Parallels Beta is Sorta Cool

December 3rd, 2006  |  Published in etc

Latest Parallels beta has some juicy stuff in the announcement:

  • Coherency. Shows Windows applications as if they were Mac ones. Try it and enjoy best of both worlds truly at the same time. No more switching between Windows to Mac OS.

  • Read/Write BootCamp partition. Since this build, an Apple Boot Camp partition with Windows XP installed could be used as a virtual HDD for Parallels Desktop for Mac.

  • Boot from BootCamp partition. Another long awaited feature that lets you boot your 32-bit Windows XP residing on Boot Camp partition directly in Parallels Desktop for Mac.

Pleasing.

I don’t so much run Windows as I run Internet Explorer. In fact, I don’t even really run Internet Explorer … I run Firefox for Windows using the IE Tab add-on.

So what “coherency” gets you is pretty simple, at least on a dual-head setup. The secondary display, which used to host Windows full-screen reverts to being a Mac desktop, with the exception of the bottom strip, which has the Windows app/menu bar. When an app gets launched, it appears as a self-standing Windows app window with all the Windows widgets, but you don’t lose the entire secondary desktop to Windows. Since copy and paste work back and forth between the Windows app and the Mac clipboard, it’s really pretty close to being able to just run standalone Windows apps under OS X. There’s a version of WINE out there in beta that does this on the Mac, too

There are a few bugs so far: Moving a Windows window with “show contents when moving windows” turned off means the contents of the window stay frozen on the screen where they started until you stop moving the window around. Also, you can’t move the Windows app out of the secondary display if you’re running a dual-head machine. It’s jailed on the second display. Trying to move a Windows app out of the second display gave me a bluescreen for my troubles, too. But only once, because Parallels is a very forgiving piece of software that somehow understood that I was in the grip of a compulsion when I tried to replicate the bug a second, third and fourth times.

Insert: I just discovered that the Windows screen blanking settings still hold sway over the secondary desktop, too. So it’ll just go blank if you don’t do something with one of those Windows apps before the timeout period elapses.

If I had any wishes at this point, I guess there’d be two:

  1. It’d be awesome if even the app bar could be done away with and replaced with some sort of launcher living in Mac-land.

  2. It’d be awesomer still if running Windows apps could be brought under the Mac’s cmd-tab/cmd-~ app/window switching regime.

I haven’t tried the Bootcamp side of things yet, but I’m sorely tempted. Having a native Windows install for stuff like the very occasional game or a lengthy Photoshop session that could also act as a virtual image for the occasional “IE coz the stupid job’s stats package won’t work with Firefox, Safari or anything besides IE or Netscape 4” session sounds really good.

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