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Parallels Getting Better

December 2nd, 2006

For running Windows on a Mac, Parallels has been a great app, already surpassing Virtual PC beyond the obvious speed capabilities inherent in running Windows on an Intel machine. But now Parallels has gone and outdone itself, having released a new free upgrade, the Beta Build 3036.

The upgrade is chock full of new features, and though there are only a few that are cool to me, they’re big ones. The first is drag-and-drop copying. I never got the hang of the shared folder in that I kept forgetting where it was on my Mac, and had trouble making it the same between different versions of Windows in Parallels (okay, I didn’t try very hard). But I never liked the whole shared-folder idea anyway, whether it was in Parallels or between different users on a Mac. So now that Parallels allows you to simply drag and drop files between the OS’s, I’m a happy camper.



The other improvement I like is the window resizing. One thing Virtual PC always sucked at was getting the size of the window right, especially since I used it on a Mac that connected to a TV; whenever I changed resolutions to match the TV, the Virtual PC window got screwed up. Similarly, with Parallels, to change the actual resolution of the Windows screen, you’d have to effect the change within the Display Properties dialog box, and resizing the window containing the virtual OS would result in a mismatch. But not any more. With Build 3036, you can resize your Windows window to any size you want, and the OS will automatically resize the virtual resolution along with it. Very nifty.

There is one other big change, though not a big one for me: the ability to work with Boot Camp. A bit late for me, as I never installed Boot Camp, so now it would require a complete wipe of my hard drive and reinstalling everything. But if you haven’t done either yet, or better are just about to buy a new Mac, you can now install WIndows in Boot Camp and use Parallels, without worrying about having to install Windows twice. As I said, I won’t use it (yet), but it’s a good option to have.

Among the other changes: redesigned windows/controls, one-click startup via an OS alias (you no longer have to open the interface window and then start Windows), and enhanced networking, graphics and lots of other little stuff. The details are laid out here. There’s also a new feature called “Coherency,” which is supposed to “show Windows applications as if they were Mac ones,” but all I get when I try it is the Windows area going full-screen except for the Mac menu bar, with bad pixelation of the Windows graphics.

Still, for a free upgrade, this version has some big new features.

Update: OK, I see now. What “Coherency” does it to take away the Windows background except for the active app windows and the Task Bar, making the Mac environment appear behind it. If you have the resolution in Parallels set to maximum, then there is no pixelation. Instead, the Task Bar appears at the bottom of the screen, and all active Windows programs appear to be windows open within the Mac OS. However, you cannot hide them with Command-H like other Mac apps; if you do a “hide,” then they all disappear, along with the Task bar. Instead, you would have to minimize them. I guess that though it’s not quite as good as making Windows apps act like Mac apps, it’s probably the next best thing.

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