Parallels Desktop 12
Run Windows apps directly from your Mac’s desktop The absence of noteworthy new features makes Parallels Desktop 12 a hard sell for existing users
Parallels Desktop has been our go-to solution for running Windows apps on the Mac for
some time now. Our favourite feature is Coherence Mode, which allows you to blend your Windows apps right into the OS X desktop itself, making them appear like native apps. Parallels Desktop 12 attempts to continue its gradual evolution with a smattering of tweaks and improvements, but the absence of noteworthy new features makes it a hard sell for existing users.
The lack of standout features explains why the pre-launch hype has been around Parallels Toolbox, a collection of 20 mini-tools that aims to plug various gaps in OS X, with examples including a one-click ‘Do Not Sleep’ button and a tool for downloading video. This is undoubtedly clever and potentially useful, but not particularly earth-shattering, and does little to enhance Parallels Desktop itself.
As always, what changes Parallels does introduce are welcome ones, but they’re evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Take Coherence Mode, for example: version 12 adds a distraction-free presentation mode that disables notifications, hides desktop icons and forces your Mac to stay awake, plus you can now assign default behaviours to individual Windows apps, such as always opening them in full-screen mode. Website passwords from Edge and Internet Explorer can be integrated into OS X’s keychain, and Office options appear in OS X’s contextual menus too – all welcome changes, but minor.
Parallels 12 also comes with a year’s 500GB cloud backup with Acronis True Image, which is then integrated into Parallels to allow you to back up incremental changes to your virtual machines. Great, but going forward will you have to pay, or switch to Parallel’s subscription-based Pro edition? Existing power users will find the £34.99 per year subscription tempting given that it includes Parallels Access and a subscription covering future Parallel Toolbox updates in addition to Pro-only features like the Network Conditioner (which simulates 3G and other slow networks), but it’s overkill for most.
Every year we’re told Parallels gets faster and better. With version 12, Parallels is forced to find niche areas to tweak: suspend times (up to 60% faster) and shared folder access (up to 25%), for example. It also has support for the Windows 10 Xbox app and Overwatch game, but DirectX 11 support is still missing.
There’s value in Parallels for first-time users looking to easily integrate Windows apps into the Mac desktop. But there’s little to tempt existing users, and we can’t help but feel that Parallels needs a radical rethink if it’s to avoid stagnating going forward.
A new presentation mode makes it easier to use Coherence.
The biggest new feature in Parallels Desktop 12 is actually a separate app called Parallels Toolbox.