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Can you use Windows for web development & React? Yes!

June 18, 2019Will Leffert

I can't tell you how many times I've heard shocked gasps when I utter the phrase "I do design & development on Windows". This is, typically, from people not in the industry, or people who aren't technically inclined.


They bought into the Apple marketing hype.

You can absolutely do web design, graphic design, development (including React, node, etc) and more on Windows, and save yourself the insane Apple tax.

First, let me say this, for those who question my sanity: You can literally do everything you do on a Mac on Windows, and for less cost. About the only real piece missing is for those of you who swear by Sketch; that's Mac only, sadly. Still, I use XD for my mockups, so no skin off my back there.

Macs don't do design better. They have nothing special that makes your work any better on a Mac vs. a PC. The only real advantage is that Macs are much simpler devices. They gain that simplicity by limiting customization in the hardware front, and having a different UI.

For the past 20 years, I've used Windows (and Linux) to do my design & dev work. Here's what I run currently, for those of you looking to figure out what you need to get going on Windows for design & development.

First off, and most importantly, you'll want Adobe's suite of software. Adobe CC works just as well on Windows as it does on a Mac. I run the Photoshop/Lightroom/Bridge bundle, myself, and still have my old copy of Illustrator CS2 that works just fine (yes, I actually bought it years ago). I'd love to upgrade to the full CC suite, but I don't have the budget for that right now, and realistically, I'm just doing SVG work anymore, anyway, which CS2 does fine.

Next, you'll need Adobe XD, which is free. Get it. Only complaint I have is that they don't have a dark mode like all the other CC apps (yet).

For dev work, I utilize VS Code as my IDE, plus a number of extensions for React/Babel/etc. Basically, you can customize it however you like.

You may be wondering.. "But Will, what about NPM? The command line? Powershell is confusing!"

Well, you don't have to use it. I don't, in fact. Not that there is anything wrong with it, and while I grew up with the DOS command prompt, I prefer BASH.

What I DO use is the Windows Subsystem for Linux. As a *nix user for many years on the server side (as well as desktop for a while), when MS came out with this, I was overjoyed. Having a BASH terminal available to me in Windows (outside of Cygwin, which was pretty weak) is the best thing ever, and I have ZERO issues utilizing NPM to do anything I need.

FTP? I use WinSCP. SSH? Putty or the Windows Subsystem for Linux.

What about hardware, though?

Well, I'm running a custom built desktop that cost me about $1600, and a nice, big Dell monitor as my main screen (plus a cheap Hanns-G screen on the side).

Did I mention that my beefcake of a machine boots in just a few seconds? As well, I literally put in just what I need, and can upgrade any part I want without hassle. Don't want to build your own? No problem! You can buy pre-built PCs for a pittance compared to Apple products.

Now, I'm not hating on Apple. They do make good stuff, for the most part, but they aren't worth the extra cash in my mind. If you prefer utilizing Apple products, and have money to blow, go right ahead. However, don't buy into the hype. You can absolutely do design & development in Windows, just as effectively as a Mac.