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Parallels 8 launches for existing owners with Retina display, Windows 8 support

Parallels on Thursday launched the latest version of its machine virtualization software, Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac, for owners of current Parallels customers, offering a slew of performance improvements and new features like support for Apple's Retina display-toting MacBook Pro. New customers will be able to purchase Parallels 8 on Sept. 4.

The program, which allows Mac owners to run almost any operating system on their computers, has been updated to support a number of the newest features seen in OS X Mountain Lion while in the Windows environment, including voice dictation, trackpad gestures and notifications, among others.

For example, email attachments can now be dragged and dropped onto the dock icons for Outlook and other clients, while Windows applications can be added to the OS X Launchpad for quick access. Parallels cleverly integrates Windows notifications into Mountain Lion's Notification Center, making it simple to keep up to date without switching between the two operating systems.

With the new Parallels, multiple platforms, referred to as guests, can run at the same time. Guest applications can also be accessed across operating systems including Internet Explorer, which received its own toolbar button in Safari to be used when a user navigates to a web page not properly formatted for Apple's browser. As previously mentioned, IE or other non-native programs can be inserted into the Dock for easy access.

Parallels 8 Multi-OS

Parallels 8 multi-OS support. | Source: Parallels

Another key feature is seamless trackpad gestures, like pinch-to-zoom, swiping between full-screen apps and two-finger scrolling, which are now supported on the Windows side. Rounding out the major features is Retina display support for Windows, bluetooth sharing and VM resource management assets.

Veteran Parallels users will also likely notice a certain snappiness to the product, which the company claims is up to 30 percent faster than previous versions when gaming, and up to 25 percent quicker when performing virtual machine operations.

Parallels 8 Windows Apps

Windows apps in OS X Launchpad and IE in Dock. | Source: Parallels

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is available now to current owners for $49.99. New customers and students will be able to pick up a copy on Sept. 4, with those editions priced at $79.99 and $39.99, respectively. A free trial will also be available on launch day, as well as a the $99.99 "Switch to Mac Edition" for current Windows users.