Parallels Access is a new iPad app launching tonight – that promises to let you experience Mac and Windows applications as is they were made for the iPad. It ‘applifies’ your Windows and Mac apps to make them feel as it they’re native iPad apps.
The app is published by Parellels, the makers of the excellent Parallels Desktop application for running virtual machines on a Mac. Parellels coined the term ‘applifies’ to describe the way it customizes and optimizes desktop applications and enables iPad native taps, swipes, and gestures when using them.
I’ve been testing the app out for a few weeks now, and it’s as good as advertised. Here’s my quick review of this very impressive new app:
Parallels Access is an iPad exclusive app for now, but versions for Android and other platforms are being developed. There’s a free companion agent app that is installed on your Mac or Windows machine.
Here are the availability and pricing details for the app:
Parallels Access for iPad is initially available for purchase on the App Store(SM) as an annual subscription at $79.99 for each computer being accessed. Each Mac or PC being accessed needs its own subscription. The Mac Agent is available immediately, and the PC Agent is currently in beta and is available at no charge during the beta period. Parallels Access hardware requirements include an iPad 2, iPad 3 or iPad mini and a Mac running OS X (Mountain Lion 10.8, Lion 10.7 or the upcoming Mavericks 10.9 after it launches) or a PC running Windows 7 or Windows 8. If a Mac user also runs Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac, then Parallels Access will also “applifiy” all of its Windows virtual machines and apps so they work like they were made for iPad.
Using Parallels Access
Once you installed the agent app on your Mac or PC, Parallels Access on the iPad just sees them and shows your computer / computers as available to connect to, without any effort on your part.
In the settings for the desktop agent you can choose whether to have the iPad connect to your desktop without the need to logon, or to require logon with your username and password.
As soon as you connect, you see a LaunchPad type view that’s called App Launcher. This shows some of the most used applications on your Mac or PC. Since I use Parallels Desktop, I can see Mac applications and some Windows applications I run on my Parallels Windows 7 virtual machine too. You can also see the mix of Mac and Windows applications in the Parallels screencap at the top of this post.
It’s easy to add and remove applications in the App Launcher with just a couple of taps – so you can set up the page or pages of apps just the way you like. You can also search for applications from the search bar at the top center of the App Launcher screen.
The squares icon at the bottom right of the App Launcher screen pulls up the App Switcher. This shows you currently running apps on the remote system and lets you quickly switch to any of them with a single tap.
When you’re running an app in Parallels Access there’s a small controls bar that’s on the lower right edge of the screen. This offers one tap access to the App Launcher, the App Switcher, the iPad’s virtual keyboard, and to extra settings and help for Parallels Access – things like switching to a mouse cursor rather than just tapping, toggling sound on or off, and help on iPad gestures in the app. You can also switch to a desktop mode, but I’ve found that far less efficient to use.
The controls slider rarely gets in the way of things, but when it does it’s easy to tap, drag, and hold it out of the way.
There are options to black out the screen on the remote PC when connected, and to lock the computer when working remotely and lock it when you finish working remotely.
— The app’s UI is clean and great looking. The App Launcher and App Switcher elements and the fact that Mac and Windows applications always fill the whole screen, add to the overall iPad-like experience throughout the app.
— Just like it says on the box, every PC application looks and works as if it was designed for the iPad. Even when you install a new application on the remote PC, Parallels Access applifies it on the fly.
— The app’s ‘Smart Tap’ and magnifying glass features make it quite easy to tap touch points, and it adjusts a user’s tap so that taps on toolbar or ribbon icons don’t have to be precisely on target. It feels smoother and easier than any iPad remote access app I’ve worked with.
— Other creature comforts for iPad users include support for several key iPad gestures, iPad native copy and paste, iPad native select and drag with one finger, and iPad native scrolling in desktop applications. It even lets you use voice dictation.
— The on-screen keyboard has extra keys for Windows and Mac.
— The App Switcher not only lets you switch between running applications, but also between separate windows of running applications – as seen here with the Powerpoint app and multiple windows for individual presentations:
— Security – when Parallels Access is connected data is secured using SSL and 256-bit AES. Also, whenever a new user, new computer, or iPad is registered a confirmation letter is sent to the account owner.
— It lets you copy and paste between the remote PC and the iPad, seamlessly.
— It works over WiFi and cellular and over low bandwidth connections.
— It even plays nice with the enemy. I’ve had fun using it to connect to a VMWare Windows 2008 server.
Almost none worth mentioning. I’ve had a few occasions where the on-screen keyboard was a little glitchy for me, but that was in the build before the near final release build of the app. .
Parallels Access is hugely impressive app. It really delivers an iPad experience while working with desktop applications – which makes it much easier to get more done in those applications.
I’ve used a good number of iPad remote access apps, and none of them offer anything close to this experience when running desktop applications.
Here’s the official Parallels Access demo:
You can see lots more detail on this Parallels Access product page too.