I’m a Windows person. I’ve grown up with Windows, I work with Windows, I play with Windows. From Windows 3.11 for workgroups, through Windows 98, ME, XP, Vista and now Windows 7, I’ve used them all. I intensely dislike the iPhone and I LOVE my Windows Phone 7. I develop in C# and SQL using MS TFS 2010. That’s just who I am, don’t judge me.
But I really like my 27” iMac. It really is an impressive piece of hardware. I also recently acquired an Apple TV, perfect for streaming media directly to the TV. Up until now I have been using Boot Camp and booting into Windows 7 for the majority of my day-to-day computer usage, but with the acquisition of the Apple TV, and for various other curiosity reasons, I’ve started having a bit of a play with OSX Lion.
It really is very different and my first dealings with it left me frustrated and vowing to return to Windows and never come back to OSX. But I have persisted and gotten used to the niggling differences in the way you navigate around the OS. There were still many things missing. One feature in particular of Windows 7 I make frequent use of and missed when in OSX is some of the shortcuts, or Hotkeys, that make life easier, like the Win+Left or Win+Right to make the current window take up the left/right half of the screen, allowing you to work on multiple things at once. And the deal-breaker for me when playing with OSX is the lack of MS TFS for development and Zune. As I said I love my WP7, I need to sync it somehow. This meant I had to spend more time switching between Operating Systems than anyone should have to.
Along comes the perfect solution to my problem. Desktop® 7 for Mac (http://www.parallels.com/au/products/desktop/).
When installing Parallels the first thing it asks you to do is to create a New Virtual PC. What impressed me is that along side the options of “Install from DVD” and “Migrate Windows from a PC” there was the Option to “Use Windows from Boot Camp”. First sign of brilliance and first sigh of relief. I wouldn’t have to re-install everything!! A single click is enough for Parallels to install everything needed on both sides of the relationship.
The default settings of the new VM are to call it “My Boot Camp” and set the VM to use 1GB of memory. At this point, before starting it up it is possible to re-configure the VM, eg: to assign more memory or to rename the VM to something more Useful. I renamed it to “Win7 Boot Camp” and set it to use 2GB memory, then I simply clicked Start and before I knew it, I was up and running.
Using Parallels Desktop
So far, Parallels is pretty easy to use as it seamlessly integrates all of your favorite Windows functionality into the OSX OS. There are 3 modes that the Virtual Machine will run in, each with their own benefits:
Mode 1 – Full-Screen
Similar to any other OSX App, running in full screen mode allows you to “swipe” across to it. In the case of the VM we are playing with, it allows you interact with it as if you were not in a VM, away from any OSX specific apps, while at the same time allowing you to “swipe” back to the OSX desktop or to any other apps you are running in full screen mode.
I’ll be in this mode when involved in more serious Windows App development or Service/Server configuration.
Mode 2 – Window mode
Just as the name implies, Windows 7 running in a Window. Useful for keeping an eye on the progress of things, like installations, etc, but I’m not sure I’d use this mode all that much.
Mode 3 – Coherence Mode
By far one of the more impressive feats I’ve seen. Coherence mode essentially merges Windows 7, both the virtual machine and the functionality of Windows, into one. Say hello to my favorite shortcuts, the Cmd+Left and Cmd+Right keys to shift a window to the left or right side of the screen. Note: This only works on applications running within the Virtual Machine. Bummer.
All your windows applications are available either by right-clicking (or Ctrl + Clicking for those who don’t know what right-click is) the Parallels icon in the taskbar to bring up the Windows Start Menu, or by clicking the Windows Applications folder in the right-hand side of the Dock. Also, any Windows Applications you have open are visible in the OSX Dock with a Parallels Icon over-laid.
I’ll be in this mode for most of my casual computer use, browsing, etc.
So while I’m only beginning to scratch the surface and there is a lot more to be said, I’ll finish by saying that not only was Parallels insanely easy to set-up and install, it means I now have access to the best of both worlds with no problems … except one. Am I still a Windows person? A friend of mine commented, “Don’t tell me OSX is now your default OS!!?!?”. How do I answer that without sounding like I’m in denial? If I’m in OSX for some functionality that is only available in OSX, but I’m using >80% Windows applications, am I really in OSX?