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August 14, 2006

Browser-testing in Windows, on a G5 Mac using VirtualPC:

  1. Save your latest change.
  2. Cmd + Tab to switch to VirtualPC
  3. Go get a coffee while waiting for a response from your virtualized copy of Windows.
  4. Hit Refresh in the top-most browser.
  5. Go get another coffee while waiting for your virtualized copy of Internet Explorer to render the page. Take your time, you’ve got plenty to spare.
  6. Come back and check the results. Didn’t do what you expected, did it? That’s IE for you.
  7. Figure out what to change in your code, then go back to 1 and start again.

Net time: an ice age or two.

Brower-testing in Windows, on an Intel-based Mac using Parallels Desktop for Mac:

  1. Save your latest change.
  2. Cmd + Tab to switch to Parallels instantaneously.
  3. Hit Refresh in the top-most browser.
  4. Come back and check the results. Didn’t do what you expected, did it? That’s IE for you.
  5. Figure out what to change in your code, then go back to 1 and start again.

Net time: a blink of an eye for the refresh, but the bug-hunting still takes just as long as ever.

Because the second list still contains a few steps, it’s very difficult to convey to you just how fast Parallels runs. Click through to this YouTube demo for an example, though you’ll need extra software in the form of Virtual Desktop Manager or similar for the same effect.

Windowed or full-screen however, Parallels allows you to switch to Windows, refresh the browser, and get back to your actual work all within the space of a thought. Testing for Windows used to be drudgery under VirtualPC; with the sheer speed of Parallels, I’m actually enjoying browser-testing right now (though the novelty will die off soon, no doubt).

I’m becoming more and more convinced that the new Intel-based Macs are the ultimate web designer’s companion, and I’m clearly not alone in my thinking. Unix, OS X, and Windows all together in a convenient glossy white plastic finish? Sign me up.

Mark Otto says:
August 14, 11h

I feel the same way, even though I have never used an Apple computer before (save for toying around in the Apple store at the local mall).

I want to order a MacBook Pro so bad, but haven’t the money to do so yet. I feel like it’s holding me back.

Windows just isn’t a creativity platform.

Dave S. says:
August 14, 11h

Mark, it all depends on your needs of course, but if money is a factor, you should consider a MacBook.

I picked up the white 2.0Ghz model and it’s plenty fast (with 2GB RAM, that’s the important part). Back in March I was in favour of sticking with a G5 until Adobe had everything ported to Intel ( ), but I’m thinking the MacBook I bought as a secondary computer a few weeks back might just end up replacing the G5 iMac I bought in March. There’s that much difference.

August 14, 11h

> “response from your virtualized copy of Windows”

I’d say VitrualPC is no real virtualization. It’s emulation (as in converting/emulating code between architectures and platforms).

August 14, 11h

I actually use Photoshop on XP, in Parallels. it’s probably comparable speed-wise to running through Rosetta, though somebody should really run a test.

VMWare sounds promising though, might even be faster.

How about IE7? Just clone your VM, open the newly cloned VM and upgrade to IE7. I don’t recommend running both at the same time (unless you have 3 or more GB), but it’s damn cool just the same.

August 14, 11h

I am pretty familiar with procedure 1, except on a PowerBook G4. Best fun ever. Thankfully I do most of my web development at my day job, where I’m on a Windows machine.

But it is delightful to know that going freelance won’t really be an option without springing for a Macintel :) Now, let’s see, MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, iMac, or rent for three months?

Andrew says:
August 14, 12h

Was going to say what Jan says: Virtual PC is merely emulation, which means it’s Windows running purely in as an application. It’s damn impressive, but it’s not how an OS needs to run. Parallels is true virtualization, which means it has access to hardware and therefore can be much faster. Virtualized OS’s are really more like running two operating systems simultaneously than like running an application.

Since as of this week Virtual PC’s dead as a MSFT product anyway, we’ll all be enjoying snappy virtualized Windows on our Macs pretty soon.

August 14, 12h

I was reading about Parallels in Macaddict and now I am sure. One of those little black Macbooks are mine.

Jon Hicks says:
August 14, 12h

Thats it. I can’t wait any longer (except maybe for the new models supposedly coming next month). I have to get an Intel Mac!

August 14, 12h

One of the nice things about Mac OS X is you can also use it as a testing server right out of the box. Set up the networking so you can test, say, right on your desktop and it’s on! I wonder… can you setup Parallels to “see” the Mac’s netinfo/dns information?

That said, for those who can’t afford a new Mac, and already own one, a windows box costs less than $300 though you really can’t beat the convenience factor of one machine.

beto says:
August 14, 12h

“Go get a coffee while waiting for a response from your virtualized copy of Windows.”

My feelings exactly. Using VPC for crossplatform browser testing was as pleasant as having root canal surgery.

My life (or should I say iLife?) changed the moment I switched to a Macbook and got a copy of Parallels. For crossbrowser testing (and overall Windows usage, unless you are a hardcore gamer) this is bliss, with no performance lags whatsoever. This is nothing short of having your cake and eat it too.

I know this post has nothing to do with Flash, but I’m glad to report that the latest release of the plugin (v.9) optimized for Intel Macs also features screaming performance. Speed issues on the Mac seem to be finally a thing of the past.

Only thing left is to figure out how my Macbook would make me get whiter teeth. I am still working on it.

August 14, 13h

For all of you contemplating making the “switch”… stop! Walk out the door, head to your local apple dealer and pick up a shiny new macbook.

I had a g4 for a long time, then switched to pc. I now find myself on the macbook. This machine has made my development so much smoother and faster. For some reason everything just feels right. Parralels makes the bridge for testing just perfect. I also have an instance of unbutu running just to mess around.

This machine solves all my dev needs. I have Apache ,php4/php5, mysql, Ruby on rails, Coldfusion, jrun, sqlite, lightftpd. all running on one machine at once without any conflicts.

My last comment would be load it up with ram! I’m running on the stock ram and its near impossible to run photoshop and illustrator. They run, but extremely slow, annoying, and frustrating. Can’t wait till the intel versions come out.

Dave S. says:
August 14, 13h

Jason - you don’t need to wait for the Intel versions to come out, you need more RAM. I ran my MB for a few days at 512MB, then topped it up to 2GB. It’s a world of difference, as much as moving from a G4 to an Intel. Seriously.

Brad says:
August 14, 15h

When Shea and Cederholm buy MacBooks, you’ve got to wonder, who is the MacBook Pro targeted at?

I’m thrilled! The day the MacBooks were introduced I was tempted to buy. Now that I know actual professionals find their performance to be up-to-par, a MacBook Pro seems out of the question.

alain says:
August 14, 15h

@Justin Perkins - “I actually use Photoshop on XP, in Parallels. it’s probably comparable speed-wise to running through Rosetta, though somebody should really run a test.”

You’re in luck. A CNET blogger did run a test, with some interesting results. Here’s the link:

Also, I do like the idea of running Windows on my Mac, but am still worried about opening my machine to all the PC viruses and the headache of having to install all that anti-virus software. Any advice? Is it worth the trade off?

Brad says:
August 14, 15h

Please excuse my two posts so close toggether…

Dave, where did you order the 2 gigs of RAM? Did you install it yourself? I’ve added RAM to a PowerMac before, but is taking apart a notebook out of the question for the average user?

Dave S. says:
August 14, 15h

Brad - local Apple dealer (not an Apple Store, mind you). Looks like the MacBooks are set up to allow easy access to the RAM, so you don’t even have to take it apart. I’d have been inclined to DIY, but installation was free so I let them take care of it.

Re: Macbook targeting. I bought mine as a secondary computer, with the intent of continuing to use my iMac as a main machine. If I were to buy a notebook for full time usage, I might have gone Pro. (But the iMac was only ever a temporary measure anyway, just to keep me going until the Intel-ized Pro line came out; that just happened.)

Still, I’ve been wondering myself whether it makes sense anymore to stick with the Pro line for portables. I much prefer the plastic case to the aluminum, and these things are fast enough (and MBPs have far more of a heat problem) that I don’t see a lot of reason to not stick with the consumer model.

The glossy screen is annoying though.

August 14, 20h

I’m with Hicks (Comment 8), I’m pretty sure that as soon as Apple moves the MacBook Pro to the Intel Core 2 Duo chip I’ll be buying my very own “ultimate web designer’s companion.”

Mo says:
August 15, 06h

I prefer my black MacBook, personally, over the white :) (I have had two iBooks previously, mind, but the finish on the black ones is so much nicer).

Parallels really is fantastic, though.

On the old MacBook versus MacBook Pro: if the bigger screen and marginally better features aren’t value-for-money for you, opt for the MacBook. It really is a fantastic machine, and they seem much closer now than the iBooks/PowerBooks did to each other previously. It’s all down to the screen size, 3D accelerated graphics if you really need it (most people don’t, unless they’re 3D designers or gamers), and the options on the higher-end MacBook Pros for the slightly faster CPU and dual-layer SuperDrive.

Mau says:
August 15, 06h

I must agree. Parallels all the way!

I have been using it since I got my 2.0Ghz MacBook Pro, I first used the trial and I was so convinced by it’s reliability, that I couldn’t help it but buy the full version, and for $30 (Pre-release) it was quite the steal.

My MBP sports 1.5Gb Ram and definitely Parallels demands a lot of memory, I am close to buy another Gb and replace my 512Mb so-dimm. I will then have 2Gb to take advantage of the DDR2.

But Windows runs nicely. No need to Dual Boot here.

Also, the cool thing is that you can have separate ‘hard drives’ customized to x or y needs. But I guess that was also available through VirtualPC.

August 15, 07h

I agree. But, for PC (and Mac) users: I have an enjoyable alternative. I’ve been running Ubuntu for about five months now. I use a virtualized (not parelleled) version of Windows for both Adobe software and IE testing. And recently, newer versions of Wine have allowed me to execute IE 7’s Windows bianary within Ubuntu. And, I do it all from my laptop. I still agree that Mac is a superior OS and Windows is, well, not. But, Ubuntu is comfortably somewhere in between, and getting better and better.

August 15, 10h

There’s no doubt that running Windows on an Intel Mac is way faster than using Virtual PC on a G4 or G5. I don’t quite share the same feeling of VPC being hopelessly slow though. It could be because I run it on dual-CPU machines. On a Powerbook with a single G4 chip it is probably painfully slow, but it’s perfectly usable on a dual 1.25 GHz G4.

Or maybe I’m just more patient (no, I don’t think so ;-)).

August 15, 13h

In terms of MB vs. MBP, I don’t do much in the way of video or games, so I think the power of the MB will be perfectly fine. And the smaller size was the clincher for me, after having been a 12” PB fan previously.

For web design, we’re talking text files, Photoshop at 72dpi and Parallels. I’m not sure the Pro line is essential anymore.

I can confirm as well – the MB is one fast machine (with 2GB RAM as Dave mentioned).

Tony Cervo says:
August 15, 14h

I agree…Parallels rocks. I was using the beta, and bought the final version as soon as it came out.

As Dave mentioned regarding the MacBook (also applies to the MacBook Pro,) get 2GB ram. Just don’t get it from Apple! Order with the standard RAM, and get your RAM upgrade from a reputable dealer like Other World Computing:

I’m a bona-fide switcher. I’m now recommending Intel Mac’s to everyone (except for my hard-core gamer friends who do nothing but play games…but they’re not asking for opinions.)

Marcel says:
August 16, 04h

And here I just work on WinXP, previewing in IE6 with a Mac mini next to me for Safari-testing. No waiting, no getting gallons of coffee. Just hit refresh and see it’s all ok: That’s a decent webdeveloper for you!

No offense with that last line ;)

Most developers I know (quite a few) are capable enough to write code that works on IE, FF, Opera and Safari the minute they save their document and watch the result in said browsers. Of course a few strange things happen, but rarely ever in IE - we were taught to code for the browser our customers use. Which is usually around 80% IE.

Of course, you are free to just forget about all you know about IE’s oddities, and spend massive amounts of time fixing things and drinking gallons coffee while grinding your teeth at “M$” and “Internet Exploder”, bashing the latter two on your blog and getting Mac fans to adore you :P

The fastest way (for me) of testing on two different operating systems is running each operating system on a different computer. Mac OSX on a Macintosh (mac mini), WindowsXP on your PC.

If you develop on a Mac I’d suggest building a cheap PC configuration ($300,- USD?) for testing purposes only and put that up next to your Mac, instead of emulating or using slow remote-control software.

Eon says:
August 16, 16h

It doesn’t help much, but hitting F5 to refresh your page in IE shaves a little bit of time off of the whole process in VirtualPC (since you don’t have to wait for the GUI to start responding before hitting F5). That way you can switch to VPC, hit F5, get coffee, and when you come back it will have reloaded the page.

Marcel: Unless you’ve memorized every last CSS bug in IE (and there are *very* many), then you will run into things that need fixing in IE if you are creating CSS-based layouts. That’s just the way it is. I suppose if you keep your layouts very simple then you would spend less time fixing things, but that wouldn’t make for very interesting web pages.

The other possibility is that you still use table-based layouts, and I’m not even going to go into the long list of disadvantages to that approach (maintainability!), suffice to say that it’s a vastly inferior method.

Bashing IE isn’t about Mac OS vs. Windows. It’s about browsers that are easy to code for (Firefox is at the top of the list, and is very cross platform) vs. browsers that are difficult to code for.

Michael Ströck says:
August 17, 00h

I don’t know… Websites loaded fairly quickly for me in VirtualPC, and I was on a G4. Of course Parallels is much faster, but for browsing I’m hardly noticing a difference.

August 17, 03h


“we were taught to code for the browser our customers use. Which is usually around 80% IE.”

While that may be decent, it’s certainly not great.

The most efficient and reliable way of developing websites is to build according to the standards, and thus test in the most standards compliant browsers available (currently Safari 2 and Opera 9).

You may prefer having two different computers, but for most people that’s either not an option or not preferred. Businesses don’t like spending money on two machines for one person, most people don’t like having two different machines they need to work on each day, it takes up a lot of extra space, it doubles the risk of hardware issues, and so forth.

When all’s said and done, most people will agree that one machine to do all your work and testing on is better than two (or more). The only computers that offer that for good web developers are Macs. No regular PC will allow you to check in the Mac browsers.

Having an Intel iMac at work myself, running Parallels and having a second 20” display hooked up to it, I managed to test a page in 26 browsers in roughly two minutes. That seems pretty darn fast to me.

gaz says:
August 17, 06h

i got a 15inch macbook pro the other month and it has to be the best computer buy i have EVER made. parallels is amazing, and apparently they are working on proper 3d support for it too :D as the only problem at the mo is it runs as though it has an 8mb graphics card.

i can do everything i ever need to on one ickle laptop - .net using parallels, java using os x, ror on os x with textmate… its ACE!!

Jason says:
August 17, 07h

@SpinThis!(Dave) - “I wonder… can you setup Parallels to “see” the Mac’s netinfo/dns information?”

I was wondering the exact same thing. I have several VirtualHosts in my Apache config on my MBP. Take a look at this:

There are a few options that will get you what you want.

August 17, 08h

I’ve been developing using Parallels for about a week now, and it’s worked wonderfully. My job provided me with a 17” Macbook Pro and an external monitor, so I have plenty of space to work in. I just code on one screen and throw the mouse onto the other one to click refresh.

That combined with setting TextMate to autosave whenever I leave the window eliminates the first two of the five steps. It’s all very nice!

Andrew E says:
August 17, 08h

It’s funny, I wrote about this awhile back:

(Sorry for the shameless self-promotion). I think you’re right on the money; plus, it’s only going to get better, as products like CrossOver come over to OS X (I saw someone playing around with CrossOver’s alpha OS X version the other day, attempting to get IE 6 running. They did it - although it still has massive kinks).

The ability to run all these browsers easily, side-by-side notwithstanding, OS X has a number of other items that are making it more attractive, like Drosera (the JavaScript debugger), and the Web Inspector that’s currently in nightly builds of WebKit, and DashCode, which looks pretty keen too.

Oh - and I second the previous advice of upping the RAM in your Intel Mac: I had a MBP w/512megs and trying to do anything was a pain. It now has a gig, and while it still pages often (I’m doing work in Eclipse, alongside the Office suite and Photoshop), it’s still a world of difference. 2 gig would be even better.

Jonathan says:
August 17, 13h

@ Marcel: “- we were taught to code for the browser our customers use”

You were taught by idiots. Even when IE had approx 95% of browser share this was an idiotic thing to do - what brick and mortar shop would turn away every 20th customer to try and walk through the door for a purely arbitrary reason? That’s right - none. So why do internet businesses think it makes sense to do this? By coding for IE only, it selects for customers using just that particular browser (and I bet that since IE’s market share has plummeted and they are turning away 1 in 5 of their customers, those businesses are feeling pretty damned stupid!!). It also has a strong potential to alienate people to such an extent that they will now never shop at their store, regardless of whether or not it becomes compatible with the browser they use.

Juan says:
August 17, 16h

If you are thinking of buying a Mac don’t overlook buying an Apple refurbished MacIntel. check them out at the Store. Click on the store tab and then scroll down in the online store page and look on the right side for the red SALE tag link.

the apple refurbs come with the same warranty as a new Mac and you can extend it an additional two years with AppleCare. on the MacBooks you save about $200.

I buy them all the time - no problems. Just bought my son the middle $1299 white MacBook for $1099 - no shipping costs (but you pay sales tax)

August 17, 16h

Of course, the other upside to using OS X for web work is that you get to edit the pages in TextMate!

Andy says:
August 17, 23h

@SpinThis!(Dave) - “I wonder… can you setup Parallels to “see” the Mac’s netinfo/dns information?”

I just figured out how to do this.. check out this:

Sorry for the self promotion, but it should come in handy for anyone who wants their virtual hosts to work in parallels.

August 18, 02h

I just bought a MacBook 1 month ago, it was my first steps in Apple world, and they are gold steps !

I just used Parallels since a few days, I didnt installed FireFox, Opera for the moment, but I’ll need in the next weeks and I clearly can see the winning of time to work on web stuff !!!
I was firstly working on PC using only FF, Ie and Opera… assuming Safari and FF for Mac were almost working well, I usually didn’t had a lot of surpsised but it happened a few time to correct a CSS or HTML trick a fews days after finishing testing on PC…
I’ll be able to test all the plateform/browser in a blink of en eye as you say and it is GREAT !!! No more needing of differents computers to work on different platforms/computers.

And the Macbook with 2Gb of RAM is so powerfull for a so much tiny laptop.

The only thing that is annoying me is the ColorZilla extension for FireFox that don’t work at all on my mac :(

August 18, 02h

I agree, any Macintel with Parallels is definitely the best choice of machine for webdevs as it really takes a lot of the hassle out of testing. Now you don’t need several machines, RDP or VNC set-ups. In addition it also means that you have more mobility. I can test sites in development on my localhost sitting on the train if I really want to.

One thing I did to make the VM’s more useable was to map the apple keyboard to work better. For example in Windows you can use an utility called keytweak to map the apple key to ctrl to make cutting and pasting and saving files less of a stretch. Similarly on linux you can use xmodmap to do the same.

August 18, 03h

For those who are happy with a compiler, get Darwine and build Wine 0.9.19, then run IE4Linux ( - result is IE6 running under Mac OS X via Wine.

Major drawback at present is the requirement to be happy with GCC and bash, but once Crossover appears (hopefully a beta later this month) this should become trivial to set up.

August 18, 06h

I’m impressed w/ Parallels, but I’m really looking forward to VMware Player on OS X.

August 18, 09h

Oh the humanity!

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the iMac G5 (remote-control-airplane-sounding-fan-noise and all) I’ve had for over the last year, but I yearn for an Intel Mac just for the sole purpose of running Parallels for Web design testing.

Virtual PC is pretty brutal from a speed standpoint, and while Bowsercam is nice, it pales in comparison to what I am reading about Parallels.

With the immediate success that Parallels is having, I’m surprised Apple hasn’t bought them out yet. Yes, Boot Camp is a great option, but combining this with the features of Parallels seem like such a great, no-brainer addition to OS X. Perhaps 10.6?

Regardless, it is sure nice to have such great options available for the Intel-based machines.

Nicholas says:
August 18, 14h

That’s great for this part of the process, but don’t got run out and pick up your Intel-Mac just yet. Don’t forget to mention how you can’t run Photoshop and Word and Entourage together (to, say, copy and paste content you’ve gotten from a client into a design) without the article-mentioned trips to get coffee because non of them are Universal yet. At least, this is the experience I’ve had on a Macbook maxed out with 2GB of RAM.

August 19, 17h

I absolutely love Parallels for this. I’ve recently gone back to full-time web design and this has been a lifesaver.

Being able to check cross-broswer-and-platform compatibility from a single desktop is a god-send.

jonno. says:
August 19, 18h

personally, i tend to trust an actual, physical incarnation of ie on windows over vpc or others. that’s why when testing (which is only every day), i prefer to use remote desktop for mac. yes, it requires a spare wintel box on your network, but most businesses have cheap boxes going spare all the time. i prefer being able to see mac and windows browsers in windows, side by side, and it doesn’t slow down my mac at all. not a solution for everyone, but definatly one worth considering.


August 28, 10h

We’ve been using Parellels in Beta not only for testing… but so we can finally get a decent version of Quickbooks that can synch with our accountant! So far, it’s been excellent - with the only hack being for USB printers. The work around: if you can’t get your USB printer to add, download Bonjour for Windows, install it on the PC side, share your printer on the mac side, and you’re flying high.

Matt Haenlin says:
September 26, 15h

Has anyone out there running XP on Parallels noticed mouseover event and/or :hover pseudo-class rollovers don’t work in either IE or Firefox?

I’ve been digging around for a few hours and have nothing to show for it.

Long live Parallels.

PS - I’ll be sure to mention a fix if I find one before I hear back.

peter says:
September 27, 23h

Hi everyone,
I have been using Parallels a few month, but get a little disappointed now. I have to use the (german) AOL-Client that first run fine. But now, after a few month it es getting terrible slow, more and more pages never ever load anymore. So I have to restart the MBP und use Bootcamp instead which is much faster. But it’s a hassle to restart again and again. I tried to solve the problem with throwing away cache-files etc, but things didn’t get better after that. Has anyone an idea or suggestion? Thanks

Darin says:
November 09, 14h

I just got my first Mac (Mac pro) and parallels running XP seems to work fine. I am however having problems Running autodesk ADT. two things, first I can’t seem to get rid of the pointer when in ADT and two, the crosshairs drag pretty bad in ADT. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to make it run a little sharper?