I work in a b2b business and everyone here is on Windows PCs. A co-worker is pushing to move the design department from Windows to Mac. I worked on a Mac about 15 years ago when I worked for an advertising agency, but since then have worked on Windows because the companies I've work for have been all Windows.

What are the advantages as a graphic designer to working on a Mac.

  • One is having access to Sketch (Mac design program only)

What are some other advantages that I could look at?

10 Answers 10


*Disclaimer: I've been a Mac user for more than 20 years and still use a Mac daily. That being posted, I have clearly seen Windows close the gap in the areas where Apple was the frontrunner and the preferred system for designers.

15 years ago, using Windows was, at best, a lesson in frustration where design was concerned. There was a time where the Mac was far, far, superior, that's simply not the case any longer.

The only real differences any longer is that the Macintosh can run both the Mac OS and Windows without the need to "hack" an OS to get it running. Or perhaps that iOS dev can not be done on anything other than a Macintosh. And Windows Phone dev requires Windows. But those aren't really related to design specifically, those are more development issues.

Beyond that, it's all a matter of preferences and neither system is inherently better than the other today.

Sure Sketch may be Mac-Only, but Xara is Windows-only. It's all a wash for the most part.

In reality, for a good web design company, both the Mac OS and Windows are needed to test all browsers across platforms and devices. Whether you do that via OS emulators, virtual machines, or full systems is of little consequence as long as it's done.

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  • In reality, for a good web design company, both the Mac OS and Windows are needed to test all browsers across platforms and devices - well, in reality, you'll use something like Browser Stack, most probably. – Davor Aug 17 '14 at 18:22
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    No, Browser Stack is not real world -- it can be used as an approximation but it's not the same. A good web design firm is actually using the platforms to test. – Scott Aug 17 '14 at 19:00
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    You should mention that a Mac often (sadly) acts as credibility. "He has a mac so he is a good designer" – Pinoniq Aug 29 '14 at 13:47
  • @Pinoniq perhaps that's been something you've experienced, but it's a sad individual that judges based solely on technology used and not results performed. That's like a photographer taking what you think is an amazing photo that is unrivaled by anything else, then you find out it was taken with a camera-phone and retreat on your initial opinion. A portfolio and work experience will always outweigh image and people that think otherwise are children. Besides, true talent often lies in the individual, not the medium or tools used; a good guitarist can make a child's guitar sound good. – vol7ron Aug 20 '15 at 21:08
  • @vol7ron It seems you have had the luck to not work in large enterprise environments, especially the non-it ones. Friends and a good meal are the traits that will get you a job more often. – Pinoniq Aug 24 '15 at 8:11

I do primarily web design and web development so I will only add what I see. Only up to a couple of months was I an avid PC user and now I'm sold on Mac. In reality, hardware is basically the same and the only real difference you will see is that Mac OS is smoother than Windows from my experience in regards to maintenance, installation, and debugging.

So I will just point out what you can do on a Mac that you can't do on a PC and it's why I'm sold on Mac OS X.

  • AppleScript - a very powerful tool that can be used to automate almost every repetitive task.
  • Automator - you can create workflows, applications, services, and folder actions
  • Mission Control - sorry but if you're not working on several design projects and multi-tasking you're not working efficiently. With mission control I can cycle through multiple desktops to the particular project I am working on. PC doesn't have this. Also, for me to get the amount of desktop space I would have to invest in more screens.
  • terminal - by far better terminal capabilities than PC and everything can be accessed or coded through the terminal. I can literally drop a file in the terminal and it will give me details about it unlike PC.
  • Track pad - by far smoother and the magic mouse I can't live without right now.
  • Windows - As stated, with Parallels you can seamlessly run Windows programs and Windows OS. If you don't want to run Parallels you can always do Bootcamp.
  • Yosemite rename - you can rename, add, and format text in the application window now without having to add a 3rd party application.

That said, I don't know many hardcore coders that are still using PC only because how open Apple is (by that I do mean Unix-based per a comment) and what you can do with Apple development.

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  • At least two of your points don’t really relate to Windows vs. OS X, but to Apple vs. non-Apple hardware: mouse/trackpad and Parallels/Bootcamp (not that that’s wrong as such—the question mentions “Windows” and “Mac”, which is half and half). Also, could you clarify your last point? I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is you’re referring to there. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 2 '15 at 22:48

For designers, even I as a lifelong Mac bigot can say "not much anymore." The critical programs are on both platforms now. And Scott makes good points about Parallels and cross-platform browser testing.

The main benefit from my perspective is that the Mac OS and hardware are more stable and more uniform. There is only one Mac hardware vendor, and it's Apple. Everything is designed to work together. Period. I find the Mac OS to be more intuitive to work with and less prone to stupidities like "press Ctrl-Alt-Delete to log in."

Windows has mimicked a lot of the good features of the Mac OS, so it's not like you can't work on a PC, but Windows in general is not as stable. Plus there are approximately eleventy-gajillion PC viruses and, what, a dozen for the Mac OS?

I totally get why your designer wants to switch. If you can afford it, I would do so. If you can't, you can manage on PCs.

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To me, there is one huge feature that makes me prefer a Mac for design work: Quick Look. This allows you to almost instantly preview huge Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. files. You no longer have to wait for Photoshop/Illustrator to start up if it's not running, or wait for Photoshop to parse and open the file. This is really the only feature I miss when I am using a Windows machine, except for maybe the nice integration between multiple workspaces and the Apple magic mouse.

For some background, I have used a PC for my entire life and all of my personal computers run Windows. I started a job about 15 months ago that requires me to work on a Mac all day.

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  • You could use Bridge for your 'problem' ;) – Pinoniq Aug 29 '14 at 13:48

I want to stress a small but "it's all about" feature when we compare PC to Mac.

I mean aesthetic feeling. Subjective, but influencing and probably more interesting then just comparing the inside-hardware.

I aesthetically prefer my MBP, my iPad and my MagicMouse. I don't touch my PC (I use PC for a while, and Apple's only 2 years) just because I don't like its external look.

Can I say that my PC is beautiful or I feel more comfortable when I work on it? No, my subjective feeling prefers MBP etc just because I feel better when I work on beautiful hardware I like.

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  • There are, of course, also well designed computers for running Windows: asus.com/us/Notebooks_Ultrabooks/ASUS_ZENBOOK_UX301LA – DA01 Aug 17 '14 at 19:24
  • @DA01 after apple you mean? something that is has stolen design? will glad to see some of them :) I was sure you will post Asus :) their zenbook is a copy of mac... As I said "after apple" everyone is smart to create some slim nice pc :) – Ilan Aug 17 '14 at 20:03
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    Other's copy Apple. Apple copies others. It's how the industry works (or in cases of patent law, often how it doesn't work). – DA01 Aug 17 '14 at 20:27

Are you asking whether you should use OS X or Windows, or whether you should use Apple-brand hardware or Dell/HP/etc./home-built generic PC hardware?

Because if you're really comparing OS X to Windows, then lets be honest, you can run OS X on PC hardware fairly easily, although it's even easier to run Windows on Mac hardware.

But if you're comparing Apple hardware to PC hardware, I mean, if you're really a designer, then you shouldn't need me to explain the difference. It should be quite obvious. As a designer, I'd think you of all people would appreciate the primary advantage of Apple hardware: its design. If you think design doesn't make any difference, then why the heck are you a designer?!

For example: the Apple-brand trackpads (both the ones built into their laptops and the ones they have for desktop use) work phenomenally well. They work best in conjunction with OS X with the native drivers, but Apple's written fairly decent drivers for them for Windows now.

The cursor tracking in the Mac operating system has always been smoother, since 1984 until now. I've always found Windows to be kind of jerky and have noticeably worse input handling for mice and (especially) trackpads. Apple's laptops have, by far, the best trackpads of any brand, and once you get used to how you can use gestures for many tasks on Apple's trackpads you'll never, ever want to go back. Especially as a designer, where precise control of the cursor is very important, I think you would appreciate this.

Also I really like the stability and performance of OS X. Being based on unix it has a number of advantages. Windows as an operating system is just not as solid, performance wise, except when it comes to games. Macs simply handle multi-tasking and running tons of programs at once a lot better than Windows.

Another thing is licensing issues. If you have a Mac and you want to upgrade your computer at some point, or if your computer dies, you can just take the hard drive out of the one computer and pop it into the other computer. Or if you're using a Retina MacBook Pro or Air that has the built-in SSD, you can restore from a backup very easily without worrying about your motherboard drivers being incompatible and Windows just blue-screening on you. Or you run into the thing where your Windows was licensed just to the OEM maker of your last computer, and won't work on the new system without buying a new Windows license. Even then, good luck getting your motherboard drivers from the old system to work on the new one! This can really be a nightmare!

I deal with Mac and Windows both at work. I'm an IT professional, a designer, and a programmer. All of the professional web developers I know do everything on Macs. There are a lot of other reasons for it.

Of course there is a lot of bias against Macs out there, and you will run into lots of ignorant people who simply don't understand. They hate Apple for reasons completely unrelated to reality. Personally I think it's because they are mentally incapable of perceiving the difference.

Also there is a strong argument for just going with what you're most familiar with. If Windows is what you've always known and loved and used, then OK. It's not THAT bad. There are some things I like about Windows better, but nothing worth mentioning. If you combine that with being mentally incapable of perceiving what the things are about Apple's hardware and software that are better, then well, you have a result where the person is better off sticking with Windows.

Remember though that VirtualBox is free and with the power level of today's computers, you can run Windows XP or 7 or 8 or whatever right alongside your Mac system and it works flawlessly. It's not emulation, it's a virtual machine running native on your Mac's CPU. I'm pretty much always running Mac and Windows at the same time on my MacBook Pro for web development purposes and testing.

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  • "It's not emulation, it's a virtual machine" err..what? "In computing, a virtual machine (VM) is an emulation of a particular computer system." – JohnB Aug 17 '14 at 13:13
  • "you can run OS X on PC hardware fairly easily" = but not legally--which, alas, most companies have to consider. – DA01 Aug 17 '14 at 19:15
  • @JohnB technically, virtualization and emulation are different things: griffincaprio.com/blog/2006/08/… – DA01 Aug 18 '14 at 15:56
  • @DA01 Yeah this is true, I guess I did not know that it was considered illegal to run Mac OS X on PC hardware. Yet another reason to just buy Apple hardware. I do wish Apple would put out some inexpensive tower-style computers for those of us who want lots of hard drive and optical bays, and PCI slots. Or just put out some Apple-endorsed logic boards for BYO folks. – CommaToast Aug 18 '14 at 20:08
  • @CommaToast yea, that'd be nice, but was already done once by Apple and didn't work too well for them. FYI, a mini is a fairly capable, inexpensive box. You just have to use external drives rather than internal (which I tend to do for all my machines these days...whether running OSX or Windows). – DA01 Aug 18 '14 at 20:10

In the past, Apple has always marketed towards graphic design, being the first OS to have crucial design programs like the Adobe Creative Suite and widely used 3D software, iMovie and the like. They tailored their hardware to be most powerful when used for design. Faster render times, fast load times for things like Photoshop documents. When someone made a design program, it first released on Mac. Windows on the other hand was and is very powerful for large corporations. It's the go to choice for large companies because of powerful tools like Active Directory and Windows Server, SQL Server and such. Nothing comes even close to that in a Mac environment. Microsoft works closely with it's customers to provide extensive support and custom implementation of a work environment. Apple doesn't have anything like that.

But Windows 7, (and especially 8) is not very user friendly, does not have that sharp, clean look the Mac OS has, and can be difficult to learn. The Mac OS is designed to appeal to everyone, and us graphic designers do not want (at least I don't want) to be using an ugly, unfriendly environment like Windows. The Mac OS definitely looks much better than Windows and can be used for very streamline productivity.

A couple things you want to consider is the hardware. Macs are extremely expensive. If you're working in graphic design, then you'll most likely want to use Mac Pros which are very customizable and offer very powerful hardware. At an extreme cost. Each Mac Pro, to meet the demands of your job, will likely cost at least $2000 or more. And if you want a stellar, top-of-the-line monitor, the 27" thunderbolt display, that's another $1000 dollars. Plus things like the magic mouse ($100), wireless keyboard ($79) and perhaps a track pad ($100), can skyrocket your workstation cost.

I know people will say that you can "easily" install Mac OS X on Windows hardware. But it's not that simple. You have to make sure you buy compatible motherboards, wifi cards, internet cards, power supplies, etc. You have to build a custom computer that is perfectly compatible with Mac OS X for everything to function just right. WHICH I will tell you right now is a huge hassle and definitely not an option in a business environment. An IT department with a limited budget and resources is not going to make 10 custom built computers. And then maintain and support whatever goes wrong during the building process. (There will be problems).

If you know where to look, you can buy pre-built PCs with similar hardware to Mac Pros for a fraction of the cost, less than $1000.

Of course a big plus to Macs, is that the cost of a Mac is so high already, all their operating systems are now free.

The bottom line is, don't just take your co-workers word for it (not that he's wrong), research and find out for yourself if a Mac is the right option for your corporate environment. Examine the productivity benefits (and pitfalls), hardware benefits, and overall ease-of-use. If you know your stuff, you can present a very convincing argument to whoever is responsible for the technology at your office.

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  • There is a problem with Milo's answer suggesting to build Mac from non Apple parts. OSX is specifically licensed to Apple hardware so although technically possible to build Mac this way - it's commonly referred to as "Hackintosh" - it will be illegal to own and use. – Swav Aug 17 '14 at 10:23
  • @Swav I did not suggest a hackintosh. I was referring to a comment that was made earlier which was suggesting to build a hackintosh. Which I clearly said was not a good idea. – Milo Aug 17 '14 at 17:14
  • There's some highly subjective opinion in this, which is fine, but should be noted is just that: opinion. Also, regarding cost, Macs are actually pretty much the same cost as comparably equipped competition (with some regional exceptions). The main difference is that Apple doesn't compete in the low-end market, so you can usually find much cheaper, albeit lower-end, PCs. – DA01 Aug 17 '14 at 19:20
  • A Mac Pro for $2,000 … och, wouldn’t that just be a fine thing! (He types, on his ageing 2007 Mac Pro that cost about $4,500 without even being top of the line.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 2 '15 at 22:57

Apple monitors are usually (very?) good. For PC, you'd normally need to research monitors, decide on a good one, and then make sure it's calibrated.

I'm not sure about the rest - like fonts, anti-aliasing, etc. These are all things Windows "caught-up" with, as far as I know.

Mac is somewhat of a standard in graphics so you'd probably be keeping the designers happier and their productivity higher than by "forcing them" to use PCs. The same can't be said about other people, like those in charge of the budget!

PS: an Apple computer is also the best way to test websites on Safari and debug them on iOs devices. Any design company would usually need one or two Apple computers, for this and for the odd cases where they receive files which cannot be opened on PC for some reason - I guess it still happens sometimes.

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One of my favourite features.

Screen Shot built into the mac with CMD 3 or CMD 4

Ability to quickly take screenshots of selected regions or full screens and it is always wsyiwyg.

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  • Screenshot built into PCs, via Print Screen (or on some keyboards, prntscr). – Evan R. Aug 17 '14 at 6:56
  • The Mac saves the file instantly to the Desktop with date and time named convention. Windows only puts the screen shot in the clipboard and you need to use Word or Paint etc to then paste it out. Mac is much quicker. I can quickly get the file and wiz and email. – TheBlackBenzKid Aug 17 '14 at 9:25
  • The built-in screen shot in OSX is much better than Window's PrintScreen, but there are, of course, plenty of 3rd party screen shot options for both operating systems. – DA01 Aug 17 '14 at 19:23
  • There's a thing called Snipping Tool on Windows 7that is slightly better than both. It does everything the Mac keyboard shortcuts do, but also lets you annotate the image and choose filename. It's buried in the start menu somewhere but you can drag it onto the dock thing along the bottom – user56reinstatemonica8 Dec 22 '14 at 21:47

The objective advantages I can think of wouldn't likely apply to most graphic designers, but they include:

  • You can run both Windows and OSX on a Macbook
  • the need for specific OSX software
    • namely xcode if you are developing for iOS
  • in a large corporate IT enviornment, Macs are often somewhat outside the domain of desktop IT. This can actually be a huge advantage in corporations where desktop IT is so oppressive that using work-provided windows machines can be a huge productivity hurdle.

But, again, these aren't really applicable to most designers. So, beyond that, it's mostly purely subjective. Lots of people prefer one OS over the other. Ideally, workplaces would accommodate those personal preferences and enable the employee to be as efficient as they can be.

In terms of B2B work, it really doesn't matter like it maybe did 15 years ago.

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