VMWare Workstation 4
By Michael Riley
Brian Noyes recently reviewed VMWare Workstation 3.2. Rather than duplicate Brian's comments, I'll focus strictly on the new version's enhancements. Six major improvements have been added to the Windows version: Snapshots, Shared Folders, Tab Between VMs, Full Debug mode, support for more operating systems, and improved sound and video support within the hosted environment.
Snapshots are even better than Microsoft's System Restore feature in Windows XP because the entire state of the machine is frozen in time. This is an amazing enhancement that will shave countless hours of VM rebuilds or bulky backups of minor driver tweaks within the VMd OS. Gone are the days of copying a 2 GB VM simply to test a DLL.
Shared Folders finally allow drag-and-drop of documents and files between the host desktop and the hosted VM desktop. You no longer need to create network drive shares simply to copy between the host and VM, which is another seamless timesaver.
Another interface improvement is the ability to tab between multiple running VMs. In the past, each VM needed its own instance of VMWare to run. Now you can group them together and tab from one to another easily with the click of the mouse. No more hunting around the desktop wondering which VM is running a server and which VM is testing the client application response.
Probably my favorite new feature is VMWare's ability to use debuggers within the hosted VM. You now can rely on the behavior of the VM to act like an actual, physical PC right down to the CPU hardware registers! I applaud VMWare's engineers for pulling off this seemingly magical improvement.
In addition to the numerous flavors of Linux and Windows, VMWare Workstation 4 also provides full support for Windows Server 2003 and Red Hat 8.0. Finally, the audio and video improvements have made it possible to play back audio content and even streaming video without frame tearing or skipping, which is great for testing Macromedia Flash, RealVideo, and Windows Media content on different OS configurations.
VMWare has added exceptional value to its latest Workstation release. Any .NET developer who hasn't purchased an earlier VMWare release should seriously consider making an investment in Workstation 4. Existing VMWare users can upgrade for $99, which is a fair price if you're a frequent user of earlier releases.
Price: Starts at US$299