Enable the Start menu in VMWare Fusion

I find the recently-released VMWare Fusion 1.0 to be better, faster, and more Mac-like, feature-for-feature, than Parallels. By default, however, its Unity mode goes a bit too far in its seamless Mac integration by hiding the Start bar entirely, in the hope that you’ll use the admittedly more Mac-style “Applications” menu VMWare provides. Fortunately, revealing the Start bar, your Windows windows, and your system tray again is a simple tweak to the VMWare Tools config file.

To enable the Start menu and Taskbar in a VMWare guest:

  1. With Windows running, switch to Single Window or Full Screen mode
  2. Open C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\VMWare\VMWare Tools\tools.conf in Notepad
  3. Add the following line at the end of the file:
    unity.showTaskbar = "true"
  4. Save and close tools.conf

The toolbar will be visible when you next enter Unity mode. Brilliant!

With this tweak, VMWare’s Unity mode is superior to Coherence mode in Parallels. The Windows windows in Unity do the right thing when you activate Exposé, for example. They also have nice shadows, like other Mac windows, and they are truly interleaved with Mac windows, not grouped together in a giant invisible window like in Parallels.

Overall, I also find VMWare to be faster than Parallels, not just in running Windows, but in launching, exiting, pausing and resuming the guest OS. It also seems to be less demanding of OS X resources than Parallels. Plus, the UI is much simpler and smoother, using real Aqua controls and adhering to Apple HIG.

I only wish VMWare would release for Mac the tools they have for Windows that can convert from Parallels VMs to VMWare VMs. Give ‘em time, I suppose.

2 Responses to “Enable the Start menu in VMWare Fusion”

  1. Daniel Says:

    This sounds like a good way around it, unfortunately i don’t seem to have an “application data” folder in my All Users folder, so can’t find the file i need to make the change to!
    I am running VMWare Fusion from my Bootcamp Partition so perhaps this is why? Any help would be hugely appreciated, i love Fusion but the lack of start bar is very hindering!

  2. John Says:

    Several folders along the way are actually hidden. Entering C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\VMWare\VMWare Tools\ into your Start > Run… dialog should get you there.