day job and a windows machine for freelance stuff. This is mainly because starting out freelancing I could never have afforded to buy a Mac. I got a laptop still powerful enough to run creative suite and have rarely had any issues! But my fellow designers have often looked down on me for not getting a Mac. I really do think you’re payijng for the brand more than anything.

    And as you say in the article, the best designs come from your creative mind, doesn’t matter which machine you use to bring them to life!

  • aguatemala

    I’m a designer and a developer, and it’s been about 10 years for me using Linux as my platform for everything.

    So far, I love working with Linux (Fedora, to be specific)

  • Cola Chan

    To tell the truth, Window-based designers are the majority in China.

  • Shin

    I prefer doing design on Macs because Mac screens are good

  • pic

    I have always used windows as it just happened to be the OS on the computer on our our house growing up. From going to college I have learned how to use Mac computers but I still prefer windows. I know, I KNOW. I have had some limited experience with linux although I have never built a site using it.:)

  • Gobi

    Its mac or windows, who is using it matters.

  • samson

    in the office: windows 8. at home: ubuntu 13.10, just for variety :) . mac users live in their little universe and a lot of them think there is no photoshop for windows :D . osx is too buggy for me. beautiful and buggy, and goddam the finder and the beachball …

  • FunKi

    Macs are just result of good marketing and design.. not technology

  • Alan Ralph

    I’ve been a PC user since the early 1990s, but have used both Mac and PCs for work over a decade now. To be absolutely honest, I don’t think there is nearly as much distance between Macs and PCs in terms of usability and reliability as some people think, and that gap got even narrower when Macs moved to using Intel processors. Macs can and do crash or hang, just in different ways to Windows. And yes, you should probably run an anti-virus on your Mac, even if it’s just to save the embarrassment of passing on a Windows virus to someone else.

    I made the move last year to an iMac, after suffering two PC failures in the space of just over a year-and-a-half. (I had just taken voluntary redundancy, so had the cash to hand to buy one). The transition was pretty painless, both because I already knew OSX and because I could easily install Mac versions of most of the software that I regularly use. With the addition of Parallels Desktop and a copy of Windows 7, I could also run the various Windows apps I still needed alongside my Mac software.

    The only thing that you absolutely do need a Mac for these days is if you’re looking to develop and test apps for iOS devices. For design work, Macs still have an edge but it’s a slim one. For everything else, it’s a dead heat.

  • Huemor Designs

    As designer (and now business owner) I set up designers with iMacs in our office. Why?

    The screen on the iMac is worth the investment (which is something people overlook) If you’re looking to get yourself set up with a color-perfect (or close to) monitor to rig up to your machine, the cost evens out.

    Having a good gamma range is essential to print work, and really helps on the web. Ultimately, pricing out machine to machine there’s a very marginal difference in cost once the screen is involved.

    At home (I try not to design / work at home, since I do enough of that.. at work) I use a PC. Why? The screen doesn’t matter to me because I’m not utilizing it as a work device, so the cost for a comparable machine from a computing stand point is far lower.

  • TestShoot

    PCs have totally bridged the gap thanks to cheap hardware, easy upgrades and all sorts of tools like color calibration. When doing FTP drops and flash drive transfers you don’t create wasted hidden folders and files ._filename.psd, .trashes, etc… I am usually platform agnostic, but when doing UI/UX for the Web, the vast majority of my clients see PC use so I choose to use the PC to write and test from. I just wish I had an app like Alfred for the PC, Tower and Cornerstone too.

  • disqus_BJsFqYUX7b

    I have used windows all my life for web design and for print design too. I use adobe photoshop illustrator dreamweaver etc. I dont see a diference besides that apple is “COOL”.

  • Steven Spassov

    Let’s just say that designing on Apple’s Retina Display MacBook Pros… Hand down the best experience you can have in designing. Sure, it’s just the cherry on top of a sundae, but damn is it worth diving into incredible resolution.

  • comrlr

    It is not correct to compare Windows with Mac, or Microsoft with Apple. The correct comparison should be Windows vs OS X vs Linux. Or PC vs Mac. MS is a software company that also makes some hardware. Apple is a hardware company that also makes some software. They are not comparable. PCs are not related to MS. PCs are devices that use IEEE, ISO, USB… standards (, the same as Macs. A Mac is the same as an US$2000 non-clone PC: quality components and drivers, plus an expensive video card. OS X is an Unix OS plus a GUI component, the same as Linux. Windows is an OS ready to be used with cheap devices (with sloppy drivers), no need an expensive video card. Mac computers ensures good quality and certified drivers, but you have to pay for it. Nothing magic. If you don’t like Windows, you can use a PC with Linux, or OS X if you have a powerful hardware including video card.

  • m8

    I’ve worked a lot on both PCs and Macs, everything from Windows 2000 to Windows 7 and Leopard to Mountain Lion, and I can agree that you can get everything done on both platforms. That’s not the issue at all!

    For me, I’ve noticed that Windows does things less elegantly when it comes to the registry, installations, and problems. When you have a problem with Windows, it’s often hard to explain what the hell is going on. For example: you boot your computer, and you have to wait 2 minutes before you can use your Wacom tablet. It’s a new computer, fresh installation, up to date drivers, and all that. No one has a clue about why this is happeneing. And many annoying issues like this that are really hard to fix and track down.

    On a Mac, if you have a problem, most of the time you can uninstall/reinstall something, delete a single preference file, reboot, or something simple like that, and it fixes it. Problems don’t stick around forever until you format. With Windows I had to format and reinstall about once a year, with my Mac I never had to do that.

    The other thing is how nerdy Windows is sometimes: they still want you to be able to do everything with the keyboard, which really can get in the way of using Photoshop, for example. If you press Alt, you’ll end up in the menu, and you can’t change this. Try using the Clone tool thousands of times a day and see how fun it is to have to stop what you’re doing and press Escape or click out of the menu hundres of times a day.

    Macs will often sacrifice legacy features (example: “you should be able to do every single thing on your computer even without a mouse”) in order to be more modern and forward thinking.

    There is no such thing as “one is better than the other”, it depends on what kind of person you are, really. Whether you prefer fluidness and good design or high controllability/customizability.

    The difference is not WHAT they do, but HOW they do it.

    • Ben White

      I agree with almost all of that, especially, “there is no such thing as ‘one is better than the other’, it depends on what kind of person you are, really.” People get too wrapped up into telling other people what they “should” be using.

  • pepebe

    If you have to test your designs on multiple combinations of Windows and Internet Explorer, I recommend setting up your private zoo of virtual machines. offers various ready-to-go images that you can set use on the system of your choice. Windows, MacOs, Linux, VMWare, Parallels, Virtualbox doesn’t matter. Virtualization of non-windows systems is also an option, google it… ;)

  • Dave

    Windows designer here, always have been and probably always will be. I cut my teeth with PS7 on a Pentium 4 machine running Windows XP. Nowadays I run Creative Cloud on my own custom-built Windows 8 machine and it absolutely flies. I get why designers like Macs – everything is pretty and there is a dedication to design in hardware and software that Windows can’t quite match – but when it comes down to it, my software runs just as fast or faster than if it was on a Mac, for less. I’m also not limited by MacOS, which from my experience (and YMMV) has always been slow and bug-ridden. I know it’s not the same for everyone though.

  • Yofie Setiawan

    I start my web design career from Windows Toshiba Notebook, and now i end up with iMac and Macbook Pro, the reason is simple, Apple devices have better display….

  • jarc100

    I use mac for one simple reason. Productivity. I used windows for several years and i remember all the annoying issues every time i was working with it.

    Mac’s are not perfect, but in my own experience they tend to be more effective and productive. Virus free since 2003.

  • Ashley Evans

    I greatly prefer Windows for designing just because of SPEED. I have both a Mac and a Windows computer, but because I was able to custom build my Windows PC, I was able to make it a lot more powerful for the exact same price as my Mac. My Mac easily gets sluggish, especially when dealing with large Photoshop files. But my Windows PC can handle it like a beast.

    I guess ultimately that’s just based on hardware and the fact that Mac computers are priced insanely because you’re paying for the brand, software, whatever. But it’s definitely something to consider.

    In terms of the actual operating system, I don’t really have a preference.

  • Carloskhali

    I know how to use mac for employment purposes but windows is better. I can fix anything myself if hardware breaks…sometimes even on a laptop. I have had macs and had problems. Same with a PC but the difference was, that I could fix all of my PC problems on my own. trying to fix a mac is like finding (and escaping) the temple of doom. And, once a mac is outdated…it’s over. With windows I can upgrade easily, install and remove easily. I think mac use is primarily based on brand recognition.

  • DCDS

    ultimately its best to use PC, better hardware, cheaper and more flexible for testing specially if you design websites Internet explorer is the most used browser and macs cant test on them. plus a tiny little margin of users use Mac OS the market is dominated by xp and windows 7 and after its short life win 8 has over taken mac osx already and became the third most used OS out there and will eventually grow to win 7s current status. and I don’t know why there are so many people saying that you cant boot osx from a pc when I do it daily through Oracle Virtual machine the only prerequisite you need is an intel cpu above or equal to OSX’s requirements. Apple is a fashion statement that’s all it does less than the standard at more than 3 x the price.

  • marsofearth

    For my self the biggest difference between OS X and Windows is font rendering and general graphics rendering.

    I know that Windows users will defend Microsofts choice of font rendering as superior and that clear text is just as good as OS X’s font rendering, but for me, and I am not trying to generalize here, for me the font rendering on Windows makes me irritable, and I have a hard time looking a large amounts of text on Windows.

    I personally like how fonts are rendered as I would see them in print. I know that I ‘should see’ what the font will look like in print on Windows, but it is a strange niggling in the back of my design freak mind that I personally can not get over.

    When someone rants at me that Windows is better can do more, I’ll agree 100%, yes, but not for me.

    When someone tells me I am brain washed into using OS X, I wonder about their mental stability.

    There are are some aspects of windows I do enjoy which is window management, the screen snap thing. I was so impressed I installed a windowing hack that copies that utility on OS X.

    As for development, whatever floats your boat and/or pays the bills, but for me once again, looking at heaps of text on Windows drives Me nuts.

    I have a Windows and OS X computers on my desktop, recently got rid of my big windows box for a nifty little NUC which I use for testing.

    People complain that Apple products are over priced, and there is less choice. I agree with the less choice. There is only one company who makes Apple products, Apple. And Apple products are only over priced if you do not value the Design of Apple products from Silicon to OS.