Installing Fusion and creating Windows virtual machine
For this article series, VMware Fusion was used as the virtualization software for Mac. So, before any virtual machines (Windows, Ubuntu / Linux) were created, Fusion software was installed on the Mac. Please refer to the following article for notes on installing Fusion on the Mac:
Installing Fusion on Mac OS X
Then a Windows Vista Ultimate virtual machine was created on the Mac with Fusion software. For notes on creating a Vista virtual machine on Mac, please refer to the following article:
Installing Windows on a Mac with Fusion
Then on top of that, MS Office was installed. Please refer to the following article for notes on that:
Installing MS Office for Windows on a Mac with Fusion
Rest of this article goes through using MS Office installed on a virtual machine as described above.
Microsoft Office Programs side by side
In terms of RAM, this Vista virtual machine wasn’t given a lot - just 1 GB of RAM. With just this, you can open up and play with a whole bunch of Office 2007 programs.
Figure 1. Microsoft Office 2007 Ultimate programs opened inside a Windows Vista virtual machine. The programs included here are Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access, and InfoPath.
As you can see above, you can do word processing (Word 2007), spreadsheets (Excel 2007), presentations (PowerPoint 2007), publishing (Publisher 2007), database (Access 2007), and forms (InfoPath 2007) all at once from this virtual machine on a Mac. Why would anybody want to do all those at once is a different question. I just wanted to see if this virtual machine can handle it. Obviously, if you start using all of the applications at once heavily, the performance would suffer.
Office programs side by side OS X programs
VMware Fusion (the virtualization software) comes in three different modes -- Single Window (where all the Vista programs are displayed inside a single window), Unity (Vista programs are shown in separate windows), and Full Screen (Vista takes up the whole screen).
The above figure shows a Single Window mode. All the Office 2007 applications there are inside the Fusion window. You can see the Fusion toolbar at the top of the window.
The figure below shows the Office 2007 applications in Unity mode. You can see that Word 2007, Excel 2007, and PowerPoint 2007 look like Windows Vista windows. They also retain their new user interface (ribbon toolbar) in the Unity mode.
Figure 2. The Office 2007 programs shown in the Unity mode. Applications on top are: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint – these are from Vista virtual machine. Application in bottom: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote – these are from Mac OS X. All these applications are on a Mac.
At the bottom of the above figure, the iWork applications are shown. Pages is a word processing application like Word. Numbers is a spreadsheet application, like Excel. And, Keynote is a presentation builder application like PowerPoint.
On the deck (at the bottom of the screen), you can see the icons for Office applications (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), along with the iWork application. The Windows applications can be minimized onto the OS X dock, just like the OS X applications. And, when those icons are clicked, that particular window will be restored, just like the native applications.
On the deck of the Mac, you can see lights underneath certain applications. Those lights mean that those applications are currently open. You can see the lights under Mac OS X applications Pages, Numbers, and Keynote as well as the Windows applications Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Data between OS X applications and Windows applications can be copy-pasted just like you would do with the applications in the same OS. For example, the text in Pages (from iWork) can be copied by highlighting the text and then choosing the keyboard shortcut command-c. Then move to Word (from Windows Office 2007) and press control-v for pasting the text over there. Remember these editing shortcuts on Mac take command (command-c for copy for example), while on Windows control (control-v for paste, for example) is used.
Figure 3. Copy-Pasting data from Pages (an OS X application) into Word 2007 (a Windows application) running on a Vista virtual machine created with Fusion.
You can NOT copy-paste the images from one operating system to other with Fusion 2.0.
This set up (running Windows Vista and OS X simultaneously with Fusion) provides a lot of flexibility in terms of opening files.
For example, Pages (from OS X) provides a way to export text in Word format. So, you can export a file in Word format and save it on to a local OS X folder. Then go to Word (from Windows Vista virtual machine) and see that exact file in Word (as long as that folder is shared).
Figure 4. Here the Pages file has been exported as a Word file, which can now be opened from MS Word for Windows on the same iMac. This MS Word is running on iMac in a Windows Vista virtual machine.
In the above example, the OpenFileTest.pages file is from the Pages application. Using this application, contents of that file are exported to a Word document. These two files reside in ‘Test’ folder, which is part of the OS X file system. Since this folder is shared, the above Open dialog box from Word 2007 sees the OpenFileTest.doc file and can be opened into Word 2007 in the Vista virtual machine.
Other ways of opening files include: just copy the file from the OS X folder onto one of the Vista directories. You can do this via Windows Explorer. This is probably much safer and cleaner, as you are not messing with the files that belong to one operating system from another operating system.
Observations on performance
I have opened large Word files (50 to 400 pages and around 20MB and with and without lots of pictures). They open up pretty fast. Part of the reason might be because it’s Word 2007 (this version itself seems pretty fast compared to the older versions of Word -- seems to open the first few pages fast and then take a bit of time opening others). While opening these docs, there were the usual things going on on the computer on both OS X side and Windows Vista side. In addition to Word, a few normally used applications on both sides - browsers, Word, Pages, Windows Explorer, etc. - were also open on the computer.
Tried to copy-paste large quantities of text and images (for example: entire 50 pages of document - roughly 20MB with lots of pictures) -- our friend (Word 2007) went to a never never land. With Fusion 2.0, images cannot be copy-pasted across the operating systems.
Word 2007 probably might have come back if I waited long enough. Copy/pasting smaller pieces of text (just a few pages) has no problem. This problem would be there whether Vista/Office is installed on its own machine or on top of Fusion.
After a considerable amount of editing Word becomes a bit slow – I guess it has to keep track of changes for undo-ing. Again all of these are the application problems, not the virtual machine problems.
I have not stress-tested it to see where Fusion / Vista / OS X can’t handle it anymore. However, on a high-end iMac like this (3.06 GHz CPU with 4 GB RAM), the applications on both the operating systems seem to perform pretty well simultaneously. Neither of these operating systems installed here have intense processes (for example, a very busy database server or a web server, etc.)
So, I think Word 2007 / Office 2007 performs just fine for day to day use under Fusion.
Observations on Look and Feel
First time you look at Vista windows on the screen of a Mac, it’s kind of an interesting experience. These windows look exactly the same as they would on a dedicated Windows machine. The Office 2007 programs, needless to say, retain their ribbon toolbars, Vista look and feel for the windows and dialog boxes, etc. This is because they are running the exact same programs as they would on a dedicated machine.
With Fusion 2.0, though, there is no Aero at this point. So, the Office 2007 programs have the Vista Basic look. Some people actually might like this cleaner/simpler look, instead of the see-through glassy look of Aero.
The usual features of word processing work just fine in Word 2007 under Fusion (Vista virtual machine). One interesting feature in Office 2007 is to highlight a portion of the document and as move the cursor over various styles on the ribbon you can see the selected portion change the formatting on the fly. That is, you don’t have to apply the style to see how it looks. That works fine in the virtual machine.
Office 2007 inside the Fusion created Vista virtual machine works just fine with images as well.
Figure 5. Reducing the brightness of an image in Word. You can see the brightness change as you move over different percentages. This dimming works just fine from a Vista virtual machine on an iMac.
The new PowerPoint 2007 provides some intensely graphical templates. These graphics look just fine inside the Fusion created Vista virtual machine.
Figure 6. A very graphical slide of PowerPoint 2007 inside a Vista virtual machine created with VMware Fusion. The colors and the detail of this image is fine from the Vista virtual machine on a Mac.
Obviously, I have not gone through every feature of Office from Windows virtual machine. But all the regular stuff seem to work as you would expect.
More Fusion Articles
This article series on Fusion goes through a couple of virtual machines created with Windows Vista and Ubuntu operating systems. These articles also go through using popular applications like Microsoft Office, SQL Server, and Visual Studio on these virtual machines created with Fusion. They also discuss the pros and cons of virtual machines, graphics, sound, video, and Internet connections in them.
Article Series: Fusion on a Mac