My thanks to Tyler Hall for sponsoring the RSS feed this week to promote his Mac app, VirtualHostX 3.0.

In short, VirtualHostX is a Mac app for setting up, running, and managing virtual hosts on your Mac.

As any professional Web developer knows, doing your development locally is simply how it’s done. Setting up your Mac to run the necessary server software is the best way to build and develop websites and web apps. And if you have more than a single site you’re building and working on then you’re going to want to set up virtual hosts. And that is where VirtualHostX comes in.

This app is professional-grade, and it has been used by many of the best in the business for years.

  • Sean Sperte recommended VirtualHostX in 2008 as one of the most important tools to setting up a killer, local web development environment on your Mac.

  • Derek Punslan, one of the guys who helped me cut my teeth on Mac and web nerdery back in 2006 and 2007, has been recommending VirtualHostX since 2009.

  • Brian Warren, the senior designer/developer at Happy Cog Studios uses VirtualHostX.

VirtualHostX works on top of the server software on your Mac. Your Mac can easily be used as an Apache server, and all you need to do is install PHP and MySQL. Most people, myself included, recommend you use MAMP for that. MAMP is free and it installs all the necessary server software so your Mac can run websites which require databases (i.e. local WordPress installs).

I suggest you read Sean or Aaron’s tutorials on getting MAMP set up and then installing VirtualHostX. The setup is extremely easy (it took me longer to download MAMP than to set it up), and in just a few clicks you’ll be all set to install and run a WordPress or Expression Engine website right from within your Mac.

For a long time I did my web design and development on a live server. I guess that is fine (though it is a bit dangerous, but hey, that’s how I roll), but doing web design and development locally is so much better and more convenient for two primary reasons: speed and speed. Moreover, you can design and develop even when you’re not connected to the Internet.

(Note that if you’re using Typekit, you can add your localhost sites to your Typekit Kit. Simply edit your Kit and add “localhost” as well as whatever URL you chose for your local development URL to the domains list.)

Version 3.0 of VirtualHostX, which just shipped a few days ago, has some very clever new features. Namely Lift Off, a new Domain Details tab, and a new icon.

With Lift Off you can share your site with anyone online. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received emails or Twitter DMs with a screenshot of a site that a friend is working on. If that friend were using VirtualHostX they could send me a working URL via Lift Off and I could see the live site in my browser.

Tyler describes Lift Off like this:

Lift Off creates a secure connection between your Mac and the VirtualHostX Cloud then gives you a unique URL that you can pass around to your boss, client, or friend to view your site.

Since your virtual host is being served live off of your Mac, there’s no uploading files or waiting. Changes you make locally appear automatically for your users.

The second big update is the Domain Details tab. It’s a tab that is specific to each virtual host you have set up. In there you can log and store all the various details related to the domain you are doing design and development for (such as FTP, SSH, DNS, database config info, and more).

VirtualHostX 3.0 would be worth it for its new features alone. You can try it for free to see for yourself, but you may want to pick it up soon as it’s currently on sale for shawnblanc.net readers.

September 12, 2011