Installing isn’t complicated, but it is time-consuming given the application has to install an entire copy of Windows on your Mac. Parallels includes a number of integration modes. The first, called Coherence mode, runs Windows applications as though they’re native apps and shares music, videos and documents with both operating systems. The second option, Window mode, runs the virtual PC in its own separate window, without document sharing but with the ability to drag and drop files and copy text. You’ll also find a Full Screen mode for maximum compatibility, plus Modality mode.
In Window mode you’ll see a virtual PC running on your desktop in a window that can be resized and moved around the screen. It’s great for using Windows as a separate machine; files can be dragged and dropped between the two desktops, and you can even run Windows on a second monitor resulting in two operating systems running simultaneously on one Mac.
As for using software, we installed and loaded Photoshop CS5 in Windows 7. Using Coherence mode we were disappointed to see garbled graphics in any documents created by the program. However, once we turned off GPU acceleration in the Photoshop preferences panel, the program worked perfectly. It didn’t run quite as smoothly as the native Mac app, but it was perfectly useable. A quick benchmark test showed that the program ran about 30 per cent slower than the Mac app.
Installing and playing games proved rather tricky. Any title that’s integrated with Steam wouldn’t install due to the key activation server not connecting. Titles such as Elder Scrolls: Oblivion installed without a hitch but when opened crashed immediately. It wasn’t until we ran Parallels in Full Screen mode that games began to work. It was worth the hassle, however. Oblivion played perfectly, with a smooth frame rate and no compatibility issues. Once the game was up and running we could also change to Coherence mode and switch to OS X and back without any problems.
Parallels is an impressive solution to running Windows software on your Mac, and when programs are run in Full Screen mode it’s almost as fast as Boot Camp. Applications can be loaded from the OS X dock and file sharing between operating systems is easy. It has a few compatibility issues in Coherence mode, but it’s the most efficient way to run Windows software on your Mac.