Since its beta release, Parallels has let Mac users run Windows simultaneously with Mac OS X on any Intel Mac, which is a real boon whenever you need that one Windows-specific program you just can’t avoid. But the recent Official Update (free for all registered users of Parallels Desktop) offers the ability to bypass Windows altogether and get right to the apps you need. With Coherence mode, you can now launch and run Windows applications directly within your Mac desktop, just as you would any Mac app.

Even though the windows for your Windows applications are now divorced from the virtual Windows desktop in Coherence mode under Parallels, you’ll still want to have your Windows virtual machine running before you launch any programs under Parallels. Otherwise, launching the application will take as long as launching Windows. But as long as Windows is running, launching a specific application is pretty snappy. Just click on its icon in the Dock, as you would any other program, and up it comes.

I’ve been testing out Word 2007 lately, which now lives right next to Word 2004 in my Dock. As you can see, opening it and getting straight to a new document takes no time at all, and I get my own Word 2007 window, making it look (almost) like a native Mac app. You can also access Windows applications that don’t live in your dock by just clicking the Windows Start menu in what now effectively becomes a Windows-specific Dock just above your real Dock. – Link to video download.