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Rethinking the VM creation experience

About two years ago, we conducted a survey of VMware Workstation users. While looking at the results we discovered that some of the common complaints included being unable to increase the screen resolution of VMs and having no idea how to “ungrab” the mouse after clicking inside the VM’s console. This surprised us because both those issues are solved trivially by the installation of VMware Tools, which includes device drivers for the virtual hardware we present to the guest OS. After some initial head-scratching, we realized that users hadn’t been installing our Tools software! Guessing that users simply weren’t aware that this was necessary for a good experience, we attempted to gently educate them about the benefits of installing VMware Tools and providing more convenient access to instructions for doing so. Although that was a decent stopgap measure for Workstation 6.0, we knew that we could do better.

Meanwhile, in usability studies and during contextual inquiries we kept noticing that being asked to select the guest OS while creating new VMs frequently gave users the impression that the VM would already have the selected OS installed on it at the end of the process. Users kept powering on their new VMs and feeling like something had gone wrong because there was no guest installed on them. Again, we made a small change to the New VM wizard that informed them of the need to install a guest OS on their VM once it had been created. Not long after this, however, VMware Fusion shipped with the ability to install certain new versions of Windows onto a VM automatically. The feature was a big hit and we realized that we could incorporate it into the next release of Workstation as part of our effort to streamline the process of creating new VMs.

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