VirtualBox: My New Preferred VM Solution

Posted by Scott on Dec 30th, 2007

As a long time user of VMWare’s Workstation virtualization software, I’ve always had a way to run WindowsXP or other operating systems on top of my Ubuntu Linux environment without any problems. However, late last year I heard that Parallels Desktop for OS X had an intriguing new feature, which allowed you to run windows from your VM directly in your host desktop environment.

This means that for doing cross-browser web application testing, you could pop up Internet Explorer or various other Windows browsers and run them side-by-side with your hosts’ native browser(s). Very, very useful. This was a killer feature that I was hoping VMWare would introduce. It appears that version 6 of VMWare Workstation didn’t include it, so I didn’t even bother upgrading from v5.5, since I was happy with how it ran in every other sense.

My wait for this feature is now over, and even better, is being offered by an open source software project called VirtualBox. VirtualBox works with the same operating systems I use, and has the killer feature I described above, which they call “seamless mode.” I’ve been using it for a few days now and love it. On top of that, the performance of the virtual machine even seems a bit faster than VMWare Workstation 5.5. Oh, and you can even use VMWare disk files with VirtualBox, though I haven’t tried that myself.

VMWare Workstation is a more mature product and has some other features that VirtualBox currently lacks, but I have no need for those features. I’m thrilled to be able to use VirtualBox as an alternative, and I think for anyone wanting to speed up their cross-browser web development, this is a great setup to use. Give it a try.

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