When I first heard that Apple were going down the Intel route and that Windows would theoretically be accessible on a Mac I couldn’t really see why that would appeal to me. When Bootcamp was introduced I had no desire at all. My views was (and is) that if I have to actually boot into a different operating system I may as well have a Windows PC and use that.
I have been using Parallels for a while now and have written about it before. I have been impressed, but more from a technical perspective than an ease of use. I do use it, but as I also have a Windows PC I don’t use it much. Now I accept that I am fortunate to have a Windows PC as well as a Mac (yes I said fortunate!), and the reality is that I will pretty much always need to have one for the work that I do, but my rationale has always been that as more and more Mac purchases are from switchers, and existing Mac users are usually pretty die hard “geeks” and add to that the low cost of a ‘basic’ Windows PC and/or the low residual level and I still maintain that you are better off keeping (or getting hold of) a Windows PC IF you need to use Windows.
I am not including gaming in this by the way, my theory on that is that a serious gamer will have a serious computer anyway.
Of course with both Bootcamp and Parallels you need a copy of Windows which is a) an additional cost and b) has all the inherent ‘maintenance’ issues. So again, by the time you have bought Parallels and Windows you have pretty much spent what you could get an OK Windows PC for, and which would also give you some extra hard disk storage capacity.
Why do I think that? First let me show you what they have to say:
“CrossOver Mac allows you to install many popular Windows applications and games on Mac OS X. CrossOver includes an easy to use, single click interface, which makes installing Windows software simple and fast. Once installed, your application integrates seamlessly in OS X. Just click and run your application directly from the OS X Finder. Clicking a Windows file or document — including email attachments — will launch the appropriate Windows program, allowing you to work on the files. Best of all, you do it all easily and affordably, without needing a Microsoft operating system license.
Adding new Windows software is easy. Just place your install CD in your Mac, and CrossOver will recognize it and offer to begin the installation process. CrossOver then completes the installation and configures your application to run on your Mac. That’s all there is to it. ”
When you open up the application there are a few preferences to look at; where to install applications etc. Naturally you need the original software, and you get the option to install it directly from the CD OR if you have copied the CD to your Mac, from the folder where the installer sits. The application works by creating a ‘bottle *’ for each application you are installing.
Couple of things that I really liked: the fact that when the application required a reboot to install it was a virtual reboot so the Mac didn’t need to restart, and that you can drag the Windows Application icon to the dock and just click on it as with any application to open it up (it opens CrossOver and puts a neat little icon on the dock icon to show which application is open)
All of this is possible due to the wine project, as well as the skill of the developers of course! Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of X and Unix. It would take a whole review to explain what it is and why it is so important, so if you don’t know about it please take a look at the link provided.
From a financial perspective this application makes sense as you can see from their comparison. From an ease of use perspective it is better than Parallels in my opinion. The number of compatible applications is a little limited, but is growing and you can check out if that one that you must have is available here. I really do wish I had this application earlier. My wife uses Quicken for our accounts and although she could use the Windows version under Parallels she didn’t find it all that easy as she uses it several times a day. In addition all the ‘maintenance’ that goes with running Windows was something she hadn’t missed at all with her iMac, so we got her Quicken for the Mac. Now, though, she has the original version of Quicken on her iMac and all her old accounts. It was really easy, and runs as quickly as it did on the Windows PC. Very impressive.
* “A bottle is a virtual Windows environment. Each bottle contains a unique C: drive and all its standard sub directories: Windows, Program Files, etc. A bottle also contains a complete Windows registry, a full set of most CrossOver settings, and one or more Windows applications.
CrossOver allows you to maintain multiple bottles in one CrossOver installation. This is like having several different Windows machines operating together on your computer.
This is useful anytime you want to install multiple applications yet prevent them from interacting or damaging one another. For example: Typically the Internet Explorer 6.0 installer upgrades any existing Internet Explorer 5.0 installation. Using bottles it is possible to install Internet Explorer 6.0 into a new, empty bottle, while leaving an existing install of Internet Explorer 5.0 intact and untouched, thus letting web developers run both simultaneously.
Multiple bottles are also useful anytime a particular application requires special system settings that are otherwise undesirable. It is also possible to maintain bottles that emulate different Windows versions. For example, Microsoft Office 2003 only works on Windows versions 2000 or later, whereas Microsoft Office 97 runs best in a bottle that emulates Windows 98.
CrossOver also makes it easy to backup bottles, and thus all the Windows applications they contain. Backing up a bottle gives you a .cxarchive file which you can then restore on any machine, along with all the relevant Wine settings, desktop menus, browser plugins and file associations.”