Run Windows applications on top of Linux desktop with Seamless Mode in VirtualBox

Updated: April 14, 2009

Running multiple operating systems on a single host may sound like a wild dream. However, it is a pleasant, useful reality. This is done by using virtualization software. The host machine runs its own, native operating system plus the virtualization product that allows one or more virtual machines to be run on top of the host. These virtual machines are known as guests and they run in their isolated, self-contained virtual environments, separate from one another, both functionally and visually. Or do they?

VirtualBox is a versatile desktop virtualization program, available for a range of operating systems. Alongside VMware products, it offers the home user virtually limitless flexibility when it comes to testing and evaluating software.

One of the many great functions that VirtualBox offers is the Seamless mode. What is it, you may be asking. Well, it's a feature that allows you to run individual applications that belong to your virtual machines (guests) directly on top of your host desktop! Sounds great. So let's see how this can be used.

Enable Seamless Mode

Seamless mode currently requires that you run a Linux host, a Windows guest and have Guest Additions installed in the Windows guest. Once you meet these humble requirements, using Seamless mode is a 15-second job.

Start your virtual machine. Then, click on Machine > Seamless Mode.


You'll get a small information box. And you're ready to rock!


Enjoy Seamless Mode

Seamless Mode is cool.

Demo 1

Demo 2

Demo 3

Just to make it all feel and look all the more spicy:

I've ran the virtual machine from an external hard disk, just as I recommended in my article on virtualization tips and tricks. The Linux was an Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid, with an ATI graphic card, Compiz Fusion, custom Emerald theme, and a Mac-like icon dock. You can't get much cooler than that!

Compiz 1

Compiz 2


Seamless Mode is a lot of fun. If you like virtualization, then you should try it. Merging desktop functionalities of completely different operating systems can be both visually pleasing and useful, as you need not shuffle between the host and guest. Everything runs on a single, unified desktop. And whenever you grow tired of this gadget, simply revert back to good, ole fashioned Windowed Mode. This tutorial may not help you earn your first million, but it should make you smile.