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Parallels 12 throws open your Mac's window to the world

The latest version of the OS-switching program for Mac promises speedier performance, a rollout of Windows 10's best tools, Mac OS Sierra support and even some tweaking to make Overwatch more playable.

Remotely access your Xbox One from your Mac desktop in Parallels.

Parallels

Parallels, the software that lets you run other operating systems side by side with OS X on your Mac computer, is about to get an upgrade. Version 12, available from August 23, doubles down on support for Windows 10 in addition to the usual bevy of speed and performance upgrades.

As with the previous 11 versions, Parallels is primarily software for Mac that lets you run virtual machines on your computer, giving you access to other operating systems -- usually the ubiquitous Windows. In addition to the freedom from having access to other operating systems, it can also protect your host computer by isolating any viruses and allow you to try out beta operating systems without risking your main computer.

Version 12 is built with the latest version of Windows, Windows 10, in mind, and will also be fully compatible with the upcoming OS Sierra for Mac. But that's all par for the course. Let's take a look at the new features.

Here's the short version of the highlights:

  • Windows 10 'always on' in the background
  • Instantly launch Windows apps
  • Incremental backups
  • Toolbox allows for easy screenshots and desktop video recording/downloading
  • Schedule incremental backups
  • Support for Xbox and Overwatch

Right out of the box, Parallels is about streamlining your workflow. You'll be able to buy a version of Windows 10 from within the app and install it with a couple of clicks, and you should be fine running a virtual machine with as little as 4GB of RAM (more will let you run more VMs simultaneously).

The features in the new Parallels toolbox

Parallels

With Windows 10 always on in the background, your boot time will be a little longer initially, but Windows apps can now live in your dock and launch instantly. A partnership with Acronis means that you can now back up your machine incrementally, only saving any changes rather than uploading a full copy of your machine every time.

The Parallels toolbox does away with terminal commands and makes it easier to take screenshots, download video from YouTube and Facebook, or even record what you're doing on your desktop. The new Windows Ink feature -- allowing you to freely mark up your documents with a stylus -- now has iPad and Apple Pencil support.

Mark up documents and hand write equations and other text with Windows Ink.

Parallels

Kurt Schmucker, senior product manager, said that the Parallels graphics team worked with Blizzard to optimise performance for Overwatch specifically -- Blizzard's incredibly popular team-based shooter, and one of the developer's few games not available on Mac natively. Running Windows 10 through Parallels will also give your Mac access to the Xbox app, allowing you to stream games directly from your Xbox One to your Mac.

If you already have Parallels version 10 or 11, you can upgrade to version 12 for $50 (£35, AU$65). If you're a newcomer to the platform, Parallels 12 will cost you $80 (£65, AU$100) for the full version, or an annual subscription fee of $100 (£80, AU$125) for the Mac Pro Edition and the Business Edition. It's available from August 23, or from August 18 for current subscribers.