Parallels Desktop 13 review: Now your MacBook Pro Touch Bar works with Windows, too

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The latest edition of Parallels Desktop is not only ready for
macOS High Sierra, but already supports the forthcoming Windows
10 Fall Creators Update as well. Apple and Microsoft have
settled into annual update schedules for macOS and Windows,
which means you can expect virtualization software dependent
upon both platforms to arrive around the same time.

Parallels Desktop 13: Touch Bar wizard

If you own a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, Parallels Desktop 13 for Mac is a must-have
upgrade. That’s because key features of Windows 10 will now
appear on the Touch Bar while a VM is running, a feature that
works straight away for the Start Menu, Cortana, Desktop, File
Explorer, and popular web browsers like Edge, Chrome, and
Firefox.

parallels desktop 13 touch bar and people bar J. R. Bookwalter

Parallels Desktop 13 brings Touch Bar to Windows 10, and
delivers the upcoming People Bar to your macOS Dock as well.

Microsoft Office 2016 applications are also imbued with Touch
Bar capabilities, offering multiple command sets depending upon
what you’re doing in the app. But what about the thousands of
other available Windows 10 apps? Most of them are supported
too, but some assembly is required.

Located under the View menu, Touch Bar Wizard allows Parallels
users to customize which Windows commands are displayed for the
current application, just like they already do on macOS—in
fact, Parallels uses the exact same pop-up configuration panel.
It does take a little time to set up and some buttons won’t
work in certain Windows apps, but this is otherwise a slick
addition for MacBook Pro owners.

Parallels Desktop 13: PiP your VMs

Parallels Desktop 13 does an admirable job of adopting PC-only
features on the Mac. This time around it’s People Bar, a new
feature in the forthcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update
which consolidates favorite contact information into the
Taskbar. PD13 cleverly delivers these favorites to the macOS
Dock instead, but is currently limited to the stock Windows
Mail app. (The latest Windows Insider build is also required
for now.)

PD13 also taps into the picture-in-picture support introduced
in macOS Sierra, allowing one or more VM windows to collapse
into a small floating view. This allows users to monitor
activity and works even when a video is playing; PiP windows
are semi-translucent by default, but you can adjust to fully
opaque using a slider in settings.

parallels desktop 13 windows 10 picture in pictureIDG

One or more VMs can now run in picture-in-picture mode,
complete with live updates and opacity control.

It wouldn’t be a new version without a few enhancements to
existing features. Retina Display owners—nearly half of all
Parallels Desktop users—will see improvements in scaled
resolutions, while resizing VM windows is now much smoother.
The update also delivers up to 47 percent faster performance
when running Windows on the Mac, up to 50 percent faster
Snapshot creation, and near-native read/write speeds from
external Thunderbolt SSDs. Last but not least, PD13 has a
refreshed icon and look—I was mildly disappointed to see the
company abandon the dark Control Center theme, however.

parallels desktop 13 control center
J. R. Bookwalter

Parallels Desktop 13 arrives with a new look and feel, ditching
the dark Control Center theme from the previous version.

The timing is good for those lamenting Apple’s decision to
retire creaky old pro video apps like Final Cut Pro 7. Since
these 32-bit apps no longer run in High Sierra, I was able to
create a new macOS 10.12.6 Sierra VM from my Recovery Partition
in just a few clicks using PD13’s Installation Assistant so I
can quickly access older projects should the need arise.

Bottom line

Full support for macOS High Sierra and the upcoming Windows 10
Fall Creators Update would be good enough reasons to upgrade,
but conveniences like Touch Bar for Windows apps and
picture-in-picture support keep Parallels Desktop 13 atop the
Mac virtualization throne for another year.

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