Today (August 18) Parallels announced Parallels Desktop for Mac 12 ($79.99), the latest version of its virtualization software that brings Windows to Apple computer users. Available to upgraders today for $49.99, this version adds 20 new tools to the Parallels Toolbox, support for macOS Sierra (due out this fall), more efficient backups and increased gaming capabilities. As with previous versions, users still have to bring their own licensed copy of Windows (currently $119 for Windows 10 Home).
The Parallels Toolbox is a set of tools that can turn any regular user into a power user. Accessible from the menu bar, Toolbox provides easy access to features including distraction-free modes for working and presentations that hide your desktop files and set your Mac to stay awake. Privacy minded folks can also quickly encrypt and password protect files from the Toolbox, something that neither PCs nor Macs make easy to do.
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Another Toolbox feature that many will find useful is simplified screenshots and recording, which you can activate via buttons. Not only is that an usability upgrade from macOS's complicated keyboard shortcuts for screenshots, but it's adding in screen video capability, which Apple's desktop platform has long gone without.
I'm happy to see the Parallels Toolbox offer easy video ripping from sites such as YouTube and Facebook. While current freeware solutions for that activity are available on websites, they often come with annoying popups and automatically downloaded bloatware. I suspect Facebook and YouTube's parent company Google may ask Parallels to remove this tool, but I hope that doesn't happen.
Mac users have long suffered from poor native support for games, and Parallels Desktop for Mac 12 aims to solve this problem by allowing the Windows 10 Xbox app so you can stream titles to your Mac. Also, Parallels engineers worked with Blizzard Entertainment to optimize the software to support Overwatch. The popular PC and console game has been suspiciously missing from the Mac, even though Blizzard usually releases games at the same time on Apple computers as it does on other platforms.
Parallels Desktop for Mac 12 also solves a longstanding gripe with the software, as it formerly required users to make complete system backups each and every time. Now the software allows for short, incremental updates to existing backups, which will save time and storage space. All versions of Parallels Desktop for Mac 12 come with a one-year subscription to the Acronis True Image backup service which provides 500GB of storage.
Parallels is also promising performance improvements, with improved responsiveness when your Mac is low on memory, 60 percent faster app suspension, 90 percent faster Snapshot creation and 10 percent more battery life. It also provides tools to schedule Windows' background updates to run on evenings or weekends.
While Parallels Desktop for Mac 12 is only available to subscribers and upgraders today, everyone else can buy it starting on August 23. Upgrades for existing Parallels Desktop 10 and 11 for Mac users cost $49.99.