15" vs 13" screen for development

smirk

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002
657
46
Orange County, CA
I know this question has sort of been asked before, but I'm looking to get a laptop to supplement my desktop for app development. I'm anticipating it will be used to bring to developer meet-ups, client meetings, or whenever other family members need to use the iMac.

So that being said, how difficult is it to code on a 15" screen? I will guess that for anyone out of their twenties the 13" is too small, but what do you guys think?

Do you spend all your time closing the Navigator and Utilities panes and scrolling code panes around? Is the type too small to comfortably read on the laptop?

I'd really appreciate any comments. The Apple Store has the 13" and 15" MacBooks on separate tables and Xcode isn't installed -- plus it's hard to spend serious time evaluating the screens with all the bustle there.

Thanks!
 

Dweez

macrumors 65816
Jun 13, 2011
1,246
9
Down by the river
I'm well out of my twenties, and I use both 13" (MBA) and 15" (MBP and HP) laptops. Both are very usable, but I don't code anymore so I may just be blowing smoke. :)
 

firewood

macrumors 604
Jul 29, 2003
7,634
869
Silicon Valley
I'm way way past my 20's, but I prefer to use an MBA 11 (sometimes with weak reading glasses) for iOS development. Mission control helps spread out to the side all the windows needed.
 

TheWatchfulOne

macrumors 6502
Jun 19, 2009
402
270
Like firewood, I'm way past my 20's and also like firewood, I code on a 11" MacBook Air which happens to be my primary (and only) computer. I frequently use the Assistant Editor so I can see my header file and implementation file side-by-side. I also use Xcode full screen and swipe back and forth between Xcode and the desktop where the simulator runs, when running in the simulator.
 

waterskier2007

macrumors 68000
Jun 19, 2007
1,807
142
Novi, MI
in my 20s. I use a 15 inch MBP or a mac mini with two 24 inch monitors. I find the 15" to be a pretty great size, and would probably be cramped if I went down to 13". The dual monitor setup is excellent, but I love sitting on the couch and getting comfy to do my programming, so I usually end up on the laptop
 

ohbrilliance

macrumors 6502a
May 15, 2007
937
208
Melbourne, Australia
Almost 40 here. I find the 13" fine for development, using XCode and Netbeans. I have it set to 1680x1050, which gives a reasonable amount of screen real estate - more than I had on my old 15" MBP. I only find that resolution to be hard to read late at night, when I should have stopped working anyway.

I've used dual 24" monitors before, and can't say that I was all that more productive. Command-tab and swiping between spaces works well, and lets me focus on the task of the moment.

I would appreciate the increased screen real estate or font sizes on the 15", but value portability more. The 13" is lighter in a bag, and more convenient to use in public places such as cafes and on the train.
 

Duncan C

macrumors 6502a
Jan 21, 2008
853
0
Northern Virginia
My oldest son is 19, so I haven't been in my 20s for a good long while.

Even in my 20s, I liked lots of screen real estate. Whenever possible, I use a dual monitor system. My desktop Mac has a 23" Apple cinema and a cheap 21" 1080 monitor. It makes life much easier.



I know this question has sort of been asked before, but I'm looking to get a laptop to supplement my desktop for app development. I'm anticipating it will be used to bring to developer meet-ups, client meetings, or whenever other family members need to use the iMac.

So that being said, how difficult is it to code on a 15" screen? I will guess that for anyone out of their twenties the 13" is too small, but what do you guys think?

Do you spend all your time closing the Navigator and Utilities panes and scrolling code panes around? Is the type too small to comfortably read on the laptop?

I'd really appreciate any comments. The Apple Store has the 13" and 15" MacBooks on separate tables and Xcode isn't installed -- plus it's hard to spend serious time evaluating the screens with all the bustle there.

Thanks!
 

thekev

macrumors 604
Aug 5, 2010
6,670
1,746
Blah you don't have to be old to find 13" a bit cramped. I can deal with a 15" screen, but I prefer my 24".
 

D.T.

macrumors G3
Sep 15, 2011
8,925
6,745
Vilano Beach, FL
My oldest son is 19, so I haven't been in my 20s for a good long while.

Even in my 20s, I liked lots of screen real estate. Whenever possible, I use a dual monitor system. My desktop Mac has a 23" Apple cinema and a cheap 21" 1080 monitor. It makes life much easier.
Yeah, since as long as I’ve been coding (that’s a _long_ time :D ) I’ve preferred much display as possible. Particularly in the last several years where at a small shop you might be in Xcode, have an editor open modifying an API, maybe a graphic tool, have a few shells running, maybe a DB connection, a browser (or two) and juggling all your productivity apps. Of course you can swap desktops, toggle apps, etc., but there’s a number of use cases where seeing more than one window is +super+ handy.

I personally think the way to go is external 24-27” + small-er-ish notebook. I do use a 15” MBP, but I could/would easily swap to a 13” (or even the mysterious 12” model being speculated about) as long as is accommodated my RAM and storage needs.

I love the idea of ultra portability of a ~13” machine, combined with maximum productivity at a desk with a large display, keyboard and mouse. One of my good friends and also a developer actually uses an 11” Air! Like me he’s docked 90% of the time, but when he needs to travel it’s such a convenient machine (especially using it on a plane).

I guess the takeaway is: if you’re going to want to be as productive as possible without an external display, get the larger machine, but if you just need occasional portability, get the more portable machine :cool:
 

firewood

macrumors 604
Jul 29, 2003
7,634
869
Silicon Valley
Note that, when needed and stuck to a desk, one can always connect a 27" display or two to a machine as portable as an MBA 11. Get the benefits of both.
 

kyussmondo

macrumors member
Apr 7, 2010
82
14
UK
I find the 13 more than enough. In full screen mode and the gestures you can do on the trackpad, you don't need large screens really. If you need a larger screen then you could get an external monitor.

I prefer the portability of the 13.

Storyboards are annoying on both 13 and 15.
 

ArtOfWarfare

macrumors G3
Nov 26, 2007
8,559
3,966
I'd really appreciate any comments. The Apple Store has the 13" and 15" MacBooks on separate tables and Xcode isn't installed
So install it? When I was shopping for my iMac 7 years ago (it's about time to replace it...) and couldn't decide between the 20" and the 24", they were more than happy to let me install Blender, Art of Illusion, and Xcode to play around with it on both computers and see how it worked on each. I ended up walking out with the 24" when I had gone in planning on getting the 20".
 

smirk

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002
657
46
Orange County, CA
So install it? When I was shopping for my iMac 7 years ago (it's about time to replace it...) and couldn't decide between the 20" and the 24", they were more than happy to let me install Blender, Art of Illusion, and Xcode to play around with it on both computers and see how it worked on each. I ended up walking out with the 24" when I had gone in planning on getting the 20".
Believe it or not, the manager of the Apple store wouldn't let me install Xcode. I couldn't believe it, but that's what happened. I ended up launching Pages on each MacBook and opening up various trays to try to simulate Xcode, which is just sad.
 

smirk

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jul 18, 2002
657
46
Orange County, CA
Everyone, thanks for all your good advice, I really appreciate it. I ended up ordering a 15" MacBook Pro. I almost went with the 13" to save money, figuring I'd use it with a separate display, but since I plan to take it to NSCoder Night and Cocoaheads meetings (and who knows where else), I opted for the 15".

Ordered it last night, it arrives Friday!

Thanks again!
 

TheWatchfulOne

macrumors 6502
Jun 19, 2009
402
270
Believe it or not, the manager of the Apple store wouldn't let me install Xcode. I couldn't believe it, but that's what happened. I ended up launching Pages on each MacBook and opening up various trays to try to simulate Xcode, which is just sad.
I had a similar experience where I wanted to see how Xcode looked on a 11" screen. They didn't know what Xcode was. They offered me two options. Either make a special appointment with a certain person at the store to get it temporarily installed. Or "borrow" (temporarily purchase) one and then return it for a refund until i was ready to actually purchase one.

I ended up ordering a refurb 11" and I'm very happy with it. The screen has plenty of room for Xcode.

Everyone, thanks for all your good advice, I really appreciate it. I ended up ordering a 15" MacBook Pro. I almost went with the 13" to save money, figuring I'd use it with a separate display, but since I plan to take it to NSCoder Night and Cocoaheads meetings (and who knows where else), I opted for the 15".

Ordered it last night, it arrives Friday!

Thanks again!
Congratulations on your new acquisition! I think you will be very pleased with it.

What is NSCoder Night and where is it held?
 

TheWatchfulOne

macrumors 6502
Jun 19, 2009
402
270
May I ask how you get Xcode to use so little space that 11" is enough?
Yes, you may ask.

I run Xcode full screen. I nearly always use the Assistant Editor. Of course this causes the simulator and Instruments to run in a different desktop.

When I'm running in the simulator, I'm usually just making sure my app doesn't crash. After I confirm it doesn't crash, I run on my device which means having 2 screens available for other debugging. I swipe back and forth between Xcode and the simulator when I have to. Doesn't seem like a big deal. When I run Instruments, it fits on the screen next to the simulator.

It probably helps that I'm an amateur developer who doesn't know what other things he should be looking at besides the debugger/console, Instruments, and the device/simulator.
 

TheWatchfulOne

macrumors 6502
Jun 19, 2009
402
270
Hm I more ment the general space for code. Here an example of my space. Can't imagine that with a quarter of the area.
Ah! The 11" still has a nice high resolution so elements are still displayed pretty clearly. I collapse the right side bar unless I'm looking at story boards or xibs which happens... almost never. I do just about everything programmatically so the right side bar doesn't usually offer me anything. I keep the left side bar visible most of the time. I use the Assistant Editor so I can see header and implementation files side-by-side. (Helps me avoid those what-was-the-name-of-that-instance-variable-I-just-declared-because-I-need-to-reference-it situations.) I keep my most frequently referenced/edited files open in different tabs. Doing these things while running Xcode full screen lets me look at code without feeling claustrophobic. I do lots of two finger scrolling and three finger swiping and I'm fine with that.

I would upload a screen shot but I'm not at my Mac right now. Maybe tonight I can do that.
 

firewood

macrumors 604
Jul 29, 2003
7,634
869
Silicon Valley
May I ask how you get Xcode to use so little space that 11" is enough?
Scrolling, multiple tabs, and multiple mission control desktops. Shorter class files with shorter length lines. A few keyboard shortcuts to flip between tabs, and to hide and show the Xcode navigators and assistants.

Knowledge that programmers used to write much longer programs using much smaller (80x24 character) terminals. If they could, so can we.

Can't imagine that with a quarter of the area.
Some people don't use enough imagination.