Just days after VMware released Fusion 3, Parallels today released Parallels Desktop 5 (US $80, $50 upgrade), a new version of its Mac OS X virtualization software. New features include support for Windows Aero features, Apple track pad gestures in Windows apps, and a new screen mode called Crystal. A Parallels spokesperson also said that Parallels 5 runs faster than VMware Fusion 3, and graphics performance that is seven times faster than Parallels 4. It also now supports 64-bit Snow Leopard hosts and 64-bit Windows 7 guests.
Support of Windows 7 and Vista Aero features, such as Aero Peak and Flip 3D, is enabled with support for DirectX 9.0c/9Ex Shader Model 3 and OpenGL 2.1 Windows WWDM. The company said that Linux guests will also see improved graphics performance due to Open GL 2.1.
Parallels Desktop 5 can also assign up to 8 virtual CPUs per virtual machine. When no Windows applications are open, Parallels Desktop will pause, thus tanking up very little system resources.
Parallels Compressor is a new feature that automatically compresses defragments the virtual disk while a user works. Parallels said that this optimizes performance.
With all of these improvements, a company spokesperson said that Parallels Desktop 3 can run Windows 7 22 percent faster than can VMware Fusion 3.
User interface enhancements
Windows applications can react to the finger gestures of Apple track pads and of the Apple Magic Mouse. These include pinch (for zoom), vertical and horizontal scrolling, rotate, and others. Users can also now copy and paste material that includes formatted text and images between Windows and Mac applications, and between Linux and Windows guest OSes. You can now run virtual machines using Apple Remote.
Crystal mode is a new way to hide the Windows desktop. Like Parallels Desktop's Coherence mode, Crystal Mode displays Windows applications in a floating window. The main differences are that Crystal mode removes the Parallels Desktop menu items (File, Edit, View, etc.) from the Mac menu bar at the top of the screen. This is replaced with a single menu in the menu bar, that of the Windows application. There's also a new Windows application folder that lives in the Dock, even with Parallels Desktop isn't running. You can launch Windows applications from this Dock folder.
When the windows of Windows applications are open in Coherence or Crystal, they can look and act like see-through Windows 7 Aero Windows. There is also new Mac theme which enables this windows to look like Mac OS X windows.
Another new feature is the ability to lock individual virtual machines, so that they can't be used without a password, and set privileges that control who can change virtual machine settings. Version 5 now also supports login through SmartCards.
Parallels Transport, the software that enables the importing and conversion of virtual machines in other formats, has been improved. It can now import VirtualBox virtual machines, in addition to those created by VMware software. To import and convert a virtual machine, you can now drag it from the Finder and drop it into the virtual machine list. Parallels Desktop will convert and import it. Parallels Transporter can also move the setup from a real PC into a virtual machine.
If you've tried Parallels Desktop 5