Today Parallels released a new beta version of their Parallels Desktop for Mac virtual machine environment. The folks over at Parallels haven’t been resting on their laurels, as evidenced by a) the multiple upgrades (both bug fixes and feature enhancements) since first releasing Parallels; b) the radical feature set of their latest beta (build 3036); and c) the incredible pace of internal development as evidenced by the 1066 internal builds since their last generally available version on November 1st (build 1970).
While users continue to be disappointed by the lack of true USB 2.0 support (and hit or miss support for USB 1.1 devices), this latest update really scores major points with better workflow via drag and drop, a sharper and easier to use interface, a shockingly good transparent mode (dubbed Coherence by Parallels marketing folks), and the ability to share a Boot Camp Windows XP installation.
The following are first use notes, compiled early this morning, after upating my Parallels 1970 installation with the new 3036 beta:
First use notes:
Hardware: Parallels, version 3036 Beta, running on 20″ iMac Core Duo, 2 GB RAM, with 23″ Cinema Display attached.
1. I’ve installed the new version, and launched Parallels to run on the 23″ display. The interface is much improved — very clean and very Mac-like. I immediately enabled Automatic Coherence, as this feature sounded too cool to wait for. Ooh, eye candy: Love the effect upon starting the VM.
2. Upon first startup, my copy of Windows XP had to be reactivated, because Windows XP is complaining that the computer hardware has changed too much since the original installation. That’s never before happened in the course of the many Parallels updates I’ve installed.
3. As with every new version of Parallels, one must update the drivers (called Parallel Tools). After doing so, I chose not to reboot immediately so that I could take a gander at the new Parallel Tools window that had popped open automatically; several seconds later, as I looked through the Parallels Tool Center window, I got a “Do Disk In Drive” warning dialog, for PTStart.exe. Clicking “Continue” correctly dismissed it, but perhaps the installer app could be unmounted cleaner.
4. Upon reboot of my VM (after new Parallel Tools installation), the Window changed from windowed mode to full screen, and looks like it is only displaying eight colors (the login screen is dithered). See screen shot:
5. Coherence is (I suspect) the cause of the aforementioned bit depth dithering. Coherence is an awesomely freaky thing… I can see my Mac desktop in place of the Windows desktop, but the Windows bar sits at the bottom of the screen. Windows now is telling me that the Display Settings (resolution and bit depth) are currently set to a very low level.
6. Hmmm. I let Windows change the color depth automatically. It selected 640×480. That’s one big toolbar! So I change the depth settings to the full resolution on my 23″ Cinema Display (1920×1200). Instant Windows bluescreen and Parallels crash.
7. Restart the VM, but no sign of the main VM window… I select Quit from the dock, expecting the warning that the guest OS should be shut down first… but no warning. The app just closed.
8. Restart Parallels. Start the VM. Now, Windows boots in a windowed mode, like the old version. Without logging in, I switch to this Safari window to type this in, and poof. The Windows window disappears, although Parallels still shows itself as running in my dock, with the Windows icon.
9. Quit and restart Parallels. This time, I choose to log in. After the chime plays, an instant Windows bluescreen and Parallels crash.
10. This time, I start with Automatic Coherence turned off. Desktop loads and all appears well. However, when I OPT-RETURN to go to full screen mode, I get the same bluescreen and app crash.
11. So, I try to launch Parallels on the main display (iMac 20″ 1680×1050). Upon login, Windows reports it has recovered from no less than five serious errors (no shit, sherlock), undoubtedly related to the video driver.
12. Dare I try to switch to full screen on my iMac display? Yeah, of course. And it works fine.
13. I can attest that display drawing is much faster. Interface animation and fading is smooth as silk.
14. Next, I will put Parallels back into windowed mode, and move it to the 23″ Cinema Display, and go to full screen, and see what happens. Interesting. It goes to full screen, but wraps Windows in black and doesn’t change the resolution from that of the window.
15. I attempt to manually change resolution from full-screen mode. If I click apply, it says I don’t have administrative permission to change the display, and that the display settings are invalid. So I just click apply, and the desktop scales correctly to 1920×1280. I test the system by switching back and forth between resolutions several times. No further instances of this issue are observed. It’s important to note that this is an unmanaged version of Windows XP.
16. So, now what about Drag and Drop? I copy a PDF file from Mac to Parallels. It works! I try it the other way. It works. I try to copy a document from Parallels to a folder on my Mac for which I don’t have write privelege…. It honors the Mac’s settings. Very nice.
17. Auto adjusting screen resolution on window resize works flawlessly and quickly.
18. Mac copy and paste remapping works great in Excel (able to use CMD-C and CMD-V in place of CTRL-C CTRL-V).
19. Toggling between windowed mode and Coherence mode works flawlessly…although once again it drew the toolbar in 8 colors. I simply change that the 24-bit, and all is well. Coherence, in a word, is sweet. It further integrates the Windows experience into the Mac. See this screen shot for an example of Mac OS X and Windows XP applications running side by side:
I still have to play with one of the most touted features: The ability to use the Windows XP installation from Boot Camp’s partition. Neat stuff, that could be!