Developing Web Apps on the Mac

July 21, 2004

An important part of developing web applications is being able to test components, tricks and techniques.  If you’re working on an existing production site, however, you probably don’t want to do your testing there (at least if you want to keep the traffic or the client). 

One alternative is to have a server handy for setting up test environments; unfortunately, that’s a luxury that not everyone has.  The logical alternative is to have a test environment on your development machine that you can screw up at your convenience (hey, doctors bury their mistakes, and lawyers visit theirs in jail—web app developers just have to re-edit.)

If you’re developing on XP, there are a fair number of resources for testing on your development machine—loosen a few screws, and you’ve essentially got an IIS/Win2K environment.  If your target is more Linux flavored, you can always install Apache.

But what about the Mac?  Sure, it’s real genuine BSD Unix underneath, but there’s a lot of difference between an off-the-shelf OS-X laptop or desktop and a web server.  Fortunately, it’s not hard to have both.

First, give PHPMac a visit—they’ve got all sorts of tutorials for compiling, configuring and running recent PHP and Apache releases (and even a few not-so-recent ones) under OS-X. 

Once you’ve got that running, do yourself a favor and get WebMin installed—here’s all the instructions.  In fact, if you lean towards the Techie side, you probably ought to install Webmin even if you’re not using your Mac to test web apps—it’s a great and simple interface for dealing with the nitty-gritty Unix side of your Mac.  If you’re not familiar with Webmin, here’s a guide to *nix systems administration using Webmin.

Last but not least, at least for the truely geekified, there’s now Gentoo MacOS X—genuine Gentoo portage for the Mac.  If you’re a Gentoo fan, this probably sends thrills of excitement down your spine, otherwise you’re probably going “huh?”—if you want to know all the gory details, follow the link above.


Another great resource for Mac web dev tools is Marc Liyanage’s Software Section—Marc has put together an incredible selection of Unix web development tools compiled for OS-X and ready to install, as well as various tips, scripts and all sorts of other goodies.


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