While Apple provides Bootcamp, a built-in OS X application for installing Windows on your Mac, the virtualization program VMWare Fusion 6 ($59.99) allows users to run Windows without restarting their Mac, which Bootcamp requires. This is why we have added Fusion 6 to our Best of Mac page.
On occasion I use or test Windows only programs like Dragon Naturally Speaking, MarkdownPad, and DesignPro 5, and I can easily do so by firing up VMWare Fusion and it, in turn, launches Windows inside a separate window on my Mac desktop. There’s little or no hassle using Fusion, and in fact the only learning curve may be how to get around the Windows platform.
VMWare Fusion (download here for free trial or upgrade purposes) can run on any 64-bit capable Intel Mac running OS X 10.7 or later, with a minimum of 4GB of RAM, 750MB of disk space for Fusion itself, and another 5 gigs for the virtual machine. Fusion can also run other operating systems, including Linux and Ubuntu. The VMWare.com site provides step-by-step instructions for installing Windows 8 using Fusion, or for upgrading from VMWare Fusion 5 to 6.
If you’re a long time Mac user like me, you might not be too familiar with the Windows platform, and running the OS on your Mac may feel odd at first. You can download our free Getting Started Guide to Windows 8 guide to learn more about the platform.
Using VMWare Fusion, I run Windows on my Mac as if I’m running any Mac application. Fusion opens Windows in a separate application, and all of the OS’ features are made available.
The start page consists of a handful of default Windows applications and features, including Sky Drive, the Windows Store, and the different media folders. You can control-click on an app to unpin it from the start page, as well as click on the “All apps” button in the pop-up menu bar and pin an application to the start page.
Fusion allows you to view the Windows OS either in a separate window, full screen, or through what is called Unity. The separate window view allows you to use Windows applications right alongside your Mac programs. You can also drag files from your Mac Finder onto the Windows desktop, and vice versa, as well as copy and paste text between platforms.
Note: If dragging files to or from Windows doesn’t work, click on Virtual Machine > Install VMWare Tools in the menu bar. For some reason these tools did not install by default for me when I upgraded to version 6.
If you want even better access to Windows applications, you can enable the Unity feature. In Unity mode, the Fusion window and Windows desktop spaces disappear, and opened Windows applications appear squarely on your Mac desktop right alongside OS X applications. While working in Unity mode, you may forget you’re working on the Windows platform. To exit Unity, click on the Fusion icon in the dock and deselect View > Unity in the Fusion menu bar.
What’s great about Fusion is that it provides full access to the Windows platform without having to exit OS X. Fusion even connects to the printers connected to your Mac so you don’t have to open Windows documents on your Mac to get the job done.
If you need to keep Fusion open and accessible throughout the day, you can select to suspend or pause Fusion. The suspend button is located in the Fusion toolbar for quick access.
You might be surprised to know that the OS X voice-to-text feature also works in Windows via Fusion; click on Edit > Start Dictation.
VMWare Fusion is fairly easy to set up and it pretty much tucks out of the way while you work with your Windows software. If you have never used Fusion before, take it for a test drive to see how the Windows applications you plan to use perform in the virtualization setting – you might be pleasantly surprised!