Adobe programs and a POSIX compliant command line
For me, the biggest single advantage of OS X over Windows or a Linux distro such as Ubuntu is the combination of access to Adobe software such as Photoshop and Illustrator and access to a POSIX (Linux style) command line. This is a very powerful combination for a web developer who exclusively uses Linux-based hosting and open source software best run in a Linux environment.
This combination effectively gives me the key advantages of pairing Windows with Linux (if Linux could run Adobe software I’d probably try something like Ubuntu).
Having a POSIX command line may seem like a small thing, but it’s so powerful and convenient. Being able to use Linux style commands simplifies and speeds so many common development tasks.
It is possible to add a largely POSIX compliant development environment to Windows using tools such as Cygwin (which I did on my old Windows PC), but I find it much more convenient and less fiddly to have it natively supported by the OS.
Ability to perform common web development tasks natively
OS X supports SSH natively from the command line. The terminal app even has a built-in SSH GUI, no more need for third party apps like Putty or Putty Keygen. It also comes pre-installed with Apache 2.4, PHP 5.5, Ruby and git!
I think these inclusions really illustrate the extent to which OS X is designed with web development, and software development generally, in mind.
OS X is the de facto industry standard for PHP developers
When I was running Windows I’d often come across guides for using or installing some new development tool which were totally Mac-centric. Toward the end these guides would often say something like ‘This may work on Windows, but it hasn’t been tested’, or ‘This only applies to Mac users, Windows users please look elsewhere’. Then I’d end up spending hours trying to figure out how to make the tool run in my Windows environment - sometimes this was a huge nightmare.
The truth is for the kind of work I do - web development using predominantly open source software such as PHP, MySQL and Apache or Nginx - OS X is basically the industry standard development platform. This is largely because of the POSIX command line, which OS X shares with Linux hosting environments, and the ability to run Adobe software.
There are also a few applications which are useful in the design and development process which are developed exclusively for Mac, so it’s nice to have access to those now too.
Other advantages I’ve found since switching to Mac
Since switching to Mac I’ve also noticed a few more advantages which are less directly related to web development, but either improve my workflow or are just convenient or cool.
Bundled productivity software
OS X comes bundled with some great productivity software. Pages, Numbers, Mail and Calendar work great for me and are integrated into the OS, it’s really nice to be able to use this kind of software straight out of the box.
Useful built in backup tools
The inclusion of built-in backup software is great and convenient. Time Machine is integrated into the OS in clever and useful ways and just makes it easy to ensure all my work is safely backed up.
Not only that, but using the built-in tools rsync and Automator, I’m able to sync any important folders to my Dropbox account automatically every night.
To complete these relatively simple tasks on my old windows PC I had to install 2 third-party programs which just added to the complexity and bloat of my PC.
Great monitor included
This may seem kind of trivial, but since getting my iMac I’ve really been shocked at the improved clarity and colour reproduction over my old monitor, which I always thought was fine. Turns out I was wrong. There are definitely better monitors out there but the iMac screen is nice and much better than my old screen, it was nice to get a monitor upgrade at the same time as a computer upgrade.
There are undoubtedly downsides to using a Mac - increased initial cost, limited upgradability and needing to learn new UI conventions and keyboard short-cuts. Indeed my Mac is significantly less powerful than a similarly priced Windows or Linux based PC would have been. But for my situation and the kind of work I do OS X has provided numerous significant advantages over Windows and I’m very happy to have finally made the transition. I don’t think I’ll be going back any time soon.