Parallels Access Review - An iPad app that allows you to remotely access your home or work PC, and run programs remotely
I was given the opportunity to review Parallels Access, an iPad app made by Parallels, which is an app that allows you to access your PC or laptop remotely from an iPad. I’ve long hoped for an app that would allow remote working in this way, and the closest I got was using TeamViewer though for me I always found it slow and unresponsive. Reading through the literature the Access app, it sounded promising, but also sounded unique in that it allowed Apple-based gestures to be used when accessing your computer, and allowed full use of your desktop software from your iPad.
In other words, you can access and use any program on your PC as if they were native to the iPad. Effectively this means that as long as you have internet access, you don’t need to worry about having iPad-based software for any of your home programs.
To give you an example, the first thing I did on logging in was to boot up Microsoft Word using the app. There may be no iPad version of Word, for example, but with this app, you can run stream the program directly to the iPad itself and control it from there:
“Well, this was typed using the Microsoft Word access via the app. My first impression is that it is quicker than expected and not laggy like I suspected it may be. The app gives you a run through of how it works and what to do or how to use it when it first loads up, and this can be reviewed at any time through the settings button. It gives instructions on how to amend text, load programs and imitate mouse gestures. For example, tapping the screen with two fingers brings up the right-click aspect of a mouse, whilst clicking and holding brings up the magnifying glass we all know and love on iPads. If you keep it pressed, it allows certain other functions, such as resizing pictures if you click in the corner of the picture itself.”
The app requires you to install Parallels Access on whichever PC you wish to access, which only takes a couple of minutes. You then log in to (or set up) your account with Parallels and can pretty much start using the app straight away. On starting, the app has a “cheat sheet” screen appear which runs you through the various things you can do and allows you to use the app quickly. From booting up the iPad to starting to use the app, including installation, took around five minutes.
The app automatically resizes programs so that they fit the iPad screen dimensions (which the company refers to as “applification”, a word which, quite frankly, the world can do without!) The tap and double tap functions of the iPad still work, so you can still select, copy and paste as normal. On top of this you can pinch or pull to zoom in and out as per any normal app.
I’ve also tried the app on a really slow connection (when I was without WiFi and connecting through my phone) and although I noticed that the program ran slightly slower, it certainly didn’t impede on anything that I was doing. In fact, there were many times that the slow internet icon showed when I hadn’t even realised things were running slowly.
The thing that I really liked about this app is that it’s so easy to use. Programs can be added to the app’s desktop by clicking a few buttons (screenshots below), and the whole interface is quite intuitive. The settings button allows you to enter Desktop Mode, which shows you the full desktop, including Start button etc. It also allows you to access the Mouse Pointer, also bringing up on screen left- and right-click buttons, which gives you greater control of where you are moving the pointer.
A few things to note though The app won’t work if your PC or laptop is asleep. You can set up your computer to stay awake obviously, which prevents this. The app needs an internet connection at both ends, though fortunately it doesn’t need to be the same WiFi network, meaning you can access from anywhere you can connect to (thank you, Costa, for your free wi-fi!). Because the app is utilising your home computer, it means that it can do things that an iPad normally can’t, like playing Flash.
The down side? Well, there are some, but they are relatively minor. I tried using Skype on the iPad through the app, but it didn’t like that, possibly because of the confusion between which camera to use, the laptop one, or the iPad one. It’s not something I spent too long worrying about, though, as the iPad Skype app would be perfectly adequate thus negating the need to access through the Access app. Also, having to keep your computer awake is a bit of a ball ache, but these problems are minor given the sheer flexibility the program gives. It’s worth remembering that the PC you remotely connect to will mirror whatever you are doing on the app, so whatever you do on your app can be seen on your PC.
When I originally started reviewing the app a couple of weeks ago, I thought it was rather expensive, but since then the price has plummeted. The app offers a fourteen-day trial, which is plenty of time to get acquainted with the app and how it works, and new pricing has just been announced with subscriptions for just £2.99 per month or £34.99 per year, which reflects a small saving on the monthly fee. The new pricing was announced along with the news that Windows support for the app is now out of beta, that the support stretches to 11 languages as well as a redesign for iOS7.
All in all, it’s a great app. It functions fantastically well, it’s easy to use and better than a lot of similar apps on the market. The industry that I work in dictates that we aren’t allowed to access computers remotely, so it’s unlikely that I will keep the free trial once done, but if I still worked in field sales, or a different industry where I wasn’t tied to a desk, this would definitely be on my must have list.
A competition to win free access to the software will be coming soon to this blog!
Disclaimer: This app (and the iPad to test it) were both provided free of charge for a two week trial through a PR company for me to write-up an honest review, before being returned. My thanks to everyone at Bite Global PR.