An operating system is the heart and soul of a computer. Choosing an appropriate Best Operating System for programming ecosystem is perhaps one of the important decision that one should take at the beginning of one’s career because one wants to always start their career with the things that work best for them. It’s not that only the mobile operating system enthusiasts (Apple v/s iOS) often get into heated arguments, but also the laptop/desktop operating system enthusiasts.
But First, What Exactly is an Operating System?
An operating system is an interface between the computer user and the computer hardware which helps control the execution of all kinds of programs, both hardware and software applications, effectively managing the computer’s memory and processes simultaneously. It begins when the system is turned on and includes all the processes that enable you to access and control the system.
The most important functions that an operating system performs are:
- Memory Management: Managing the primary or the main memory.
- Processor Management: Scheduling processor utilisation with the help of traffic controller.
- Device Management: Managing device communications with respect to their respective drivers.
- File Management: Organise files into directories for easy navigation and usage.
- Security: Prevent unauthorised access to programs and data by means of passwords and other data breach prevention techniques.
- Control over System Performance: Maintaining efficiency between request and response architecture of a system.
- Job Accounting: Accounting for the resource utilisation by various jobs and users.
- Error Detecting Aids: Detecting any kind of hardware or software errors.
- Coordination between Other Softwares and Users: Coordinating between various softwares to help provide the optimum experience to the end users.
Operating systems can be understood with the help of the following diagram:
Why do programmers need Operating Systems?
Most of the professionals in the computer science field, like software developers, software engineers, web developers, etc., start their careers as a programmer. There is no particular Best Operating System for programming that can be said as the perfect operating system since the choice of an O.S. depends on some factors like O.S. used in one’s career path or workplace or simply just one’s personal preference.
The two major types of programmings that programmers need operating systems for are:
The language a programmer uses doesn’t restrict him to use a particular operating system. This is because in programming, the focus is essentially on writing code in a cross-platform IDE. Hence, if you are using an Operating System just for coding purposes, the choice really boils down to other factors rather than the necessity to use a particular O.S.
- Operating System Level
Programming for a particular operating system requires you to code dedicatedly on that O.S. While technically it is possible to code for one O.S. on another O.S. with the help of Virtual Machines, doing so is not advisable since it is better if you get more acquainted to the O.S. you program for.
Popular Operating System Options for Programmers
The three most popular O.S. options used by programmers are Windows or the UNIX-based macOS (formerly OS X) or Linux. Either of these O.S. can be used to perform almost all the functions you want, however, your goal should be to find the O.S. that will help you perform your tasks most efficiently.
Let us deep-dive into the pros and cons of each of the popular types of O.S. to understand which one suits our needs the best.
Operating System #1: Windows
Being the most popular and widely-used O.S. in the market, Windows might be a tempting option for a lot of beginners.
Advantages of Using Windows O.S
- User Friendly: Windows interface is very intuitive and familiar to most
- Large User Base: Being the most popular O.S., it is the most targeted O.S. for the developer to launch their software. In fact, many software support only Windows O.S.
- Active Developer Community: Windows has an active developer community that helps provide the programmers with a wide array of options by providing a wider choice of tools, making their work easier. Even hardware manufacturers prefer to support Windows O.S. before the others.
- Comparatively Pocket Friendly: Generally, Windows O.S. provides most of the capabilities of macOS at a comparatively user-friendly rate. Though it is expensive than Linux, given the range of features, Windows O.S. is a pretty sweet deal.
Disadvantages of Using Windows O.S.
- Security: Though Windows O.S. has a range of built-in antivirus programs, being the most widely-used O.S., it also attracts a lot of attention from hackers, making it very vulnerable to security attacks.
- Drivers: Though you can customise your Windows O.S. to a great extent, it might get too problematic to get all the components to work in sync with each other.
- Forced Automatic Updates: Windows O.S. tends to automatically update itself in order to provide you with the latest O.S. capabilities. While this might seem a useful feature, it gets pretty annoying to wait for the automatic update to finish before you begin your work.
- Speed: Since Windows O.S. helps provide the most intuitive UI, this also means additional overhead to achieve the same functionality. Hence, it is comparatively slower than its O.S. counterparts.
Operating System #2: Linux
Linux is presumed to be one of the most acclaimed operating systems for programmers since it is very lightweight and allows you to customise the O.S. according to your needs and likings.
Advantages of Using Linux O.S
- Pocket Friendly: Since Linux is open-source O.S. it is available free of cost.
- Speed: Being very lightweight enables Linux to be very fast and efficient. Since programs and scripts run faster in Linux, it is one of the most widely used O.S. for scripting programmers.
- Performance: Linux needs lesser computing resources to perform a particular function, making it an extremely efficient O.S.
- Security: Linux allows you to encrypt your drive and it also provides network security, making it very a secure O.S.
- Active Developer Community: Since Linux is open-source and has various distributions, it has a very active community constantly contributing packages to different Linux distributions.
Disadvantages of Using Linux O.S
- Buggy: Since Linux is open-source, developers do not spend a lot of time testing edge cases and end-to-end scenarios, making it quite buggy.
- Unavailability of Tech Support: Since Linux is free, there is not enough funds for providing a tech support in case any issue arises in Linux, as opposed to it’s other counterparts.
- UI is Not Very Intuitive: Linux’s UI is very basic and not very user-friendly. It requires one to have a good knowledge of computers to understand the various constructs available.
Operating System #3: macOS
macOS is also a UNIX-based O.S. with a variety of built-in or easily available development tools along with a good tech support which makes it one of the best O.S. options for a programmer. Most organisations prefer to provide a macOS to its developers because of the ease of programming in macOS.
Advantages of Using macOS
- Simple UI: macOS has a very clean UI and some very powerful in-built applications.
- Multitasking Capabilities: macOS handles multitasking brilliantly, helping you seamlessly browse through multiple programs simultaneously.
- Tech Support: Apple has dedicated tech support for macOS, should you feel the need to use it.
- Apple Ecosystem: Apple users are generally more comfortable sticking to other apple products since it helps them create an ecosystem that is easily able to synchronise files and data between various devices and apple cloud servers.
- Security: macOS is considered to be the most secure O.S. because of its complex architecture and restricted use of resources.
Disadvantages of Using macOS
- Inflexible Customisations: macOS users face a tough time with customisations or hardware upgrades hence one has to be sure about the configurations they want in their PC before purchasing one.
- Not Pocket Friendly: macOS is comparatively the most expensive O.S. However, despite the huge cost, programmers feel the investment is justified because of the performance boost, multitasking capabilities and tech support.
Hybrid Operating Systems
Many programmers prefer different O.S. for achieving different tasks. Hence, they prefer to get the best of all worlds by running a split partition with Windows and macOS along with an external Linux drive.
There are literally hundreds of operating systems in the market. Having personally used all the above-operating systems during various phases in my programming career, we would recommend choosing the Best Operating System for programming that you are most comfortable using and which provides all the capabilities that you would need to make use of.
If you don’t have any restriction on choosing a particular Best Operating System for programming, try your hand on different operating systems, going through most of the functionalities that each O.S. provides, and finally, choose the one which you think suits your current or future needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
The three most widely used operating systems for programming are Windows, Linux and macOS. Though either of these can perform most of the tasks, you should look into the pros and cons of each O.S, to understand which would be the best O.S. which would suit your needs.
Linux is widely used for programming since it provides a lot of freedom to the programmers to customise the O.S. according to the needs of the programmer.
Depending on your preference and target O.S. for your application, Windows might be better in certain use-cases, while macOS in the rest. Though most of the programmers prefer to use macOS for programming because of the speed, reliability and multitasking capabilities.
Ubuntu is probably the most popular Linux distro for programming because it has one of the most intuitive UIs amongst all other Linux distros without taking a hit on the capabilities that a Linux environment provides.
There are many different kinds of operating systems. So, which O.S. is the best for programming? While this might seem to be a simple question to answer, it really isn’t. Different O.S. has different pros and cons. The choice of your preferred operating system for programming should depend on many different factors.
By Saarthak Jain