Whenever you look around for virtualisation solutions on the Mac platform you get two answers: VMware Fusion and Parallels. One you don’t hear so much about however is VirtualBox from Sun. I haven’t used the first two since VirtualBox is open source and free of charge. I first installed it two months ago and although it worked it was extremely slow. This was not so much due to the software rather my machine only had 1 GB of RAM available and running two operating systems is rather intensive. A few weeks ago I upgraded to 4 GB and tried out VirtualBox again, I’ve been using it almost daily since then. It works great!
Most of the time I’m a .Net developer so I need Visual Studio and Windows to get my work done and apart from the fact that some keys don’t work, or I haven’t figured out how to get them working, like the function keys, I don’t feel any difference compared to working on a native Windows box. You don’t loose any responsiveness.
Copy Pasting text is supported, so I can copy text from i.e. Safari into Notepad. While skimming through the manual there was a mention on how to share files between the two operating systems but I haven’t really looked into that. It works with shared folders to achieve this functionality, the two other virtualisation options support drag and drop I think.
You can run VirtualBox as any other window but most of the time I run it in seamless mode. This means that the applications you start in Windows can be placed next to your running OS X applications, seamlessly. This is illustrated by the attached screenshots, the first one shows the Windows applications locked on the Windows desktop and the second one shows the same applications but now running in seamless mode.
I first used spaces to keep my OS X and Windows applications separated but found that not comfortably to work in. I would look something up in Safari then switch to Visual Studio and saw all the applications fly from left to right, a few minutes later I’d receive a mail and everything flew back again. If there would be one school example on why to use spaces I thought it would be virtualisation but now I’m not convinced of the entire idea any more. Why on earth would you use it except for adding more icons on your desktop.
So, to sum it up, if you need to run Windows on OS X and don’t want to reboot everytime for BootCamp, go download VirtualBox!
Since a video says so much more on how everything works, here is a movie I found on YouTube: