Why web designers should consider using a PC too

dell studio hybrid mini desktopI came across this post on Smashing Magazine yesterday, and while it offers some fine reasons for web developers to use a PC, I thought it missed a few too. Most of these venture into web designer territory somewhat, but I wanted to mention them nontheless.

What you see is what 95% gets

In my opinion, the main reason to at least have a PC around when doing anything for the web is that it’s the platform most of your end users will use. It allows you to test your products in Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome without the need for tricks or virtual machines.

Another thing (for designers) is gamma. Macs use a different gamma setting that makes everything look slightly brighter. While this looks nice, it’s not what the majority your audience will see. I’ve had countless discussion with Apple users about tricks to overcome this, but the easiest solution by far is to use a PC. Simply disable all color management options in Photoshop and your work will be displayed exactly as it will be to most users. This is also why in most cases a virtual machine with Windows won’t do. The gamma will still be ‘wrong’.


There’s plenty of great software on the Mac, but there’s no denying that Windows is the dominant platform in the software market. For every great OSX application there are at least ten on Windows. And usually a couple of those are pretty good. And in most cases some of those good ones are free. I’ve never come across a Mac application that I wished I could use on my PC. There’s always been a similar program for Windows that was either equal or better.

The post on Smashing Magazine highlights some of these tools, but what it comes down to is that software just isn’t a reason to use a Mac. There’s an abundance of great software. No other platform has this much choice, and choice is good.

About that ‘The best parts of Mac’ bit

vista logoYeah sure, you can install RocketDock if you like a bunch of icons at the bottom of your screen overlapping your windows. And Launchy if you were used to Quicksilver. But I’d encourage anyone to try Vista before trying to fix it. I love how you can press the Windows key, type a few letters and launch the app you’re looking for. I like things like the quick launch tray. Vista’s own user interface isn’t so bad. It’s adequate for launching the apps you need, and once you’re inside Photoshop it doesn’t matter what OS you’re on.

If you’re so attached to OSX’s icon dock you should probably just stick with a Mac. On the other hand, if you’re a little more pragmatic about what you need your OS to do, consider using a PC. It’s not as bad as Apple zealots will have you believe. Nor is it perfect.


  1. You know you can set gamma to 2.2 on Macs…. and/or learn to set Photoshop the right way.

    Comment by Daan — June 12, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

  2. Hmmm… I’m starting to feel you’re becoming rather OS-ist and prejudiced against Mac whilst you haven’t (to my knowledge) spent any substantial time on a Mac in recent years. You speak of “Apple-zealots” but you are sounding more and more like an “anything-but-Apple zealot”. I guess it’s (finally) making me feel a bit defensive (loooong after you got @YaWie “hardcore Mac-Fangirl’s” hackles up ) ;-)

    I agree with some of your points, but feel you’re missing out on a few reasons for using a Mac too.

    You say that designers on Windows can test in “Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome without the need for tricks or virtual machines”. This is true – you’ll need a virtual machine to test certain Windows environments/browsers on a Mac – but you CAN do it. On a Windows machine you can NEVER test an OS X environment / browser though.

    Before I switched, I shared your suspicions and prejudices about OS X. My idea of Mac / OS X was that it might look good, but it wasn’t going to be as handy as Windows. Indeed, lack of (free) software was one of my qualms. But I switched anyway (mainly because of annoying issues with my windows machines when doing presentations with video… Macs really do handle video better – believe me).

    It took me a few weeks to really get into a rhythm with OS X as my main computer, but I found that the aesthetics of the interface made me enjoy working on it more than I ever had on Windows. It made me FEEL more productive (although I don’t know if I actually AM). I spend a lot of time on my computer – so I appreciate it looking and feeling good.

    I also found that there are LOADS of free/shareware apps for Mac which look a zillion times better than the average freeware utility for Windows.

    As so many people say after switching: I don’t want to go back. I have personally never met anyone who switched to Mac and regretted it. Sure, there are some cons here and there, but apparently never enough to warrant a return to Windows.

    I’m not on a mission to make you switch (although I’d loove to hear your experience if you got the chance to work on a Mac for a solid 3 months or so… customizing it completely to your needs*). I suppose I just want to hear you say SOMETHING positive about Mac SOMETIMES.

    * I may have one for sale soon :-))… no I’m not switching back… just upgrading… maybe.

    Comment by suzero — June 12, 2009 @ 3:12 pm

  3. Hi Suzero. The intention of this post was not to bash Apple in any way. I’m glad they’re around and love how there at least are two platforms for designers to choose from. That’s why I didn’t go into things I don’t like about OSX. I just wanted to add a few (imho) valid points to SM’s post. Things I felt they missed.

    If I gave you the impression I’m on a crusade against Apple, let me assure you I’m not. I’d like an Apple on the side if they weren’t so darn expensive (or underpowered like the mini).

    It’s funny that I feel somewhat cornered here. I consider myself a minority among web designers for using a PC. Just like Mac users are a minority among computer users. This is probably why many Mac users are so vocal about their affection for OSX. And it’s probably also why I like to point out that an OS is merely a tool. I know very little people who talk about their power drill with near-religious fanaticism.

    All I’m saying is that there are compelling reasons to use Windows, as there are to use Macs. And even more to use Linux ;).

    Comment by Roy — June 12, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

  4. You are arrogant and stupid to think that people use only macs. i’ll never use an apple. one day you will grow out of it.

    Comment by fred — June 26, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

  5. Using a Mac alone is simple. Install Parallels and you can test right from your own local development environment. and virtual hosts. Setup Photoshop with the proper proofing settings. Done. Change the gamma to 2.2. Easy. There is no need for a physical PC. It would be a huge waste of money if the only thing you ever used it for was testing. Testing everything in one place is radically faster, easier and better. Change your code in the Mac editor of your choice (TextMate is nice)… command-tab over into IE7… reload.

    As for “religious fanaticism”… I thought you were not bashing? Name-calling sounds like bashing to me.

    Comment by Guy — June 29, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

  6. One advantage of a Mac for web design: using VMware Fusion, I can launch several different installations of Windows XP on the same computer – one for IE6, one for IE7, one for IE8.

    Since one can’t install multiple versions of Internet Explorer on the same installation of Windows, a Mac provides a great test machine. In the past I had to rely on hacked versions of IE which were more trouble to manage.

    Comment by Brad — July 21, 2009 @ 10:32 am

  7. I’m a web designer. I use a Mac, with Parallels and launch several installations of Windows, with IE6, IE7 and IE8. In other words, you really only need one machine — ;-) a Mac.

    Comment by Ian — August 8, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

  8. I’ve been more dissatisfied with adobe CS 3 and 4 on OSX than all crappy software I use on windows… From the start, it totally anihilated my desire to switch to Mac/OSX!

    First it was the PowerPC compiled CS3 on a intel quad macpro. Rosetta is great, but for demanding apps like After Effects, it kinda works but not that much! It took us sometime to figure out what whas happening, CS3 PPC on intel mac was a horrid production experience: crashing for no apparent reason, super slow, all kind of weird stuffs. I forced the production to upgrade to cs4 (yeah, x86!), they were really pissed, I somehow looked like a fool for complaining on all mighty expensive apple hardware running adobe products! Isn’t that what you prefer, you hipster motion graphics designer? I don’t care if it’s mac or windows: this is expensive and unreliable.

    CS4 is way better, but it still feels like a cheap port of the windows version, AfterEffect is way faster on vista (don’t believe me, google it!) and don’t get nearly as much memory errors and bugs!
    I’ve been experiencing serious slowdown running AE and photoshop CS4 at the same time on a dual i7 12gig of ram MacPro (I guess it’s an OpenGL problem), WTF: isn’t it supposed to “just work” and be the graphic/video plateform of choice!

    At home, I’m a windows XP64 users but at the office it’s 49%mac 50%windows and 1%linux… Apple exclusive apps are great: FinalCut is standard, iDVD, iCal, ect it’s great I love those! But for adobe stuff, basically what I use most, windows is a secret kept secret for good reasons, it would alienate a lot of graphic designers not fond of conformity/mainstream.

    Adobe invest more effort in their windows versions and it shows and feel, don’t believe me: I dare you to bootcamp win7, install CS4 and run some benchmark on stuff boderline in OSX! Sad, adobe and apple we’re supposed to be a match made in heaven!

    sidenote, I virtualize OSX in windows ;)

    Comment by Gbaron — September 23, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  9. The Adobe software is made for Windows and later ported to Mac (although it is tested pretty thoroughly). Performance wise, it runs better on an equivalent PC.

    In my mind, there are two reasons to choose Mac instead:

    1. The shortcuts and desktop environment allow some different approaches to be used when switching between open files. Faster? Easier? Maybe, depending on the user

    2. Better hardware. Macs usually have high quality parts. Their failure rates are pretty low and their support is commendable.

    Macs also keep a lot of their value if one decides to sell, but I do feel a lot of people have Macs just because they’re “cool.”

    Side note, if anyone thinks Macs are inherently cool, they should do some research on the Foxconn factory suicides.

    Comment by Andy — November 26, 2011 @ 6:07 pm