Parallels Desktop 13 brings improved performance & native Touch Bar support to Windows

Ahead of the macOS High Sierra release, virtualization software company Parallels has officially announced the availability of Parallels Desktop 13. Outside of bringing the traditional performance improvements, Desktop 13 introduces native Touch Bar support to Microsoft’s OS and a good portion of its most used applications. The update also brings in a slightly refreshed UI to better match macOS and visual improvements for Windows users on Retina displays.

A few weeks back we got to take an early look at Parallels Desktop 13 for the Mac and what it brings to users. There are some standout features for MacBook Pro owners, and Desktop 13 improves upon the overall Windows experience too.

Without a doubt, the most welcome feature of Desktop 13 is the Touch Bar support for Windows. After seeing it in action during our early preview, I’d venture to say it’s even better than Apple’s Pages implementation. With Microsoft Word, Desktop 13 puts options for multiple text stylings, paragraph alignments, and undo/redo buttons all at the forefront. Users can even customize the Touch Bar just like in macOS.

Parallels made the Touch Bar experience as useful as possible, even when an app isn’t in the foreground. When no app is open on Windows, Desktop 13 shows Windows’ taskbar in the Touch Bar. It’s a subtle feature that I’d love to see copied by macOS. While none of it is a necessity by any means, it’s a welcome touch to blurring the lines between the Windows virtual machine and host macOS.

Out of the box, Desktop 13 will include Touch Bar support for Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Windows’ Start Menu and Desktop, File Explorer, and multiple browsers.

Previous versions of Parallels were great at finding Windows ISOs hidden away on the Mac, but Desktop 13 makes it all the easier. Instead of having to download your own ISOs, Desktop 13 comes with a built-in automatic Windows 10 downloader and installer. Users don’t even have to make a purchase before getting started, and all apps and configurations can transfer to a full copy of Windows 10 later on.

During our demo, we also got to see the visual enhancements Parallels Desktop 13 brings for Retina display users. According to Parallels, 46% of its users are using Parallels Desktop 12 on a Retina display. Desktop 13 improves Windows’ appearance for these users by smoothing out blurry and pixelated text.