Parallels Access: Remotely access Mac and Windows apps on iPad, as if they were made for it

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The iPad is a great tablet, no question about it, but anyone who argues you can get just as much work done on it as you could a Windows PC or a Mac is either a) mad, or b) an Apple executive. However, a new app called Parallels Access could change all that. It takes the concept of remotely accessing a Windows PC or Mac computer from an iPad and runs with it, “applifying” desktop-based apps with gestures and touch interface options so as to make them feel like they were designed for a tablet all along.

Parallels Access is a subscription service that (provided both your desktop PC or Mac and iPad are connected to the internet) allows you to access all of your desktop applications and files on the iPad, on the go. While this isn’t anything ground breaking in and of itself, what Parallels Access excels at is making the desktop computing experience feel as though it is native to the iPad. Just look for instance at how it presents Mac and Windows desktops through the app:
(Note that that is just the view given for your favourite apps – you can access a traditional desktop view when required too.)

It all looks very iOS, right? It doesn’t end there – any computer based app accessed through Parallels Access retains practically all of the gesture controls that you’ve become accustomed to with iOS. Pinch-to-zoom that Excel spreadsheet? No problem. Long-press to copy and paste in a Word document? Ditto. How about using the same gesture to copy text between a native iPad application and the remotely accessed computer app? No sweat.

Perhaps where Parallels Access really shines though is in the way that it has added brand new gestures to compensate for the lack of a mouse. For instance, in an area where the precision of a mouse can’t be matched by sausage-like fingers, a tap and hold gesture will bring up a magnifying glass, letting you access the more granular buttons the desktop operating systems regularly use. These few examples just scratch the surface of what it is capable of.

And then there are of course the added benefits of being able to access Windows from an iPad. Flash video and games can finally be played on the Apple slate through the remote access application and, providing you are playing slightly more sedate turn-based PC games such as Civilization or Football Manager, there’s no reason why you couldn’t finally have those top games on your iPad with you all the time.

In terms of connection speed required, Parallels Access appears to scale well. You may see a slight degradation in image quality from time to time, but as long as you have a half-decent constant web connection, it works like a charm. This isn’t the reserve of fibre-broadband users.

It is, however, the reserve of those with a fair bit of spare cash. Compatible with iPad 2 or newer and computers running OS X 1.7 and Windows 7 or higher, it costs £54.99 per year for each computer being accessed. Cheaper alternatives exist (check out GoToMyPC or PocketCloud Pro), but none are as intuitively realised as Parallels Access. If remote access of your desktop machine is vital to your work flow, this could prove an indispensable tool.

Gerald Lynch
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