Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac review


Updates to the popular Parallels Desktop visualization program generally coincide with new versions of the Mac operating system, so it's no surprise to see that Parallels Desktop 11 arrives just a few weeks ahead of Apple's new OS X v10.11 -- a.k.a. El Capitan. But, of course, this year's update also follows the recent arrival of Windows 10, which means that Parallels Desktop 11 is a fairly major update that provides support for both of these new operating systems.

Hey Cortana, where's Siri?

You can use Cortana running in a virtual machine even when using native Mac apps.
The most impressive aspect of Parallels Desktop 11 is not simply that it allows you to run Windows as a virtual machine (VM) on the Mac (along with various versions of Unix, and even Android and ChromeOS too), but that it continues to integrate the Mac and Windows environments so that features from each operating system become almost interchangeable.

One of the headline features in Windows 10 is Cortana, the 'personal assistant' that lets you use voice commands to find information on the web, send messages and perform a variety of other tasks. Cortana is often compared to Apple's Siri, but Siri is currently only available on Apple's iOS devices and doesn't run on the Mac. Parallels Desktop 11 therefore pulls off quite a trick by allowing Cortana to not only run within a Windows 10 virtual machine, but also to run with the VM hidden or running in the background while you work in native Mac apps. So, while I'm typing this review in Apple's Pages word-processor, I can say "Hey Cortana - schedule a meeting". The Cortana window then pops up from the Dock on the Mac desktop and lists options for my meeting.

OS integration

The Mac's QuickLook preview option now works with Windows files too.

Other examples of this OS integration include the Mac's QuickLook option, which now works within Windows too, allowing you to preview documents stored on a Windows virtual machine just by hitting the space bar on your keyboard.


  • Runs Windows and Linux VMs on Macs
  • Tight integration of Windows and Mac features
  • Improved performance and battery life
  • Supports Windows 10 and OS X El Capitan


  • Requires plenty of memory and processor power
  • Poor documentation for newcomers

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