Why is Mac Better for Web Dev?

An objective case for why some web and WordPress developers prefer using Macintosh (Mac) computers for their work:

Positive case on why Macs are better for WordPress Development

  1. Unix-based Operating System: Mac OS is built on a Unix-based foundation, which makes it similar to Linux servers commonly used for web hosting. This means that developers can work in an environment that closely resembles the production environment, reducing the likelihood of compatibility issues. There is no need to run different operating systems within the Mac OS.  
  2. Development Tools: Many web development tools and software are available natively on Mac, such as Homebrew, a package manager, and Terminal, a powerful command-line interface. These tools can streamline the development process. 
  3. Security: Macs are generally considered more secure than some other operating systems. This is important for web developers who must safeguard their work and data. Here are a few reasons why they are more secure:
    • Unix-Based Foundation: Mac OS (now called macOS) is built upon a Unix-based architecture. Unix-like systems are known for robust security features, including user account privileges, file permissions, and strong isolation between processes. This design makes it inherently more secure against certain types of attacks.
    • Smaller Market Share: Historically, Macs have had a smaller market share compared to Windows PCs. This relative obscurity has made them less of a target for malware and viruses. Cybercriminals tend to focus on platforms with a more extensive user base because they offer more significant potential for widespread impact.
    • App Store Ecosystem: The Mac App Store provides a centralized, curated platform for users to download software. Apps in the App Store undergo a review process, which can reduce the risk of malicious software being distributed through official channels.
    • Gatekeeper: macOS includes a feature called Gatekeeper, which restricts the installation of apps to those from identified developers or the App Store. This adds an extra layer of security by preventing potentially harmful or unsigned software installation.
    • System Integrity Protection (SIP): SIP is a security feature restricting access to critical system files, even for users with administrative privileges. This helps protect the core components of the operating system from unauthorized modifications.
    • Regular Updates: Apple releases regular security updates for macOS, addressing known vulnerabilities and enhancing overall security. Users are encouraged to keep their systems updated to benefit from these patches.
    • Hardware Security: Macs often come with hardware security features, such as the Apple T2 Security Chip, which provides secure boot capabilities, encryption, and improved security for features like Touch ID.
    • Sandboxing: macOS enforces app sandboxing, which restricts the access and capabilities of individual apps, limiting the potential damage they can do if compromised.
  4. Graphics and Design Capabilities: If your web development work includes design elements, Macs are often favored for their high-quality displays and support for design software like Adobe Creative Cloud, Sketch, and Figma.
  5. Multi-platform Development: Macs can run multiple operating systems, including Windows and Linux, using virtualization or dual-boot setups. This versatility is valuable for testing websites on various platforms. 
  6. Community and Support: Mac has a large and active developer community. Finding solutions to common web development issues or getting support is relatively more straightforward. 
  7. Reliability: Macs are known for their build quality and reliability. This can reduce downtime and frustration for developers. 

Negative case on issues I’ve had with Windows and WordPress Development

  1. Compatibility: Web development tools and frameworks were primarily designed for Unix-based systems (Linux and macOS). This has led to compatibility issues when replicating a Windows development environment. Using WSL2 with Ubuntu is a subsystem trying to run a completely different OS. The translation from one to the other adds two more layers of complexity and countless extra hours to development time, delaying even the simplest of projects.  
  2. Command Line: The Windows command-line interface (CMD) lacks some powerful features and scripting capabilities of Unix-based shells like Bash. Windows now includes Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) and PowerShell, which try to provide more robust command-line options but often fall short of working directly in the standard operating system. 
  3. Performance: Windows requires more system resources than lightweight Linux distributions, which has been a concern for resource-intensive development tasks, causing slow local environments.
  4. Memory Management: Every time I need to refresh my local database, I need to run extra processes to reclaim space on the hard drive due to bugs in WSL. The process can take an hour, not including the context shift and setup. 
  5. Development Environments: Some integrated development environments (IDEs) and tools were traditionally more common on other platforms. My primary IDE, IntelliJ, works more smoothly and requires less configuration in a Linux-based system like macOS. Whenever I need to reconfigure the IDE, it takes 75% longer on Windows due to all the complicated routing involved. This adds days to typical setups and troubleshooting.
    • WSL has been a constant pain point in my day-to-day development. It slows to a stop every few hours, so I must restart the computer and re-run the local environments.
    • MacOS is the standard OS for web development, so wpVIP has geared its tools to work with macOS. While they support Windows, their support team is often at a loss for problems I encounter due to this Windows -> WSL -> Ubuntu system. I’ve often heard from their support team that “we have macOS and can’t replicate your problem.” This is not a wpVIP problem. No matter what vendor I used, it’d be the same situation.
    • Docker works with Windows but is developed first on macOS. The differences in support and functionality make this fact apparent. Docker runs much slower on a Windows computer and freezes up, needing an entire computer restart much more often than I’ve ever experienced in my 12 years working with Docker on a macOS. 
  6. Package Management: Windows lacks a native unified package manager like Linux’s package managers (e.g., apt, yum, or Homebrew). Package managers like Chocolatey or the use of WSL have attempted to improve package management on Windows, but because of the complexities of translating the Windows system to the Linux system, it has proven to be buggy and adds unnecessary complications. 
    • When adding packages like PHP to WSL, the IDE often gets confused with what PHP system it should use, the one in Windows or WSL Ubuntu. Cross-OS communication from these packages to the browser needs to happen, slowing down the whole system and adding more fail points.
    • Installing PHPCS, an industry-standard code validation software, has proven difficult for the reasons above. On a macOS, the installation is simple.  Last week, I spent 2 full days installing PHPCS after erasing and reinstalling my local environment. This could have been a simple task that takes less than 1 hour on a macOS.