This work intends to deal with the optimal kinematic synthesis problem of parallel manipulators under a unified framework. Observing that regular (e.g., hyper-rectangular) workspaces are desirable for most machines, we propose the concept of effective regular workspace, which reflects simultaneously requirements on the workspace shape and quality. The effectiveness of a workspace is characterized by the dexterity of the mechanism over every point in the workspace. Other performance indices, such as manipulability and stiffness, provide alternatives of dexterity characterization of workspace effectiveness. An optimal design problem, including constraints on actuated/passive joint limits and link interference, is then formulated to find the manipulator geometry that maximizes the effective regular workspace. This problem is a constrained nonlinear optimization problem without explicitly analytical expression. Traditional gradient based approaches may have difficulty in searching the global optimum. The controlled random search technique, as reported robust and reliable, is used to obtain an numerical solution. The design procedure is demonstrated through examples of a Delta robot and a Gough-Stewart platform.