Parallels 8 for Mac: First Impressions

Update (Sept 7): Check out the latest my usability and comparison report of VMware Fusion 5 and Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac here now!

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is here! And as always, performance has been improved (up to 25% improved is claimed, something that I’ll be investigating very soon). However, the team has gone beyond just focusing on performance but to also understand how their customers (you and me that is!) has been using Parallels Desktop and introduced a whole bunch of new features that blurs the lines between the virtualised Windows machine and your Mac host a whole lot more. So much so that you would hardly feel as though you have two very different machines running at the same time!

I was lucky enough to have a preview of what’s to come and now that I’m allowed to share it with you, here are some of the highlights of the key features that are being introduced in Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac. I’m sure you’d already read this announcement on major tech publications so instead of writing just another press release, I’d be sharing some of my thoughts around the new features that was highlighted and what it would mean to users like you and me. and Lastly, whether it’s worth the upgrade.

Parallels do indeed listen to their users!

One of the fact that impressed me was how Parallels tries to understand their users and how Parallels Desktop is being used to decide upon some of the new features that are introduced. It shows that these features are well thought out and would be useful to us users at the end of the day, and not just yet another checkbox feature which only exist to 1-up the competition. And a bit of trivia, did you know that more than 10,000 discrete Windows applications are used in Parallels Desktop?!

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac

Life Simplified

Let’s take a quick look at the some of the new features that are introduced in Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac.

1. Dictation Support - Wish you could use the new Mountain Lion Dictation tool in your Windows virtual machine? Now you can!

2. Open in Internet Explorer - Ever visited a website doesn’t render well within Safari? Remember that darn HR  website that just don’t work on Safari? Here’s a nice feature that makes life a little simpler.

What you get is a new button in Safari to open the current URL in Internet Explorer of your Windows VM.

Neat! And in case you are wondering, support for Chrome and Firefox is planned in the near future.

3. Drag and drop email attachments - Now you can also simply drag and drop files from the desktop onto the Dock icons for Outlook and other Windows email clients to attach and share them, just like how you can do the same with Apple’s Mail app.

4. Multilingual keyboard - Keyboard language changes made on the Mac automatically sync, to simplify switching languages in Windows. This feature is particularly nice if you generally use multiple types of keyboards on your Mac.

5. Bluetooth-sharing – Multiple Windows and Mac devices can now share Bluetooth connections

6. Windows apps on OS X Launchpad – Add Windows applications to the Mountain Lion or Lion Launchpad to quickly launch Mac and Windows applications used most

7. Consolidated notifications – Integration of Windows notifications into the Mac OS X Notification Center makes it easy to stay updated on Windows virtual machine operations

This is actually a really nice feature!

8. Resource monitoring – Disk space and memory usage of virtual machines are conveniently displayed for easy customization and management

9. Mountain Lion gestures for Windows apps – Enjoy seamless integration of Mountain Lion gestures with Windows apps – such as pinch to zoom, Mission Control, three-finger drag, swipe between full-screen apps, two-finger scroll, Launchpad and rotate

10. USB 3.0 devices support – Benefit from easy access to all-important files and data from a virtual machine

Visually Stunning

There are also a bunch of updates from the visual standpoint.

First and foremost is of course support for the new Retina display.

If you’re one of the proud and lucky owners of the new MacBook Pro Retina, you can now have Windows 8 (ironically) in its best display resolution. And if you also are using the Parallels Mobile app on The New iPad with the Retina display, that’s also the best Windows 8 visual experience thus far!

There’s also the new Presentation Wizard that makes presentations interruption-free by disabling screen savers on Mac and Windows, optimizing the full-screen display and automatically adjusting resolution.

All in all, my first impressions of Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is impressive indeed. And if you are running OS X Mountain Lion and is planning to run a Windows 8 virtual Machine, an upgrade to Parallels Desktop 8 from previous versions is definitely worth considering.

I’ll be reviewing and comparing Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac in much further detail once I receive a copy and run it myself where I’ll compare against its previous version 7 as well as against VMWare Fusion.

Update (Sept 7): Check out the latest my usability and comparison report of VMware Fusion 5 and Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac here now!

Pricing and availability

So when can you get a copy yourself? Well, here are the dates!

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is available beginning Aug. 30, 2012, as an upgrade for current Parallels Desktop for Mac users.

New customers have to wait a little longer for the full version which will only be available starting September 4, both online from Parallels’ website or at retail outlets. However, you don’t actually have to wait until September 4 to start using Parallels Desktop. Customers who purchased Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac from an authorized reseller on or after July 25, 2012, are eligible to upgrade to Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac at no additional cost. Check out the details of this Tech guarantee at http://www.parallels.com/techguarantee2012.

The standard retail price (SRP) of Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is US$79.99, and the Student Edition is available for US$39.99. Parallels Desktop 8 Switch to Mac Edition is US$99.99. Upgrades are starting Aug. 30th for existing Parallels Desktop for Mac customers for US$49.99. Special pricing of US$49.99 for the full version is available to customers currently using VMware Fusion.

The Parallels Mobile app, which works with Parallels Desktop for Mac to give full access to both Mac and Windows applications from an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, is currently available in the App Store for a special price of US$4.99.
Parallels Mobile - Parallels, Inc.

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    […] Find out more about Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac by checking my in-depth review of Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac. […]

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