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Parallels Access review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £35
inc VAT

Has promise, and the App launcher is a nice touch, but it’s too expensive

Parallels Access is an iPad app that lets you run native Windows and Mac OS X programs on your iPad, wherever you happen to be in the world. As these programs aren’t designed to be used on a small touchscreen device such as the iPad, Access “applifies” them, which means it converts them into something similar to an app. Access also provides a special keyboard with Windows and Mac OS X keys, which should make interacting with your Windows Mac OS X programs much easier and more natural than the default iOS keyboard.

Installing Access on an iPad is simple and easy, and installing the required Agent utility on your computer is equally straightforward. However, it’s worth noting that the Windows version of Agent is still in beta. Access Agent must be left running in the background on your computer so that the Access iPad app can connect to it. Your computer must be switched on all the time, too, because there’s no option to wake it.

~Parallels Access Running Photoshop On iPad
Parallels Access Running Photoshop On iPad

Launching the iPad app shows all computers that are running and have the Agent client installed. All you need to do is tap a computer to establish a connection. No router configuration is required, since connections are established via Parallels’ servers rather than directly, which simplifies the process of connecting your devices. The only catch with this approach is that connections can’t be made without internet access at both ends; Parallels Access won’t work over a local network alone.

Parallels Access Running Max OS Chrome on iPad
Parallels Access Running Max OS Chrome on iPad

Establishing a connection to a Mac also has a few disagreeable implications. Instead of showing the Mac desktop at its original resolution, Access resizes the desktop to 1024 x 768 to make it more manageable on a smaller screen, and to make the most of the bandwidth available to you. This has the knock-on effect of resizing any open windows and repositioning all Desktop icons, but these aren’t restored when the remote session ends. This is admittedly a failing of OS X rather than Access, but it’s still annoying and it’s a good idea to install some suitable OS X utilities to compensate. Annoyingly, desktop apps look horribly fuzzy on iPads with Retina displays due to the low 1,024×768 resolution at which they’re displayed.

The Access App Launcher closely mimics the OS X Launchpad, but starts with icons for the most commonly used apps rather than everything in the Applications folder. However, other apps can be added, and there’s a search tool for finding anything else. When you launch an app it is opened as a maximised window and the menu bar is still visible. We’d much prefer it to open our applications in the full-screen mode that’s been a feature of OS X since 2010.

Parallels Access App Launcher
Parallels Access App Launcher

Access has a variety of multitouch gestures to compensate for the lack of a mouse or touchpad. However, you can use a virtual mouse if you prefer. Tapping the screen with one finger triggers a left mouse button click, two fingers triggers the right button and the familiar iOS tap-and-hold technique displays an on-screen magnifier so that you can select text. The same gesture can also be used to select smaller on-screen elements, such as buttons to close windows.

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Price £35
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