Note: this is the fourth part of a mini series that I originally wrote as a newsletter titled How to Become a Better Software Developer. You can view the full table of contents here.
In the last installment we looked at the importance of where you work. To get your attention, I titled it Quit Your job. I was being drastic for a reason. Where you work matters. We saw that becoming a better software developer requires working in a positive-energy company. We saw that you need to be in an environment where you’re motivated to do your best work.
Now this week we’re going to look at something completely different. This past year, we hit a major milestone. In the Stack Overflow Developer Survey for 2018, we learned that fewer than 50% of software developers now use Windows. That number is shrinking more every day. More than half of developers in the world are using Unix-based operating systems. Some of them are using Linux, but most of them are using Macs. The operating system you use is so important that we need to spend an entire installment on this subject. In case you think that’s silly, hear me out. It has vast implications.
My experience is that people who use a Mac write better software. They’re more productive. They’re more knowledgeable about their field of expertise, and they care more about the user experience. They’re more enjoyable to be around. Since the Macintosh’s inception in 1984, Apple has nurtured a more refined operating system than Windows, which debuted a year later in 1985 and copied a lot of ideas from the Mac, albeit much more poorly.
Earlier this year, I spent four months at a job where I had to use Windows 10. I had no choice in the matter. I tried constantly to persuade leadership to let me use a Mac, but I was dealing with corporate America, and it moves at a snail’s pace. Finally I threw up my hands and quit my job. But during that time frame, I got re-familiarized with the nuances of Windows. I was shocked at how truly horrible Windows is. I documented a partial list of the ways in which it’s bad compared to macOS.
This isn’t a matter of preference. It’s not a case of “Apple fanboy”-ism. Apple doesn’t use magic persuasion skills to distort reality and create a cult following based sheerly on marketing slogans. Rather, the Macintosh operating system is objectively superior by an order of magnitude compared to Windows. Steve Jobs said it best in 1995:
The problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste, and what that means is, and I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way.
I love that quote. It’s every bit as true today as it was decades ago when Jobs said it. An increasing number of software developers are figuring this out.
Windows software makes you work for it. Macintosh software works for you. There’s a finite amount of brain juice you can spend in a day. When a task is hard to do, you burn a lot of juice. You have less juice leftover for other things. You wipe your brow, look at your watch, and decide whether you can stretch a bathroom break till 5. When that same task is easier, you barely spend any brain juice. You complete the task and keep flying.
You can’t be a better developer than the tools you use. You become what your computer trains you to be. When you use bad software, you take a dim view of the world. Everything is a burden in the land. Everything is hard. Everything hurts. When you use good software, everything gets easier. The task creates delight. You have room to breathe. You can smile. You become a better developer.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Everyone talks about this but honestly I can’t tell the difference. Mac and Windows look like two sides to the same coin to me. What’s the hype?” If that’s your situation, here’s what I recommend: switch to a Mac anyway. Even if you don’t start out with a sense of refinement, as a Mac user you’ll acquire it over time because you’ll be using better software all day. The better software trains you to be refined. As you develop better taste, it shows in your work. In the same way that we expect a higher level of class from an Ivy League alumnus, we expect a higher level of user experience from software developed with a Mac for a Mac. It’s just a better world; where better people are. I’ll continue where I left off with that Jobs quote:
So I’m saddened—not by Microsoft’s success, I have no problem with their success. They’ve earned their success, for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third-rate products. Their products have no spirit to them. They have no spirit of enlightenment about them. They are very pedestrian. And the sad part is that a lot of customers don’t have a lot of that spirit either. But the way we’re gonna ratchet up our species is to take the best and spread it around everybody so that everybody grows up with better things and starts to understand the subtlety of these better things. And Microsoft’s just McDonald’s.”
As we saw earlier, Windows users are officially in the minority now. If your work environment insists that you use Windows, it’s time to embrace the future and get a new job. The day you start using a Mac is the day you fast-track yourself to becoming a better developer. Use a Mac.
All right, that’s it for today. See you in the next installment!