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Mac Word, Windows Word and Parallels desktop

Microsoft says a new Mac version of Word is coming later this year. Hopefully it will be more like  Windows Word 2013 than OS X Word: 2011.

When I switched to a MacBook last year, the thing I missed most was writing longer features in the Windows version of Microsoft Word. It does a great job of staying out-of-the-way and hiding complexity.

The Mac Word 2011 version has a few annoyances. I still struggle with them. Not least the way the most naked screen option resets the moment you switch focus to a different window.

Microsoft Word, Bootcamp

Recently I ran Word 2013 on my Mac in a Windows 8 partition using Bootcamp.

There are minor keyboard weirdnesses, but otherwise it works well. The problem is that switching between OS X, which is more productive for other tasks and Windows requires a reboot. That's not an efficient way of working. I don't want to do that too often.

This week I'm running the Parallels Desktop 9 trial.

Parallels Desktop sets up Windows 8 in a virtual machine. You can configure Parallels to make Windows invisible and integrate Windows apps, like Word, with OS X. In effect this means I can run Word 2013 as if it were an OS X app.

OS X, Parallels Desktop 9

Parallels works fine, up to a point. I've tested a handful of Windows-only apps and the integration is first class. There are a handful of minor keyboard niggles — oddly not the same as those when running Windows Word in Bootcamp.

Perhaps the oddest behaviour is how the screen scrolling sometimes goes one way and sometimes goes another. A down stroke on the touchpad moves down screen while at other times that down stroke scrolls the screen up. It's possible that's a confusion between OS X and Windows over which OS is running the show.

I'm also not entirely comfortable that my Command-S keystrokes are saving the document — there's nothing visible or audible to show anything has happened.

Parallels Desktop 9 good software but pricey

Parallels is expensive. A licence costs US$80, that's around NZ$100. I'm told each new version requires a new licence, Parallels doesn't sell updates. That seems expensive by 2014 software standards. I paid NZ$40 for Windows 8 and nothing to upgrade OS X from 10.8 to 10.9.

To be fair, Parallels is a sweet piece of software. It does a difficult job with panache. I'm impressed with how smoothly it works. You could forget it was there if it were not for the nagware message that continually pops up telling my to pay for a full licence.

However, I can't reasonably justify spending 100 on that having a slightly nicer Word experience, especially when my Office 365 licence means I've already paid for a Word upgrade that could be just weeks away. So for now I buy that licence.

Update: I forgot to mention that I've round-tripping between Windows Word, iPad Word and Mac Word for a week or so and have yet to see a hiccup.

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