Parallels Desktop for Mac is an operating system virtualization program that allows Windows and other operating systems to run on an Intel-based Mac. The program enables users to run Windows within Mac OS X and supports transferring files as well as copying and pasting data between the two interfaces. Parallels Desktop also supports 3D graphics capabilities and plug and play USB devices, including printers, digital cameras, and GPS navigation systems.
Parallels Desktop runs as an application within the Mac OS X desktop environment. Users can install a version of Windows or choose an existing virtual machine installation. Virtual machines can be run in several interface perspectives, including Window, Full Screen, Coherent modes. Coherent mode makes Windows programs look as if they were running natively in Mac OS X, and the Windows Start Menu and open Windows applications can be managed directly from the Mac OS X Dock.
Parallels Desktop seamlessly integrates Macintosh and Windows systems. For example, users can share files and copied text between operating systems using drag-and-drop functionality. Users can also assign plug and play USB devices to a host operating system, or switch between operating systems. The software supports Macintosh trackpad gestures within Windows applications.
Parallels Desktop supports thousands of applications on over 60 operating systems, including Windows 3.1, 95, 98, NT, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, and 8. The software also supports execution of Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, 10.7 Lion, 10.6 Snow Leopard, and 10.5 Leopard as a guest operating systems. Other supported operating systems include SUSE, Red Hat, Debian, Fedora Core, Mandriva, FreeBSD, OS/2, Solaris, and MS-DOS. Both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems are supported.
The software also includes several performance optimization and security features. For example, users can suspend Parallels virtual machines, which provides better performance for Mac applications. Parallels Desktop supports DirectX and Shader Model technologies, which substantially increases performance for 3D graphics applications. It also includes administrative tools for securing virtual machines, such as virtual machine isolation and safe mode execution.
The Parallels Desktop for Mac community consists primarily of Windows users who have migrated to Mac-based systems. These users may need to still run Windows-only applications, but prefer the Mac OS X environment. Other Parallels Desktop users include Mac owners who want to run Linux programs or older Windows operating systems.