Parallels Desktop

I can highly recommend the newest version of Parallels Desktop for running Windows applications under OS X.  I already posted, showing how the new Crystal mode makes the integration near-perfect.

Disclaimer: I’m not associated with Parallels (or whatever their company is called), just a happy customer.

I thought, I’d follow up on that.  Today, I’ve been working a bit with CPN Tools for a project, I’m working on.  This, of course requires me to have Parallels open with CPN Tools, as we don’t have a Mac version of that.  I’d expect that this would force my machine to run at horrible speed, but actually it runs just fine.  While the visual part of Crystal mode is what you see first, the real winner is that is no longer consumes many resources while running.

In the below screen shot, we see a couple Mac and a Windows application running side by side (unfortunately, I could not find Minesweeper nor Solitaire – they don’t seem to be in Applications -> Accessories -> System Tools, so I may have installed them – so I used Paintbrush instead).  We see that the Windows application mostly looks and behaves like a Mac application (though it uses an ugly font and has a menu bar).

Running Parallels in Crystal Model

We see that Parallels in total only consumes around 150 MB RAM and 2-3 % CPU time.  But the performance is even better.  Parallels already for a couple of versions have had options to balance the performance between the virtual machine and the host:

Balancing Performance of Host and VM

Mine’s set to prefer Windows (and even then the performance is as above), but to balance it, so that when I work with Mac apps, they are given priority.  The new Parallels also comes with an option to automatically pause the virtual machine when it is not in use:

Paused Virtual Machine and Shared Applications

Yes, they’ve put this option in an illogical place!  Anyway, when this is on and I’m not running Windows applications, the CPU usage falls to  around 0.1 % overall, and – I guess – they can easily be swapped out to free more memory for Mac use.

Along with a few other options, this actually makes it viable to keep a Windows machine running in the background, ready for when you need it.  This will definitely be a relief when I no longer have to go thru starting a VM first in order to start CPN Tools.

So, what are these other options, you ask? (No, you didn’t, I’m aware of that, but let’s for the argument of narrative assume you did.)  Well, these are actually both new and old features.  In the above screenshot, we already see that it is possible to share applications between OS X and Windows.  That means that I can associate the Mac application Safari for web-browsing and use Outlook for reading e-mail (for the sake of argument, I actually use Apple Mail).  That way when I click on an e-mail link in Safari, Outlook opens to compose an e-mail, and when I click on a link in Outlook, Safari opens the link.  I can also double-click on documents, both in the Mac Finder and in Windows Explorer, and they will be opened in the correct applications.

As if that is not enough, I can also share documents folders between the two operating systems, so whenever I dump a document in my documents folder on my Mac, it is also available in the Documents folder on Windows, no copying, no nothing.

Document Sharing

While sharing documents and programs are not new features of Parallels (I think they were introduced in 4 a year ago), the next one is.  If you look at the top screen-shot, you see that I have the Windows start menu opened.  It doesn’t look very Mac-like or anything, right?  Right.  This has also been remedied in 5.  You have been able to add applications to your dock for a while, so you can immediately start often-used apps, but for those rarely osed apps (those that are not Minesweeper nor Solitaire), you can simply use the stacks feature of OS X Leopard to show the start menu directly from the dock, very nicely looking:

Start Menu List

Oh, and to the left of the start menu entry for SML of New Jersey, we see the Paintbrush icon in the dock.  This is the start menu=ish look, but I can easily switch it to an even more Mac-like version:

Start Menu Grid

But let’s no do that, because Windows icons are not as scalable as Mac icons are, so they look all fuzzy in this view.

All in all, this actually makes it viable to keep a Windows machine running the background, just waiting for that intensive Minesweeper or Solitaire action you need at times.  And for CPN Tools.

One thought on “Parallels Desktop

  1. I’ve installed CPN Tools on Parallels 5 but the right button won’t work. I have tried Ctrl+shift+mouse click and it does nothing. Any suggestions?

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