parallels desktop

Fantastic Four - vol. 1 issue 182

Parallels Desktop is a program that allows a Mac to use applications originally developed for Windows. Why would a Mac user need an additional program when Apple provides their own free solution in the form of Boot Camp? Boot Camp forces a restart in order to run Windows. With Parallels, the Mac can operate both OS X and Windows simultaneously. This has major time saving advantages as well as being a boost to productivity by allowing access to multiple applications across both OS’s. Why do I, a long time Mac user, use Parallels Desktop? To answer that we have to take a trip through the past to understand my reasons for needing it.

I have been collecting comic books as long as I can remember. I first started when my grandfather gave me some old comics to read. Soon after, I was hooked. I would take my allowance and buy my favorite “Superman” comics at the local Quik Stop convenience store. My first comic book subscription was to “The Fantastic Four” and the first issue that arrived was #182. To give you some perspective how long ago that was, the current shipping issue of “The Fantastic Four” is well over #600. Soon after I received that first issue, I expanded my reading to other titles. Back in the late ’70’s early ’80’s comics were $0.25 to $0.40 each, so I bought a lot of comics. Over the years I have amassed a large collection in which I found there was no easy way to manage and track. I tried using FileMaker on my Macintosh SE to catalog all of my comics, but I ended up spending hours entering data for each one. It just was not worth the time and effort. I did not find a good solution until an application called ComicBase.

ComicBase is application that was created in 1992 by Peter Bickford and was originally available for Apple’s Macintosh computers. It replicated what I was doing with FileMaker although with far more data on each title and scans of the covers. I purchased version 6 back in September 2001 and began inputting my comics into ComicBase. ComicBase’s database includes hundreds of thousands of comics and was the perfect solution. That is until version 9 was released in late summer 2004, when in order to modernize the program ComicBase became Windows only.

I searched for other Mac based solutions and found none that compared to ComicBase. I had to either abandon the program and all the effort I had put in to cataloging my comics, or invest in a Windows PC. As a long time Mac user, I was not going to switch to a PC and fortunately there was a third option called Virtual PC for Mac. 

Virtual PC was originally developed for the Macintosh by Connectix and first released in June 1997. The program allowed a Mac with a PowerPC processor to run Windows programs. I never had a need for such a program until ComicBase left the Mac platform, so in 2004 I purchased a copy and installed Windows XP along with the Windows version of ComicBase on my Mac.

For the next year this setup worked well. Then in 2005, ComicBase version 10 introduced what would eventually become a subscription service that every week would download an update for the database adding data on every comic that shipped that week. This was a great addition to the program, but it required a multi-megabyte file download and process to update the database. 

What would typically take minutes, turned into hours for just the database to update. I began to dedicate an entire day just for my iMac G5 to run and process the update. Keeping my comics cataloged had become a nightmare. It would take Apple and another company’s new software to eventually streamline the process.

Steve Jobs and Intel CEO Paul Otellini on stage at Macworld 2006 - © Neal Pann

At Macworld San Francisco in January 2006, Apple surprised the Mac industry by introducing the first Macs with Intel processors. Apple took advantage of having Intel CPU's by releasing some new software that could run Windows, called Boot Camp. Using Boot Camp required you to restart your Mac, which was different then the Virtual PC for Mac solution that ran both OS’s side by side. Although Virtual PC was only for those Macs with a PowerPC processor and it was never updated for Apple’s new Intel Macs.

An alternative to Boot Camp came quickly when in June of that year Parallels, Inc. shipped Parallels Workstation for Mac OS X. Months later the name was changed to Parallels Desktop for Mac and it gave Mac users the Virtual PC for Mac advantage of running multiple OS’s without rebooting. It did Virtual PC one better by increasing the speed as it did not have the added burden of emulating the Intel processor.

Using Parallels Desktop gives me the ability to use my Mac with the Windows application ComicBase to catalog my comic books without having to purchase a separate PC or reboot with Boot Camp. But why Parallels Desktop? After first using another solution, I tried Parallels Desktop and found it to be simpler to install and use Windows. Parallels Desktop and my Intel iMac provide an easy and elegant solution to me to run ComicBase, now at version 16, download the weekly updates and quickly process that update to the database. Once again, updating my comics takes minutes instead of hours.

With the ability to view Windows in full screen or having the Windows desktop disappear using it’s Coherence Mode, Parallels Desktop makes it a pleasure to update my comics each week. The speed at which it takes me to perform this task means my Mac is not tied up all day processing the update. I am able to keep my massive, over eight thousand, comic book collection in order and cataloged on a weekly bases all thanks to Parallels Desktop for Mac.