VMware has released version 6.5 of VMware Workstation, a desktop virtualization application aimed at technical professionals. Workstation allows multiple operating systems, including most desktop and server editions of Windows and Linux, to run simultaneously on one PC.

Virtual desktops have many uses, but Workstation has many features targeted specifically at software developers. By allowing developers to create virtual machines (VMs) quickly with a variety of configurable specifications, the software lets them test their products in many different operating environments without leaving their PCs or even rebooting.

The new version of Workstation sports a feature called Unity, which allows applications to run in VMs but disposes of the virtual desktop. Applications run using Unity appear as desktop applications, alongside applications running natively, even though they are running in a separate operating system.

This release also provides support for VMs to use DirectX 9.0c 3D graphics and has features aimed at making installation of OSs on virtual machines easier. The ability to create encrypted VMs is new in Workstation 6.5, and these encrypted VMs can be used on PCs or copied onto portable storage, such as USB drives, and run from there.

Workstation’s record and playback functions are new features likely to be especially interesting to developers hunting down bugs. According to VMware, Workstation 6.5 “lets users record a VM’s entire programmatic execution—every CPU instruction, every memory page, and every disk write—over time and then replay the recording to reproduce the exact behavior and state of the virtual machine.” This feature should make it easier to diagnose bugs that occur only sporadically.

Workstation 6.5 is available now as a free downloadable upgrade for users of Workstation 6. A single-user license for the software is $189. More information is available at the VMware Workstation site.