Q&A: Running specialist Windows apps

Q Some local therapists are keen to buy, and have funding for, a specialist Windows application to help manage lymphoedema patients. However they really want a Mac to prepare and show presentations. Is this wise or even feasible?

A Abacus, by Wits End Solutions, will currently only run on Windows, although version 2 should be ready any day now and is promised to run natively on OS X.

If they need to buy the current version 1.3, their choice is then whether to buy a copy of Windows and install Boot Camp, or to buy Windows virtualisation software such as Parallels Desktop or VMWare, with Windows.

Boot Camp is the most compatible option, because the Mac will then be running as a real PC. However it will start up in either Windows or Mac OS, and cannot run them side by side. This would make it clumsy for them to move data between Windows and OS X, and takes time to switch.

Virtualisation software will run the vast majority of Windows software, and has the great advantage that both OS X and Windows run concurrently, allowing you to exchange documents and even clippings between them. They should find that much easier to produce reports and presentations using the results generated by Abacus. The main products here are Parallels Desktop 10 (£64.99) and VMware Fusion 7 (£52.12), both of which are excellent and highly compatible.

There are even free emulators such as WINE or its commercial port Crossover that might be able to run the Abacus application, but in general a good virtualisation product such as Parallels or VMware will provide a pleasant and workable solution. They will need to supply their own (genuine) copy of an appropriate version of Windows, though.

Updated from the original, which was first published in MacUser volume 28 issue 03, 2012.