Best of Both Worlds: OS X and Windows

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Working together

If you find it jarring to move from OS X to a separate window containing your Windows world, both Parallels and Fusion provide alternatives.

First, to better differentiate between the two operating systems, you can use the full-screen mode available in both Fusion and Parallels to obscure all visible evidence that you’re even using a Mac—anyone walking past your cubicle will see only your Windows session on the screen. In OS X 10.5, I like to assign Fusion or Parallels to its own space in the Spaces preference pane. I can then move between the Mac and Windows operating systems by pressing control and one of the arrow keys.

If you’re looking to integrate the two operating systems visually, you can have that, too. Fusion and Parallels each offer a mode that lets Windows’ programs and windows blend in with the rest of your OS X windows. (Parallels calls it Coherence mode; Fusion calls it Unity.) Whatever you call it, in this integrated mode the Windows desktop vanishes, and your open Windows programs appear alongside OS X applications on the desktop and in the Dock.

In Parallel's Coherence mode, you'll see the Windows taskbar at the top of the screen, a mix of Windows and OS X software on screen, and Windows programs in the Dock.

Printing from Windows

If you have a networked printer, printing to it from Windows in Parallels or Fusion should just work. You should be able to set up the networked printer from your virtual machine just as you would on a stand-alone Windows machine.

Printing to a USB printer connected directly to your Mac is somewhat more complicated. Fusion and Parallels both include solutions for “capturing” your Mac’s USB printer for use within Windows. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to print from Mac OS at the same time, so this method is not my preferred solution.

Here’s how I like to do it: in your Windows virtual machine, download and install Apple’s Bonjour for Windows. As part of the installation, a Bonjour Printer Wizard icon will appear on your Windows desktop. Launch it after the installation finishes, then click on Next to get to the Shared Printers screen.

What happens next depends on your printer. If it’s a newer model and Bonjour is enabled, you’ll see it listed in the Shared Printers screen. Select it, click on Next, and then fol- low the instructions to install its drivers. When this process is done, you’ll have a fully supported printer installed in Windows.

If you have an older printer, you won’t see it listed. Switch back to your Mac and use the Sharing preference pane to enable Printer Sharing. Switch back to Windows, and the printer should now show up in the Shared Printers list. Select it, click on Next, and leave the driver settings at the default (Generic/PostScript or Generic/PCL).

The final word

That’s certainly not all you need to know about running Windows programs on your Mac—not by a long shot. But many of the adjustments you make will depend on your particular system and the particular Windows software you want to run. What I’ve outlined here should be enough to get you started in the world of dual—not dueling—operating systems.

[Rob Griffiths is a senior editor at Macworld.]

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