Walt Mossberg

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Running Windows Programs on Macs

If I purchased an Apple Mac that runs both Apple’s OS and Microsoft Windows, is there a way to move my Windows files and applications over to the Mac side? If that was done, would those applications need to be run in Windows? Is there a way to “convert” them so they could run under the Apple OS?

A: Windows programs cannot be “converted” to run directly in the Mac operating system, which is called Snow Leopard. But, if you use virtualization software like Parallels or VMware fusion, and install Windows, then a Windows program like Microsoft Outlook can run simultaneously with your Mac programs. Technically, you are running it in Windows, but the two operating systems are active at the same time. With both of these virtualization products, you can even hide the entire Windows desktop, so that the Windows program you are running simply occupies a window on your Mac like any Mac program does. You don’t even notice that Windows is running.

In the case of files you created in Windows, the situation is even simpler. Most of the common types of files consumers use—including Microsoft Office documents, MP3 music files, MP4 video files, JPG picture files, text files, Adobe PDF files, and others—can be run in native Macintosh programs without conversion and without the need to run Windows programs. So you can just copy them to the Mac side and use them in Mac programs like iPhoto, iTunes, or the native Mac version of Microsoft Office, which uses the same file formats as the Windows version.

If you have an unusual or proprietary Windows file for which there isn’t an equivalent program on the Mac, you would run it in a Windows program, as described above.

If I am planning to upgrade a Windows XP machine to Windows 7, can I buy the upgrade copy of 7 or must I buy the full version?

A: According to Microsoft’s Web site, XP is one of the older versions of Windows upon which you can indeed indeed use the less expensive upgrade versions of Windows 7. The company’s online store says: “All editions of Windows XP and Windows Vista qualify you to upgrade. So, if you’re running either on your PC today, buy a package labeled ‘Upgrade’.”

I’ve been holding out (for what feels like forever) on purchasing a Netbook because I read that Apple was coming out with one. Can you tell me anything about when they might really begin selling them?

A: Apple executives have said repeatedly and emphatically that they don’t plan to offer a netbook, which is essentially a cheap, small laptop. Instead, Apple is widely believed to be working on a small slate or tablet device that would be controlled via a fingertip touch screen. This would be sort of like a larger iPhone or iPod Touch. The company hasn’t confirmed that such a product is in the works, but many analysts and Apple bloggers predict it will debut early next year.

You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online for free at the All Things Digital web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

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