Additionally, when a virtual machine is running in Coherence mode, the Parallels Dock icon doubles as a Windows start menu. If you can't keep track of which mode supports what, a screen appears when you switch modes, telling you where you can find these items. (The new Crystal mode is a minimalist version of Coherence. It hides the Parallels Desktop menu and Dock icon, leaving only a small Parallels icon in the Mac menu bar at the top of the screen.)
Another nice touch: When you switch between modes, a transparent dialog appears, telling you what mode you're entering and showing you where you'll find various interface elements. One of my favorite Parallels features is complete support of track pad and Magic Mouse gestures in Windows applications. For instance, the multifinger horizontal swipe works in Internet Explorer to go forward or backward.
Where VMware beats Parallels That said, VMware Fusion 3 is a solid virtualization environment that some people may prefer. For instance, I had better experience playing Web-based video in Internet Explorer with VMware Fusion than with Parallels Desktop. VMware was able to play streaming video at Microsoft.com without adjusting anything. Parallels played only downloaded videos.
VMware Fusion 3 also has some useful interface features not found in Parallels Desktop. In full-screen mode, Fusion presents a small bar when you mouse over the center of the top edge of the screen. This bar presents options that let you do anything Fusion allows, including switch to single-window or Unity mode, suspend the virtual machine, take a snapshot, and a number of other tasks. In Parallels Desktop, you have only one choice when in full-screen mode: to exit the mode into single-screen mode.
Fusion does a better job with its virtual machine library, which is a window listing all the installed virtual machines. Fusion's library lets you turn on and suspend multiple virtual machines and access their settings, all in one spot. In Parallels Desktop, clicking on a virtual machine in the list opens its window, covering the library window.
VMware is less cluttered when switching between Unity, single-window, and full-screen modes. Parallels Desktop 5 uses some standard Mac OS X effects in nonstandard ways, which is at first confusing, then annoying, as well as completely gratuitous. For instance, when going in and out of Crystal or Coherence mode, Parallels uses the same screen-sliding effect that Spaces uses to switch between spaces -- except Parallels isn't switching you to another Space. Parallels also uses the rotating cube effect to go to full-screen mode; this is the effect Mac OS X employs to switch users, but in this case, users aren't being switched. Fortunately, you can turn these off in Parallels Desktop's Preferences.