Ever since Microsoft introduced the Windows Subsystem for Linux, short WSL, Windows 10 got interesting again for (web) developers. It allows us to run a native Linux in Windows 10, no emulation. This means we have access to all the nice unix tools. At the same time Windows got a lot better in general and Microsoft as a company looks a whole lot better too.
So for at least two years I’m contemplating a switch over to Windows 10. I have a custom self built gaming PC, so I’ve long been exposed to using Windows and it really got a lot better. I have tried working/developing on it countless times, have wrangled with the WSL and Ubuntu more times than I like to admit. And drank a bunch of wine while doing it. Sometimes out of frustration. I have read countless articles and tweets from people switching over and explaining their new setup.
I even purchased a DELL XPS 15 at the end of last year only to return it a week later. But I’m still returning to that thought of switching. But why? Obviously it hasn’t worked out so well for me so far.
Good question. There are a couple of different reasons I keep coming back to the idea, I think.
- I’d like to try something else, going away from the MacBook Hipster Monoculture we as developers have built
- I’d like to support Microsoft with their big steps away from all the bad decisions they made in the past
- I already have a powerful PC
- I’d like to have laptop that can run games while I’m not at home (The Razer Blade 2018 looks amazing, but it seems hard to get a US keyboard layout in Germany, same problem with the Surface Book 2, but that’s a whole other story)
- I don’t like how Apple is treating their pro line up; I really really need a new laptop but nobody will persuade me to buy one of those current MacBook Pros
- I don’t like how Apple is communicating and (not) working with the web development community
- I don’t like how Apple is not fully embracing the web and it’s capabilities
- On the other hand I like how Microsoft is communicating with the web development community
- I like how Microsoft is embracing the web and open source
- I like the potential simplicity of just using Windows and ditching macOS
While developing on Windows is definitely doable now with a modern tech stack, it’s not without its limits or problems. A specific example would be that it’s really really hard to run
valet on the WSL. I’ve followed dozen different setup guides of
valet-linux or the forked
valet-wsl but haven’t managed to get it to work properly, don’t even think about supporting SSL. But there are always other ways or workarounds. I did quite a bit of coding on Windows over the past months.
Another big concern over the past two years has always been Sketch, the macOS-only app. Almost every designer we work with uses Sketch and I was always a big fan of being able to open the source files directly and inspect styles instead of just having flat jpg files. But we recently moved over to Zeplin as our reference for the whole team, which makes Sketch designs available to view and inspect. I can’t edit them and it’s a bit more limited than working with Sketch directly, but it’s good enough for me. So that’s a big issue gone.
Developing on Windows 10 is absolutely doable, even though it still has its problems and sometimes needs workarounds while on macOS everything mostly just works when it comes to web development tools.
But I have VS CODE for editing files and using the command line. I have GitHub for Windows or Tower for my git needs. I have Zeplin to view designs. I need to set up MAMP or something similar for local servers though, for when I need them. Most of the time I’m just running frontend only pattern libraries like Fractal, that just works out of the WSL, which is nice.
I still have a few issues with the different line endings of Windows and Unix systems and ESLint configs, but that can be solved.
But there are also a lot of other great apps or services which only have macOS and iOS apps. Bear is one of those I use a lot. It’s the best note taking app for me and I’m currently writing this post in it, on the iPad with Smart Keyboard. Bear doesn’t have a Windows app and also has no web version. I found out that they are working at bringing bear to the web, but they can’t say when this will be done, so I guess it’ll still take some time.
Next problem. iMessage. Almost all of my private communication is done via Apples iMessages. And while it definitely has its quirks I like it a lot. Especially because I want to believe it’s a lot safer than other options out there and it’s decently well designed. But… you guessed it, there is no Windows app and not even a web client. Look, Apple is just not embracing the web and it just makes me sad.
Continuing with Apple apps and services and my frustration making them work on Windows. I use Apple Photos. My iPhone automatically saves all images taken there and last year I started to also add full resolution jpgs of my edited RAW files. That means I have always quick access to all of my edited photos. I like that a lot, it’s basically my one true photo archive. But… you know what comes next. There is no Windows app for Apple Photos. There is a web version on icloud.com, which… is not very good, but at least it exists and I can view images. That’s good. But if I were to fully switch to Windows I would edit photos in Lightroom, export them and then would want to add them to Apple Photos. I could do that by using the web uploader, but sadly this process strips out all meta data. So that is not an option.
Apple also provides an iCloud Windows app which creates a “Downloads” and “Uploads” folder on the Windows file system and you should be able to place image files in the “Uploads” folder and they should get uploaded. But I haven’t managed to get that to work consistently. One time one photo got uploaded. I don’t know why or how to get it to work again. So I’m left with Apple Photos not working for me as a potential Windows user. What are the alternatives you ask? Google Photos? Never… they will not get all of my data.
I could switch over to Lightroom CC, but then I have also all of my RAW files there, not only the edited JPGs, which in turn could also be a positive. But I would also have to add iPhone photos manually. So… in the end, definitely not a nice solution. It’s also more expensive than iCloud storage. But it’s cross platform, what I’m a big fan of in general.
There are more small macOS apps, like my favourite time tracking app Tyme, which are not on Windows. But… I think apps or services like that one I could somehow replace.
So where does this leave me? I don’t know.
I’m stuck between an old MacBook Pro, powerful custom built Windows PC and an iPad Pro.
I’m stuck between Apple (which I still like for a dozen reasons) and Microsoft (which is doing so many things right at the moment).
And honestly, I’m not really happy with any solution I come up with right now. I’m flip-flopping between working and generally doing stuff on all three devices and thinking a lot about what could work and how it could work and how long it would work and it’s mentally exhausting.
There is still a lot more going on with little details, apps, hardware and stuff I forgot while jotting this down but I think that’s already enough rambling for now.
I just felt like putting down a bunch of unfiltered thoughts, even if they only scratch the surface of my self-inflicted misery. Maybe someone can relate or at least finds it interesting. If you feel like reaching out, I’m @_martinwolf on Twitter.