A more versatile Mac with Parallels 7

By Cameron Chapman Posted Sep. 15, 2011 Reading time: 3 minutes

[Editor’s note: This is a sponsored review for Parallels 7]

One of the long-standing complaints about Macs is that there are more limited software options than for Windows-based PCs.

While the gap has closed in recent years as Macs become more popular (and let’s face it: there are some awesome Mac-only programs that PC owners are rightfully jealous of), there are still programs you can only run on a PC.

And even if the programs you want are available for the Mac, what if you already have Windows licenses for them? Do you really want to spend hundreds of dollars on buying the exact same version of your software, just for a different platform? Can you even afford to do that? Probably not.

Sure, you could use Bootcamp, but that means every time you want to run a Windows program, you’ll need to reboot your Mac. Not the most ideal solution if you’re in the middle of a project. Especially if you use a mix of Mac and PC programs for your work. This is where Parallels comes in…

Parallels lets you run Windows programs on your Mac, as if they were native programs, without a reboot. Instead, it creates a virtual machine within your Mac where you can install a (separately-purchased) copy of Windows. From there, you have the option to view your Windows desktop and programs within a single window on your Mac, or you can set it up to show your Windows programs natively within your Mac environment.

Developers and designers should be especially interested in this, because it means that they don’t need to keep two systems up and running for testing (or rely on third-party testing services). Just run whatever version of Windows you want with Parallels and test in Internet Explorer or Windows versions of other browsers without any hassle.

Parallels 7 has just been released, and adds a number of new features. First on the list for many is likely integration with Mac OS 10.7 Lion, which includes full-screen support, use of the Launchpad for Windows applications, Mission Control support, and more. Parallels also has a new, more Mac-like appearance and functionality, including setting preferences immediately without having to click OK.

The Parallels Wizard makes it easy to set up your virtual machines, and even includes the ability to download Chromium OS, Fedora Linux, and Ubuntu Linux for free, or purchase and download Windows 7 (you can also install Windows 7 from a DVD or image file, or migrate from a Windows PC).

Another big feature that’s been added is the ability to share your iSight or FaceTime HD camera with Windows applications, including Windows Live Messenger, while also being available to OS X programs at the same time. Printing has been streamlined, too, so that it’s possible to print from your Mac OS printers from within a Windows program.

Other improvements include faster boot times, faster pause and resume within Windows, and faster migration of your PC data. Overall, Parallels 7 is about 60% faster than Parallels 6 was.

You can also now choose up to 1GB of video memory to make graphically intensive Windows programs run smoother. There are enhanced 3D graphics for gaming (up to 45% faster than with Parallels 6), plus 7.1 surround sound and support for high-quality audio formats (up to 192KHz). And there are plenty of reports from gamers online that Parallels 7 makes it possible to play games that Parallels 6 couldn’t handle.

Another advantage to Parallels is that you can also run multiple versions of OS X within the virtual machines on your Mac. For example, you could run OS X Lion along with Snow Leopard Server if you needed to, without having to reboot your computer to switch between the two. This is another huge potential advantage for developers.

The new Parallels mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch are also a great addition. Currently $4.99 (the regular price is $19.99, so get it while it’s on sale), the mobile app will effectively let you run Windows (or whatever OS you’re virtualizing) on your phone or iPad, even including Flash content. You can even copy and paste text directly from your mobile to your virtualized machine with the app!

The full version of Parallels 7 is $79.99, though the student version is only $39.99. An upgrade from Parallels 5 or 6 will set you back $49.99. You’ll need to buy a copy of Windows if you don’t already have one, though Parallels 7 makes it easy to purchase and install the newest version of Windows directly from within the program.


[Disclaimer: This post is a sponsored post for Parallels. The opinions expressed in the article are the author’s only.]