Another year brings another release of Parallels’ eponymous PC emulator for Macs. Ready for the release of OS X El Capitan, Parallels Desktop 11 ($80) supports Windows 10 and allows users to make use of Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant. Users can now simply swipe to switch between Mac and Windows screens, but even when Windows is running in the background, saying “Hey Cortana” will still get a reply from the digital assistant. Parallels also makes it possible to cut and paste or drag and drop items freely between Windows and Mac programs. Standard speed improvements are here, with Parallels claiming to have increased Windows startup performance by 50 percent and shaved 20 percent off the time it takes to open Microsoft Excel speadsheets. Battery life is improved 25 percent as well when operating in a new “travel mode.” Users will be able to tailor the Windows experience to their preferred use (gaming vs. design, for example), allowing them to stretch the battery life further by making it possible to run Windows in a toned-down capacity.
For all the new bells and whistles, Parallel’s core feature is still enabling Macs to run a complete Windows environment without using Boot Camp and losing the OS X interface. This latest version takes full advantage of that interface, letting users view Windows content items with their Mac’s QuickLook feature, use Mac’s location services inside Windows and print Microsoft Office documents more easily than before via a simpler Windows interface with OS X’s printer options. While support for Windows 10 is the big selling point in this latest version, Parallels Desktop 11 also allows Mac owners to run Windows 8 or older, Chrome, Linux or even other copies of OS X alongside their regular operating system. The software will allow users to migrate the contents of an existing PC onto a Mac, reuse an existing Boot Camp installation or start from scratch with a fresh Windows OS. A pro edition of the software is available for $100 and includes command-line control on virtual machines alongside support for developer tools like Visual Studio, Docker, Chef and Jenkins. Parallels’ $80 asking price for the standard version drops to $50 for users upgrading from previous versions, and $40 for students.