Reader Feedback: Macs as a Superior Development Platform?

macDisplayWithBinarySo I need your help, dear readers. I’ve taken a new position at my big-boy job, and it’s throwing me back into the world of coding. As with the majority of businesses, ours runs on Dell PCs, but my new lead wants to change that (at least for our group). We’re a small enough company that a shift to Macs for a small group of us (who can support ourselves technically) isn’t out of the question. But we need some sound arguments to take to our owner as to why using Macs would be a superior choice for the new development practice in our group. Think you’ve got some solid input for us?

Ideally, we’ll answer two different questions here. The first would address the best arguments for using the Mac platform as our main development machines. What makes them a better, more flexible — even more cost-efficient — solution to our large, beefy, Dell machines that we’re currently using (in between blue screens). The second bit of feedback I’m hoping for, is what you’ve found to be your streamlined software configuration for such tasks. So let’s get to it.

I must confess, it’s been awhile since I could call myself something reminiscent of a code monkey. To be more accurate, it was before I was using a Mac full time (as an adult, that is). So while I’ve got a lot of experience with Macs, I’m not well-versed in the code development side of things in their current incarnation. Obviously, XCode rocks for the likes of app development for OS X and iPhone, but that’s not what I need. We’ll be working mostly in Java and SQL. Having tight access to the command line, databases, and code repositories will be important. Multiple environments (probably via virtual machine) will be pretty helpful, too. So these are the general parameters to form our Mac argument around. Go!

The other part I’d like to address is best software setups to achieve the above. NetBeans looks like a no-brainer for the IDE. (I am, of course, open to suggestions, hence this post!) But more specifically, how are you using the other tools like databases and virtual machines and such? Do you like to use the OS X in-built MySQL database and Apache web servers? Or have you found that installing them standalone or using the likes of MAMP results in a better set of options? Which OS X tools are useful, and which third-party tools are ideal? Basically, any firsthand experience as to what works best for developing on your Mac — even if it’s using some parts of Windows or Linux in a virtual machine — is what I’m looking for here. Should we win this little war of ours, I’d love to hit the ground running rather than reinventing the wheel.

As you may be able to tell, I’ve got my own ideas for some arguments. Perhaps some of the requirements I’ve listed are leading, but I’m truly looking for your experience and input. This really isn’t meant to spark another Windows vs. OS X flame war, so let’s please stick to fact and experience and leave the emotion at home. To that end, even if your feedback is that Windows has been better in your experience, let’s hear it! I’d love to use a Mac at the office, but if it’s not going to be the best tool for our needs, then I want to know that, too.

With Apple’s hardware slowly fighting the good fight in the workplace, I’ll wager that there are others out there looking for similar ammunition to take to their tech departments to get Macs in their own shop. If you’re looking for specific areas to strengthen your pro-Mac arguments, let me know those in the comments as well. If we get enough, we can do a follow-up article and try to get feedback for your needs, too.

A big thank you in advance for the valuable input that our reader base undoubtedly has to share.

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