The best OS (operating system) can’t be identified without proper context. Good for what? Which tasks? In the context of Web apps and Web app development, developers often wonder which operating system is the best and most compatible with their requirements. However, the real answer to this question is that it depends.
“It depends” is, admittedly, a very vague answer. That’s because choosing the right OS for running and developing Web apps depends on various factors. In our previous guide, we discussed Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux operating systems and their key features. In this guide, however, we’ll focus specifically on which OS is best optimized for Web apps and Web app development. We’ll also provide a comprehensive breakdown of each one.
Best Optimized OS: Side by Side Comparison
|Developing native |
client-based Web apps
client-based Web apps
|Good for Linux; |
|Good for macOS; |
|Developing back-end||Great for native |
VM for others
|Great for native |
Good for Linux;
VM for Windows
|Absolute best for |
Good for macOS;
VM for Windows
#1: Windows PC
As we previously mentioned in our Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux guide, Windows holds more than 87% of the current desktop/laptop OS market. This makes it the prevalent OS in all computer systems, at least on the client side of things. This is true for both personal and business users. So, it stands to reason that most Web-based apps are made to accommodate the market.
In other words, most Web apps are made for Windows PC. It’s really hard for any OS to match the usability, interface quality, as well as software and hardware compatibility of Windows 10. The system is well-optimized for running all sorts of software, making it great for client-side or front-end Web app development.
Largest User Base
Since it has the biggest user base, Microsoft continuously ensures that all software and Web solutions deployed for its OS work flawlessly. This makes Windows 10 and Windows 11 some of the best optimized OS for Web apps, including personal and commercial use, as well as the development of said apps. When it comes to back-end development, using a Windows machine makes more sense if you’re deploying code on a Microsoft-based server.
This isn’t a hard-written rule, but developing on the native platform is typically much more comfortable, as it allows for faster testing. The downside of using Windows lies in its troubleshooting, since only Microsoft has fully-fledged access to the source code of its OS.
macOS is actually the go-to choice for numerous Web app developers, and for a good reason. macOS is developed by Apple as a principal OS for the MacBook, Mac Mini, and super powerful Mac Pro devices. As such, the OS is running on “native” hardware, which makes it impeccably optimized for almost any use, including running Web apps.
However, Apple devices, including the aforementioned product lines, are real hardware powerhouses engineered for creativity and multitasking. They feature incredibly powerful hardware with plenty of storage space and computing power to satiate the need of almost any software and Web developer.
This also allows users to run several tasks simultaneously and transition smoothly between them. In fact, these qualities make Mac computers — any by extension MacOS — the preferred choice for many Web app developers. Data and files are periodically synchronized with Apple’s cloud servers, offering convenient storage and sharing, as well as file and data backups in case of unintentional data loss.
There are certain downsides to using Macs, and their price point is one of them. They’re usually on the pricier end of the spectrum. With that said, the price completely justifies the computing power Mac devices offer. This operating system really shines when it comes to development for macOS and Linus platforms. Developing for Windows-based servers isn’t really native to macOS, but that’s easily solvable through virtual machine emulation.
When it comes to Linux and its numerous distros, that’s where the discussion gets interesting. Linux OS is a completely free and open-source operating system that can run on basically any hardware that runs Windows. However, unlike Windows, which holds the majority of the current laptop/desktop OS market, Linux holds only a bit more than 2%. But that isn’t the case when it comes to Web development.
In fact, most Web servers are actually hosted on Linux machines because Linux is entirely free. The business hosting the servers doesn’t have to pay licensing fees, making hosting very affordable. This also created a demand for Linux-based and Linux-oriented developers, which is why most developers entering the business immediately take up Linux as their OS. In fact, Lenovo, one of the largest server companies, has recognized this and made its entire ThinkPad line Linux-certified.
Other OSes, like Windows and macOS, are great for Web app development. However, on the back-end of things, writing code for Linux-based servers almost always implies some debugging. Sure, you can run Linux in a virtual environment on whatever OS you prefer, but this will involve more computing resources than just using Linux as your OS.
A small user base usually means that the OS isn’t well conceptualized or optimized, but that’s actually not true when it comes to Linux. It’s an open-source system, which means that the user base is directly involved in the OS’s security and stability. In fact, it’s recognized as one of the most secure and stable OSes on the market.
When it comes to app development, most client-based Linux apps are developed and maintained by a very active community. This means that the OS is honed for running Web apps. However, when it comes to Web development, it would seem that Linux is the king of the proverbial hill, and held in very high regard by the Web development community.
Best Optimized OS: Virtual Machines
For back-end Web developers, Linux is probably the best optimized OS for developing Web development due to the aforementioned reasons. Most Web servers are based on Linux, so it stands to reason that you’ll develop an app inside an environment for which it’s intended.
This effectively cuts down time on development, testing, and debugging. However, developing Web apps on native platforms isn’t a necessity if you’re using virtual machines. Virtual machines allow developers to have access to multiple machines through virtualization and emulation of various computer systems.
As such, they have become recognized as an essential part of the Web and software developers’ toolkit. Most VM platforms offer free versions of their products that allow developers to create and run a virtual machine. These include VMWare, VirtualPC, and VirtualBox.
Developing user-mode apps has a very low risk of breaking your OS. The worst-case scenario usually involves massive resource consumption due to an error in your code, like an infinite loop or a memory leak bug.
However, developing drivers, kernel modules, and other system software do pose a risk of damaging your OS if the code is faulty. That’s why it’s best to test and debug your code in a VM. You can actually write the code in your preferred OS, then deploy, run, test, and debug your code in a VM.
Best Optimized OS: 4 Must-Know Facts
Here are some fun facts regarding the correlations between different OSes, as well as Web and software development:
- Most back-end developers prefer Linux distros, since most servers run on Linux. This makes for very easy deployment, testing, and debugging.
- Most professional developers prefer MacBook computers due to their massive computing power, paired with their portability and code similarity. macOS is based on the Unix operating system, and the inconsistencies between MacOS code and Linux code are minimal.
- Front-end development can be done on any OS, since they are all well optimized for the execution and development of Web apps.
- With the increased use of virtual machines in Web and software development, the best optimized OS for Web apps became a matter of personal preference.
Best Optimized OS: Summary
All the aforementioned systems are great at running Web apps, since most Web apps are compiled or translated by the accessing Web browser. So, running web apps actually has nothing to do with the OS. When it comes to running client-based Web apps, the process is dictated by the application’s system hardware requirements. Essentially, it has more to do with the system’s computing power than optimization.
But when it comes to development, front-end or client-based Web apps are a different story. Front-end code could be developed on any OS, since the development isn’t OS-specific. In other words, it comes down to personal preference. Linux is great in this regard, as it runs both Firefox and Google Chrome.
However, for testing on Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge, you’ll need Windows OS, and a Mac to test your code on Safari. Not to mention a whole slew of different emulators for testing on Android and various iOS environments. And that’s where virtual machines come in handy.