I have some Xcode (iPhone/iPad) development on the horizon and will also be doing a bit of Eclipse (Java) and .NET development in between. Since I'll be running a VM for the Windows stuff, I think a Macbook Pro is the way to go.

What I am wondering is, does the 13" Pro have enough screen real estate to make development at least a little enjoyable? I looked at the AIR and whilst it has better resolution than the 13" Pro, it of course lacks in terms of RAM etc. As a consultant I will probably be carrying this thing around quite a lot, so would rather not go with the 15".

I will be adding the SSD option to the Pro.

Any advice much appreciated.


closed as primarily opinion-based by Mark, jherran, nohillside Apr 14 '15 at 6:35

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • I have MBP 17" and for the first time in my life I'm happy developing. It sucked developing on 13" MB but that's just an opinion. I love screen estate & bigger fonts. – Dan Oct 19 '11 at 16:18
  • Dan, you're setting me back to square one ;) – ChrisF Oct 19 '11 at 16:26

I have a 15" MacBook Pro, and I find that I have plenty of screen space for development - most of the time.

Typically, I have one source file open for editing, and part of another document visible for reference. With this setup, I could easily work on a 13" model. The problems occur when I want to have two documents side-by-side at full size. Here's a screenshot of how this looks with Xcode running full-screen:

enter image description here

The two documents aren't wide enough, so I have to scroll more frequently. In order to get the documents to a comfortable width, I have to hide one of the sidebars. On a 13" screen, you would probably have to hide both. If you use two full-size documents frequently, this could be a problem.

Another case to consider is editing non-text files, such as XIBs and Core Data models. The editors for both of these add another sidebar, and the Utilities sidebar (on the right) is much more important for these modes. When working with XIBs, I can fit a single window in the editor pretty well with all sidebars and no assistant editor. On a 13" screen, I would probably hide the navigation (left) sidebar.

In conclusion, the 13" MacBook Pro will have enough space to work with, except when you need two documents at full size. You may have to hide a sidebar occasionally, but the navigation sidebar usually isn't necessary.


In case anyone is reading this now, the 13" Retina screens can be put into a higher-resolution scaled mode 1680 x 1050 mode which is still readable. It's the same as the Macbook Pro 17" I used to use, just in a smaller space.

This is ample width for using XCode or other IDEs


There will not be enough space for the actual text editing panel of Xcode. You will need to compensate by hiding sidebars like the different inspectors. Having said that, it is not the end of the world, especially as I begin to learn the different keyboard shortcuts that will show and hide IDE elements (which I haven't yet).

To illustrate what I mean I'll say that when I switch over to my virtual machine to work on .NET development with Visual Studio, I feel right at home. The key is knowing your IDE well. In particular, the keyboard shortcuts to hide and show the helper panels in order to create more text editing space.

In other words, I believe that working with Eclipse and Xcode will eventually become as enjoyable for me as Visual Studio once I become more familiar with each IDE, and that is besides the fact that I am working on a 13-inch screen. Hope this helps.

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