I recently had a chance to review Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac. Parallels also allowed me to try Parallels Access ($49.99/year for each computer), its new remote access solution for iPad users — but you don’t need to be using Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac or any other Parallels virtualization solution to take advantage of Parallels Access. I’ve written about other remote access solutions for TechRepublic, and Parallels
Access really caught my attention at the first login.

Using Parallels Access

The Parallels Access app is a free download from the App Store. As part of the setup, you have to install a Parallels Access agent on your Mac or PC. Parallels Access has the following prerequisites:

  • iPad 2, iPad 3, or iPad Mini
  • Mac running OS X. Mountain Lion 10.7, 10.8, or Mavericks 10.9
  • PC running Windows 7 or Windows 8

My one annoyance with the Parallels Access setup is the mandatory video that plays when you open the app for the first time on an iPad. If you’re like me and don’t learn well from help videos, you’ll think the volume is too loud and find you can’t quit it. While I commend Parallels Access for the user assistance content upfront, it would be nice if they offered an option to skip the video for users who prefer reading documentation.

Parallels Access offers a full-screen view over apps on your PC or Mac. There’s no wasting screen real estate with this app. It helps desktop apps look great on Retina display iPads. Figure A shows how Parallels Access renders the apps on my Mac.

Figure A



Apps available on my Mac via Parallels Access.

Tap on the plus sign [+ ] in the top right corner to bring up a list
of other PC applications you can add to the Parallels Access App Launcher
(Figure B).

Figure B



Parallels Access App Launcher.

Figure C shows the familiar Word Document Gallery that greets Word for Mac 2011 users when they fire up the app.

Figure C



Word Document Library.

Navigating through a desktop application using Parallels Access feels very natural. While an iPad running Parallels Access isn’t going to replace a laptop as a primary work machine anytime soon, I did find the performance to be very robust — both on my home Wi-Fi network and a test I ran on the free Wi-Fi at my favorite local bakery café. Parallels Access renders PC/Mac apps full screen on the iPad, which really helps heighten the user experience and differentiates the
app from others in the market.

The toolbar at the bottom right corner lets you launch new apps. Figure D shows the App Launcher open. Tap on a new app in the launcher to open it.

Figure D



App Launcher.

Tap the rocket icon to return to the opening page. When you tap on the gear icon, you get access to various options (Figure E), including additional keys, mouse pointer, sound, feedback, and help. 

Figure E



Various options are available.

Tapping through the tabs and menu options in Word 2011 was responsive. I couldn’t feel any lag over my home Wi-Fi network when I was testing the Desktop keyboard feature. The same held true when I tested access over the free Wi-Fi at my favorite local café/writing spot.

The keyboard is well spaced out and even includes Windows and command keys (Figure F), which is a nice touch.

Figure F



Desktop keyboard.

The iPad native features might take some practice, but the copy and paste feature work as advertised. The SmartTap feature was nice when I tested it in Word 2011 and other common applications. The magnifying glass was also precise, and it was actually quite helpful.

Parallels Access agent

As part of the setup process, you have to install the Parallels Access agent on your PC or Mac. In the case of the Mac install, the app remains accessible on the Menu bar. Figure G shows the Account Settings dialogue available on the Mac/PC side.

Figure G



Account Settings dialogue.

There are also advanced settings (Figure H) that govern user access and locking from their iPad to the PC/Mac. My recommendation is to look at these advanced options during the Parallels Access trial period to see if they can benefit your remote access experience. 

Figure H



Advanced Settings.

The application also gives you the option to modify the sleep settings on your Mac/PC to ensure that your machine is awake and ready for remote access. After installing Parallels Access on my Mac, the option to change my sleep settings appear whenever I power up my machine. If you plan on using Parallels Access, it’s an option you should explore using. 

Final thoughts

Based on my experience reviewing a number of remote access apps for the iPad and other mobile devices, I highly recommend Parallels Access. The solution’s pricing might get expensive if you want to access multiple PCs or Macs, but this beautiful and robust app definitely caught my attention after spending time with other solutions.

Have you tested Parallels Access yet? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.