I started web development on a PC, and one day decided to give a Mac a shot. It was a great decision because a new world opened up to me, and development became much more enjoyable. So to be fair, now that Vista is out, I had to give it a trial to see how convenient web development is on it. Here are the programs that I went with:

Everything installed fine, which was nice. The main problem I ran into was when it came to editing the hosts file. Due to security settings (setting that I don’t understand because I have all privileges) I was unable to edit the hosts file. It appears that you have to “hack” your way around to edit the file.

I discovered you could rename the hosts file to a different name without triggering security. So, I copied the file to another location, and renamed the old file. Then I edited the copy, named it as the hosts file, and copied it back. Used notepad as the editor for the entire operation. Source

As the tip suggests, I moved the hosts file to my desktop, edited it, and copied it back to make it work. Other than that, configuring my setup went fine.

So How Does it Compare to a Mac

I currently develop on a Mac, and love it. Here are the programs that I use:

Surprisingly, development on Windows gave me a similar feeling to that of a Mac. In some areas it was better, and in some worse. Here are some observations that I made.

JavaScript Debugging - Maybe it is just me, but Firefox is extremely slow on my Mac. For this reason, it is much easier to load up and navigate Firebug on my PC than it is on my Mac.

Text Editing - Everyone loves and will continue to love TextMate. In fact, a TextMate “clone” has been needed for the PC for years. Thankfully, Intype has entered the game. With frequent updates (a new release came out today) and an active community, we all have reason to get excited about this editor. So while TextMate and Mac get the vote here, the day where editing on a PC becomes equivalent to editing on a Mac is not far off.

Database Management - Navicat is a great program for both PC and Mac. I find the Mac version to be better looking and to make initial database connections quicker. Once connected, I find running queries, opening tables, editing tables, and similar operations to be much faster on the PC. If I had to choose one, I would choose the PC version right now due to speed.

Subversion - I hate subversion on Windows. I’m sure a ton of work goes in to the various programs, but I am never satisfied with the experience. RapidSVN is quick and gets the job done, but it still has the feel of an old school windows program made by a developer. It is free and powerful though, so I shouldn’t complain. This may be personal preference, but the workflow and interface of svnX gives Mac the win in this category.

The Server Stuff - MAMP and WAMP install just as easily, but I found MAMP to have a slightly better configuration. While I like how WAMP separates apache config files into small, organized includes I still found that getting my site up and running took longer on the PC. This could be partially because of the requirements of my site versus the default settings of both programs, but also because of problems with the hosts file, IIS, and enabling .htaccess permissions.

Intangible - I find expose to be easier to use than flip. Also, screenshots are easier to take on a Mac. And even though Windows has made some huge improvements, I still prefer the file system of a Mac as well as the general joy of using a Mac. On the other hand, the speed of my PC destroys my Mac.

What’s the Verdict

Right now, I’ll continue to develop on a Mac. I would say that most of the areas that the PC is better in are strictly related to speed. However, when Intype nears public release it might be worth giving the PC another shot. And if something were to come out for Subversion, the two platforms would be nearly identical for web development. Either way, a lot of us work or travel with PC’s, so it is nice to know that progress is being made for those times when we are without our Macs.

HTML Form Builder
Ryan Campbell

Web Dev on Vista by Ryan Campbell

This entry was posted 4 years ago and was filed under Notebooks.
Comments are currently closed.


  1. Kyle Korleski · 4 years ago

    I makes me feel better about not buying a copy of Vista.

  2. Wim Leers · 4 years ago

    Firefox for Mac is terribly slow indeed.

    But you can use Safar to debug JavaScript.

    And TortoiseSVN for Windows is the best IMO, and svnX is very bad when you are using Unicode filenames.

  3. Richard Davies · 4 years ago

    Have you tried Tortoise SVN? You may find it more pleasing to work with.

    Personally, I’ve fallen in love with using Eclipse as my editor. Check out the Aptana plugin—it’s a general purpose web developer plugin for Eclipse. There are also language-specific plugins for PHP and ColdFusion, etc. In addition, there is a Subversion plugin (Subclipse) that provides very nice integration.

  4. Arpan · 4 years ago

    I don’t know if it is upgraded for Vista, but I think that Tortoise SVN is probably the best SVN client for Windows. It directly integrates with Windows Explorer. I use a Mac, but set it up once for my friend, and was impressed with its features.

  5. Derek Punsalan · 4 years ago

    Curious why you decided to go with Intype? Is the undo function finally implemented?

  6. Ryan Campbell · 4 years ago

    Derek, yeah you can undo now. They released a new version today. It is still missing tabs, but once those are in it will suit all of my needs.

    I have tried Tortoise SVN, and I truly can’t stand that. I think it may just be a personal preference.

  7. Derek Punsalan · 4 years ago

    That’s great to hear they offer undo now. I’ll probably make the switch from Notepad++ since the interface looks so familiar when I put it next to TextMate.

  8. AlastairC · 4 years ago

    I’ve had similar experiences, especially with speed and Firefox (although I’m on a mini, which isn’t quite the 3GHz beast that my PC is).

    I haven’t tried SVN on the Mac yet, but I had thought Tortoise SVN was the only real option on Windows (at least for win-explorer integration).

    One thing you didn’t cover is the command line. Although I haven’t tried it in Vista, the WinXP command line is a shadow of the OSX/FreeBSD bash shell. (Unless you install Cygwin, which I’ve found pretty flakey). I find it very comforting when dealing with Linux servers to have the same shell and commands locally, especially with Fink installed.

    Anyway, good comparison, and probably about as un-partisan as it possible, thanks.

    Oh, and if you want a good text editor that’s the same on both, I’d go for jEdit. It’s Java based (thus a bit slow to start up, and it needs a bit of initial configuration), but for coding sessions with tabs, highlighting & code finishing I haven’t found a better option.

  9. Aleksandar · 4 years ago

    For screen captures, FastStone FastCapture is a-must. It’s a fantastic little utility - I have no idea is there something even close to it on the Mac.

  10. Alex Leonard · 4 years ago

    Maybe I’m missing something, but what about Notepad ++ this is my coding program of choice and I can’t really imagine working without it. Even just for the tabbed interface and the extremely useful dual pane view.

    What is it that TextMate and Intype have over this neat piece of open-source coding?

  11. Seb · 4 years ago

    I absolutely second Aleksander, the free FastCapture utility is absolutely great.

  12. Ryan Campbell · 4 years ago

    As for screenshots, I was just looking at out of the box capibilities. Cmd-Shift-4 for Mac is the easiest for me.

    Intype excites me because I get the impression that the team is commited to delivering a polished product. The type of product you usually see on a Mac. My problem with curent Windows text editors is both the bulk of them and the appearance. The more lightweight the better as far as I’m concerned. I was a huge fan of Notepad++, but I am beginning to lose interest in it. But obviously everyone has their own preference as far as a development environment goes.

  13. Alex Leonard · 4 years ago

    I suppose I should test out Intype (I have installed it but didn’t really go any further when I saw there were no tabs!) - has anyone tried out NVU? I installed it ages ago but never really tested it properly.

  14. Aleksandar · 4 years ago

    Ryan, I just went to try out RapidSVN, since I did not even heard of it. I briefly used Tortoise in the past, but never really took off with SVN at all. I’m really surprised how you can use this in any productive way. GUI application where manual path type is the only way to pick a path for copy or move?! And they call it v0.9.4? Simply unbelievable. Not to mention that even by typing I had no chance to actually make a tag - it throws “assertion error” and crashes.

    It’s a sad thing, because my problem with Tortoise is that it is Explorer-shell extension. I hate that and avoid Explorer as much as possible.

  15. David W. · 4 years ago

    In order to edit HOSTS on Vista you can navigate to HOSTS (C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts or likewise on another drive), right click, go to properties, then the security tab, and Edit the security permissions to give your user full control. Of course, this means poor security, so it’s not recommend.

    A better option is to run the app you want to edit hosts with as an administrator (right click, “Run as Administrator”), which gives you full access and is much safer even if you do have to put up with the UAC alert.

    For text editors, I finally pulled out the wallet and bought a copy of EditPad Pro, I loved it so much. For freeware, I’ve always used Notepad++, like a few of the other commenters. It’s a great app.

    For screen capture: Vista has an excellent screencap utility “out of the box” — it’s called “Snipping Tool” and is very handy! I haven’t needed to use any 3rd party screen capture tools since I found that.

    For installing Apache, et al. on a Windows machine, I’ve yet to find anything better than Apache2Triad. http://apache2triad.net/

    But you’ve overlooked the one HUGE benefit of developing on Vista! For those of us that do have to occasionally develop with .NET (not all my client use linux servers), IIS 7 that comes with Vista Ultimate is a huge step up from IIS on XP. It allows for an unlimited number of websites, just like the server version, instead of the just-one-website-at-a-time limitation that older versions had.

    @AlastairC — you’re forgetting about PowerShell. It makes bash look puny. Really.

  16. Curt Sampson · 4 years ago

    I loath TextMate, and for one minor reason that you’d think the developers would just fix and be done with. It has no concept on indentation, as opposed to tabs. We use 8-column tabs everywhere, since there’s no way of transferring tabstop information with a file in a way that will, say, let a simple “diff foo.rb.old foo.rb” produce properly formatted output when you have non-8-column tabs.

    But we use four-column indents. TextMate, unlike such terribly modern editors as vi and emacs, has no way of having the indent separate from the tab stops, and so is essentially unusable for editing our files. A quick query to the developers states that the have no intention of ever adding the ability to have separate settings for this, either.

    I have no idea about how so programmers can use this editor when such a basic programmer-centric feature is missing.

  17. Matthew Pennell · 4 years ago

    I use Aptana http://www.aptana.com/ on both Mac and PC for all my text-editing needs - for HTML, CSS and JavaScript it has code-completion and hinting, and for JS particularly it is phenomenally useful.

    I also use TortoiseSVN on Windows, but as I’m not generally working with anyone else I can’t really say I’ve stretched its capabilities.

  18. Peter · 4 years ago

    Check out PsPad for text editing. http://www.pspad.com/

  19. Dru Sellers · 4 years ago

    Everyone needs a hug. And you especially for the Intype heads up!

  20. Andy Kant · 4 years ago

    Like what Richard Davies said, try Tortoise SVN. Its a great program with a pretty good interface as far as Windows apps go. Better than the CVS variant of Tortoise anyways.

  21. Peter Gasston · 4 years ago

    @Alex Leonard: I wouldn’t recommend NVU for a serious coder. It’s more for the newcomers who want to build pages using the WYSIWYG interface, which is not bad. If you hand-code and use the built-in engine to preview, it reformats all your code; extremely annoying. Also, it’s not had any active development since it was released.

  22. Martin Sutherland · 4 years ago

    You mention speed of the apps quite a bit. Are you running Vista on the identical Mac with Boot Camp, or are you using a different machine? I’m considering buying a Macbook Pro, but most of my development work is on Windows, so I’m very interested in the speed comparisons.

  23. Bill W. · 4 years ago

    For the best screenshots on a Mac, you have to use “Paparazzi!”. Just drag the URL on top of the icon in your dock and away it goes. Best of all, it does page-fold crops or full screenshots (using webkit rendering) no matter how long that page is and spits it out to your choice of PDF, TIFF, PNG or JPG instantly. I couldn’t live without it.

  24. Ryan Campbell · 4 years ago

    Martin, it is on a different machine. But both computers are middle of the line systems that cost exactly the same. The Mac has a better processer, and the PC has more RAM, but both are average in all areas. It doesn’t make for an extremely accurate comparison, but it is all I’ve got. And I’m sure there is a point where the hardware is good enough so that both systems perform.

  25. John · 4 years ago

    For screen grabs on Windows - what’s wrong with the PrtSc key (or ALT-PrtSc for just the window in focus) ??

  26. Michael Geary · 4 years ago

    For an editor: get Komodo! Best programming editor I’ve used, and it runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. As of version 4.0, Komodo Edit (without the debugger and other advanced features) is free. Among other things, it includes live background syntax checking for JavaScript, Ruby, Python, and one or two other languages. Yes, you get red squiggly underlines for syntax errors and green squigglies for warnings. And Curt, it solves your indentation problem.

    BTW, did you know that these white-on-colors comments are barely readable?

  27. Michael Geary · 4 years ago

    For SVN: Never heard of RapidSVN. Everybody I know uses TortoiseSVN on Windows. It is excellent.

    For JavaScript debugging: The very best JavaScript debugger on any platform is Microsoft Visual Studio. (Yes, Microsoft!) Among other things, Visual Studio is not limited to line-oriented debugging. You can step through and set breakpoints on any execution unit, such as the individual components of a “for” statement.

  28. Ryan Campbell · 4 years ago

    Yeah, everyone says to use Tortoise. I am just not a fan of that type of workflow. I do like Microsoft debugging in Visual Studio, but I usually find that it is overkill for my quick fixes.

    Print screen is nice and all, but to get just a certain region you still need an image editing program. Unless I’m mistaken.

    The comments work pretty well on my laptop and desktop, so that is weird that they don’t show up too well for you. Anyone selse experiencing similar problems?

  29. Martin Sutherland · 4 years ago

    Good to know, Ryan—thanks!

  30. Michael Geary · 4 years ago

    “Yeah, everyone says to use Tortoise. I am just not a fan of that type of workflow.”

    Now you’ve got me curious - could you describe what you mean by “that type of workflow” - what it is you don’t like? Not disputing your choice, I just don’t know what you’re referring to.

    “to get just a certain region you still need an image editing program.”

    Um, well, yes, if I’m going to do just about anything with an image, I’ll probably load it into an image editing program (either Paint or Paint Shop Pro) anyway.

    “The comments work pretty well on my laptop and desktop, so that is weird that they don’t show up too well for you. Anyone else experiencing similar problems?”

    It’s not a rendering glitch or anything like that. It’s simply the use of a small font size with low contrast. I use a ThinkPad with a very high-density display: 15”, 1600x1200. That’s 133 pixels per inch, quite a bit more than a typical Mac display. Now, high density is a good thing with properly sized text - more pixels makes a sharper display. But the comment text is sized too small for easy reading on this kind of display. The low contrast makes it worse - for example, your most recent comment uses white text, which is less legible on many displays than black text, and it has an rgb(123,141,120) background. So it’s using only 50% of the available contrast.

    By way of contrast (pun intended), the text in this comment box and in the main body of your blog post is fine. They’re both a reasonable size. The blog text is black on white (100% contrast), and this edit box is rgb(51,51,51) on white (80% contrast).

  31. Carl Camera · 4 years ago

    Ryan. Check out the Vista Snipping Tool in the Accessories folder to capture parts of the desktop screen. I haven’t used it much but it sounds like what you’re looking for.

  32. Ryan Campbell · 4 years ago

    First, I dislike messing with windows explorer. But other than that, I just prefer a list with (M)odify, (A)dd, (D)elete next to the file names so I can get a quick glance. That is easier than folders with checks or minuses that you have to open to find the specific files edited. Also, I find the repository, and looking at old builds with drag drop file support much easier with svnX than with Tortoise.

  33. Michael Geary · 4 years ago

    Thanks for the info, Ryan. I will have to check out svnX sometime. (Pun intended!)

    I do most of my work on Windows these days for a reason that hasn’t come up in the discussion - I am a ThinkPad fanatic. I can live with either Mac OS or Windows - I spend most of my time in Komodo anyway, and it runs fine on either OS - but I won’t use a machine without a TrackPoint. And I really like that high density display! :-)

  34. David · 4 years ago

    Snarky Michael said:

    Um, well, yes, if I’m going to do just about anything with an image, I’ll probably load it into an image editing program (either Paint or Paint Shop Pro) anyway.

    Well, in that case you need to look at Gadwin PrintScreen. This free Windows utility is activated by the Print Screen key and allows you to grab just the part of the screen you want. Saves to either GIF, JPEG or (best) PNG.

  35. Michael Geary · 4 years ago

    Thanks for the tip, David. Was I being snarky? I didn’t mean to be. Sorry about that!

  36. Ron · 4 years ago

    EditPlus 2 is a great text editor for Windows, it starts up instantly, has tabs, built in FTP browsing, optional spell checker, auto backup, template manager, multi-file search, etc… It’s very fast and very customisable.

    I use both BBEdit and TextMate on a daily basis (mostly TextMate now) and I still prefer using EditPlus on any version of Windows.


  37. Emil · 4 years ago

    I’m going to switch my pc dev computer to a new macbook pro next week and I’m worried to loose firefox speed. What mac are you using? Is it intel based?

  38. Terry Apodaca · 4 years ago

    I know it’s like beating a dead horse…but for text editors there are several that will do the trick.

    Free: Notepad++ (my current of choice) Intype Crimson Editor EditPad Lite

    -There was one project that I stumbled on a while back. It wasn’t great, but it was getting there. I can’t find the link anymore (it’s logo was purple?).

    Pay: TextPad UltraEdit

    other OS: bluefish

  39. xasu23 · 4 years ago

    PS Pad is my choice..

    it’s free & havin all the featurs u want.


  40. Aeron Glemann · 4 years ago


    I will tell you, I normally prefer Safari over FF with my old PPC Mac at work because it is so much faster - even though FF has much better developer tools. At home though on a new Intel MBP I definitely prefer FF - it blazes! I’m not sure what this speed thing is about - just make sure you’re working with a recent version (I just updated from 1.5 to 2) that is compiled Intel or Universal binary. If you’re using a version of FF compiled for PPC it will run in emulation, hence slow.