Almost overnight, running Windows on a Mac became a viable option when Apple adopted Intel processors in 2006. As well as installing Windows directly onto a separate disk partition, allowing you to work natively in Windows, virtualization software packages appeared that enabled the simultaneous use of Windows from within Mac OS X - and all without rebooting.
The first commercial offering was Parallels Desktop for Mac, followed shortly after by VMware's Fusion. The two companies have been playing tag since, each adding features and functionality to match and then trump their competitor.
With the latest VMware Fusion 3, VMware has introduced key new functions that particularly address the running of Windows 7 and Vista, as well as numerous small interface and performance tweaks.
The most visually arresting sight is the new graphics system, which finally enables the use of Windows WDDM graphics. When Microsoft launched Vista, it introduced a new way to draw screen graphics - the Windows Display Driver Model - which is built around a new composite desktop graphics system.
The WDDM graphics update attempted in one swoop to reduce Windows' infamous blue-screen-of-death crashes, while also introducing the new desktop transparency effects known as Aero Glass.
So now, when running relevant versions of Windows Vista or Windows 7 in VMware Fusion 3, you'll see semi-transparent edges to windows, while the Flip 3D application switcher can be invoked using the Windows-Tab keys (once you've deselected ‘Enable Mac OS Keyboard Shortcuts' in Fusion's preferences).
And in Windows 7, there are Aero Peek live thumbnails in the dock, along with Aero Shake and Aero Snap effects available.
Where the previous Fusion 2 supported DirectX 9.0c with Shader Model 2, Fusion 3 lists DirectX 9.0c with Shader Model 3. VMware has also added OpenGL 2.1 support in VMware Fusion 3, albeit only for Windows XP virtual machines - so Compiz effects in Linux remain out of reach.
In the OS X top menu strip, a new icon appears by default which lists currently open apps in the Windows virtual machine (VM). Also here are links to View, Virtual Machine and Window settings.
Under ‘View', you can elect to use Unity, which switches off the usual Windows desktop, leaving just open apps to mingle with OS X apps. In Unity mode, the Windows colour scheme also switches back to opacity alongside Mac apps, rather than full Aero transparency, and trailing ghosts appear behind dragged windows.
The integration of Apple's Exposé is useful, though, so that VM windows will appear like normal Mac windows when the function is invoked.
There was also some minor issues such as undocked Windows apps losing their contents until they'd been refreshed by clicking on the app icon in the Mac Dock.
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