Switching to Mac even easier with Parallels 7

Parallels desktop received a major upgrade today adding speed improvements, Launchpad integration in OS X Lion, full-screen Windows apps, and more.

Making the switch from Windows to Mac isn't as hard as you might think. That's because there are great options for using Windows software on your Mac through Apple's Boot Camp and other third-party virtualization software. Today, Parallels Desktop got a major update adding features to make switching to a different operating system even more seamless. There's also an upgraded mobile version for iOS you can use to remotely control your virtual environments from your phone.

Parallels Desktop

Parallels Desktop makes it feel as though you are running Internet Explorer 9 seamlessly on your Mac desktop.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Parallels Desktop has always been a great way to switch seamlessly between operating systems without the need to reboot your Mac. But with this new version, regardless of which system you're running at the time, when you open a file type that's for another operating system, Parallels Desktop automatically recognizes the file type and launches it in its native OS for you. Parallels says changes like these improve your switching experience by making it feel as though Windows software just works on your Mac, rather than needing to feel like it's working as part of a virtual machine. Windows apps like Quicken, Office, and other applications important to Windows switchers will run as though they're launching them normally from the Mac desktop.

Among the new and notable features in this latest release, Parallels Desktop includes simultaneous use of iSight cameras in Mac and Windows environments; speed improvements and support for up to 1GB of video card memory; Parallels wizard improvements for Windows to Mac migration and easy virtual machine setup; and the ability to run Windows apps full screen for a much less jarring computing experience.

Parallels Desktop

In Parallels Desktop 7 you can now run Lion in a window as well, making it easy to test Mac programs.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Part of the thrust of this update seems to be tighter integration with Apple's latest version of OS X, Lion. To this end Parallels added the aforementioned support for using Windows software full screen but also added support for Launchpad--Windows apps are by default added to your Launchpad for one-click access. This means you'll be able to launch a Windows app straight away from Launchpad and Parallels will launch the virtual machine for you so you can get to work right away.

The new mobile version of the software lets you control both Mac and Windows virtual machines, instead of just Windows VMs in the current versions. You'll also have access to audio pass-through (useful for presentations that contain video), and be able to copy and paste information from your Windows virtual machine straight to your iOS device clipboard.

Parallels Desktop

Parallels Desktop is now an official vendor for Windows so you can purchase the OS (or select others) from within the software.

(Credit: Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET)

Many of the new features bring Parallels up to speed with Mac OS X Lion and provide for an even smoother transition between operating systems. Windows users who are switching to Mac will especially appreciate onscreen guidance for working in Lion, and premade intro videos that make it easy to get started using a Mac right away. But even more handy is that Parallels is now an authorized Windows vendor, so you'll now be able to purchase, download, and install Windows installations from within the software.

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