19 Aug 2007

On Bullheadedness

Author: q | Filed under: Coolness, Mac, Parallels, VMWare

OK, so I”m just not happy leaving things like my last two blog posts – undone. This Fusion/Parallels/Vista/XP thing has really got my goat, so to speak, so I spent some time this weekend working through a lot of it.  Here”s what I”ve been able to nail down.

Taskbar – Parallels has it, Fusion doesn”t.

It may or may not be a big deal to you either way, but some of us are rather set in our ways for accessing resources, and having a completely invisible taskbar just doesn”t work for me. Some folks are going to be thrilled about the way Fusion completely removes the taskbar, and I must admit, there are some parts of their implementation that really, really make sense. Except for one thing.

But before I get into that, let me describe the methodology. As mentioned previously, I”ve had XP running under Parallels for about 8 months. I tackled Fusion,but worked with Vista in that. So,I went back and installed Vista in Parallels and XP in Fusion. The install of Vista was smoother in Fusion than in Parallels. I”m not sure why, but I couldn”t get any networking in Vista until I installed the Parallels tools. I don”t recall that from my initial XP install under Parallels, but I”ve slept little since then.

Getting into Coherence/Unity mode is easier in Parallels than Fusion. In both XP and Vista, Parallels will come fully up into Coherence mode when the VM boots up, so that in XP I get a floating “Press Ctrl-Alt-Del” box in the middle of my Mac screen. However, when Vista comes up in Coherence, it takes over the entire $@^&# screen with its login prompt and obliterates everything else on the desktop until I get logged in. That”s a tad annoying.

You get the full taskbar in Parallels in Coherence mode. With Fusion, you have to pull some tricks to get a taskbar, and it”s still not exactly what I want.  I had to hunt around Google to find references to my issue, but I finally ran across this thread in the VMWare forums about it. Somone documented a settings file that can be modified to get a full taskbar out of Unity mode in Fusion, documented below:

A new hidden option to always show the Windows task bar in Unity. To
enable the task bar always:

1) In the Windows guest, go to: C:Documents and SettingsAll
UsersApplication DataVMwareVMware Tools. NOTE: The Application Data
folder won’t be visible unless Windows is set to display hidden files and
folders in Windows Explorer.

2) Open tools.conf in Notepad.

3) Add the following line unity.showTaskbar = “true” and save and close
the tools.conf file. Restart your Windows guest.

4) Next time you enter into the Unity view, VMware Fusion will show the
Windows task bar.


There”s only one catch with this: the Windows taskbar appears behind the Dock, not above it like Parallels does. Meaning I can access the State button and a couple of the icons in the system tray, but that”s it. Everything else is completely inaccessible behind the doc. That”s just not really useful. I guess I”m still in favor of the Parallels implementation of the taskbar over Fusion.

The Mac-integrated application launcher is better in Fusion. I”m still not sure how much I”ll be using this, but when I have Fusion as the foreground application on the Mac, I can access the Applications menu, which presents most of the contents of the Start menu in the Mac menu. Again, if I have access to the Start Menu through the taskbar, no big deal. But If you go barless, this will be key. As there”s not a keyboard shortcut that will bring up the Start Menu in Fusion. In Parallels, hitting the Windows key (natively maps to the Command key on the Mac keyboard) opens the Start menu just like in real Windows. Now if Fusion will put in a set of menus to access any taskbar toolbar icons, I may be able to get around this, but I haven”t seen it yet.

Fusion has better individual application windowing, hands down. If I”m in a Mac app, say Firefox for example, and I click on one of my Outlook windows in Fusion, only that window comes forward. If I do the same in Parallels, when I click on the Outlook window, ALL open Windows windows come forward. Fusion has figured out how to really individualize the application display. Same thing if you click on the application icon in the dock – Fusion opens that application Window set, Parallels brings forward all the Windows windows, and sometimes doesn”t select the app window you selected. Significant advantage for Fusion over Parallels.

Fusion lets you assign a Windows app its own Dock icon so you can launch a Windows app in Fusion by clicking on the Dock icon. OK, that just rocks. So I can put application icons in the Mac doc, even if they”re Windows apps, and launch that app by clicking the Dock icon. Did I mention that rocks? Yes, I have to have Fusion open, and yes, I have to be in Unity mode, but that rocks. I”m really, really hoping Parallels will implement this feature in an update for Coherence.

After spending some quality time in all four interface combinations now, I”m still going to be sticking with Parallels as the primary Windows interface for the time being. For the way I work, it”s going to allow me to be more efficient in the short term. I really hope they”ll come up with some of the nice features that Fusion has implemented in Unity, and I think they will, but how quickly remains to be seen. I”m still gun shy about the disk trouble I had with Fusion, but I can only hope that was an oddity and not a commonality. We”ll give it another shot at some point and see how it goes, probably not until after they release another update to Fusion, though. 

One Response to “On Bullheadedness”

  1. John Venti Says:

    I use to have a small start button on the bottom left of my screed when I was in Unity mode. Now it is not there. I recently upgraded to the new OS X operating system…

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