Parallels Toolbox Review
Parallels Toolbox is a collection of over 30 system utilities designed to make using and maintaining your PC easier than ever before. If you have ever felt that Windows might be missing certain features like a duplicate file finder or a screen recording tool (I certainly have) then Parallels Toolbox has you covered!
Other useful tools included in the “toolbox” are an image resizer, a web cam privacy blocker, a video downloader, a sound downloader (for podcasts) plus many other small apps which can help add value to a typical PC. It is also reassuring to see that all of the tools come from Parallels, a reputable name in the software world!
It is worth noting that a lot of the smaller tools included in this collection can probably be obtained for free else ware so the real value here, as far as I can see, is having everything bundled together along with some genuinely useful media tools. As such, given I don’t want to review all 30+ tools individually I am gong to focus on the more media orientated tools in this review, the ones which are much harder to find for free else ware.
So, let’s get going with Parallels Toolbox!
- Well designed software with an easy to access interface
- Over 30 useful Windows media tools and system utilities
- Easy to use screen recording and snapshot tools
- Includes simple PC cleaning tools
- Available for Mac OS and Windows
- Great for people who are less confident using a PC
- Perhaps a little too simplistic for more advanced PC users
- Priced at $19.99/Year
Installing Parallels Toolbox
Installing Parallels Toolbox is quick and simple, there is a free 7 day trial version available which can be downloaded initially and upgraded to the full licence later on should you so wish.
Once installed the toolbox will open up on the right side of the screen, this looks a little strange at first but I found I soon got use to having all of the tools grouped together in this easy to access panel:
The panel will disappear when you click away form it and is activated via a small icon found in the system tray next time you need to access it.
Parallels Toolbox Video Capture Tools
One of the most valuable tools missing from a standard Windows install (in my opinion at least) is that of a screen recording tool, so it is great to see that this functionality is covered in the toolbox as standard.
As can be seen above the recording tool can (like all of the tools) be opened via the toolbox interface, the settings panel for the tool can also be opened by clicking on the small cog icon which appears above the main icon at the time of hovering over it:
Once in the settings panel we are presented with a few options such as highlighting mouse clicks, specifying the resolution to record in and where to save any completed clips. We can also specify which audio input to use which is especially useful if you have both a webcam and an external microphone connected and don’t want to delve into the Windows audio settings each time you make a recording.
With the settings configured using the screen recorder is really simple, the screen will be highlighted blue in the moments prior to the recording and the recording itself activated by clicking anywhere on the screen. Once running the recording can be stopped by clicking on the stop button found on the control bar which appears at the bottom of the screen.
This primary screen recording tool is complimented by 2 additional recording tools, one to record a specified area of the screen (selected by the user) and another to record a specific window (e.g. a web browser). Interestingly these are all included as individual mini-tools rather than one screen recording tool covering the three different modes within.
Parallels Toolbox Downloading Tools
The Toolbox provides two individual utilities for downloading media directly form the internet, these tools allow downloading video (from sites such as YouTube) and also audio which is great for downloading podcasts and the like.
As with the video capture tools these downloaders are fairly simple and straightforward with little configuration needed to get going, with regards to the video downloader this means simply selecting the video quality and the location to save the file in.
To download a video simply copy the webpage URL containing the video and paste this into the main screen of the app, this will start the process.
Downloading audio works in much the same way, it is interesting to note however there are no options to reduce the quality of the audio being downloaded meaning you might need another tool to further reduce the file size of your audio download afterwards?
Parallels Toolbox Cleaning and System Utility Tools
There are quite a few tools in the Parallels Toolbox which fall into this category, but I am only going to pick a few of the more interesting tools here to look at. The first tool been the “Clean Drive” tool which (as you might expect) is a system cleaning tool!
Just like some of the other tools I have looked at so far this tool is fairly basic and focused only on its intended job of cleaning your system. In many ways I like this very clean and simple approach as many users who are less confident using a PC would otherwise probably not run any cleaning software at all which would be much worse for system health over the long run.
There aren’t any real settings to speak of in the Drive Clean tool so I ran this with the default settings on my test PC to test it out, I then immediately ran CCleaner to provide an analysis of what is left to clean:
Not a bad result, especially when you consider that this tool puts an emphasis on ease of use and that my CCleaner is configured to do a very deep clean of the system. Looking into this result further is is clear the only things it has really missed are the temporary system files so all-in-all not a bad result from a very easy to use tool!
Moving on to the archiving tools I can see that Parallels have again split the process of creating and uncompressing archives into two individual tools, the “Archive” and “Unarchive” tools.
Again, when initially looking into the settings for the archiving tool things are kept very simple with the option only to configure a password for the new archive and nothing else, if you need to set a specific archive format or compression level then his tool might not be suitable.
Once an archive has been created the unarchive tool can be used to uncompress the archive, although this tool is probably only needed if you set a password as modern versions of Windows can work freely with zip archives to begin with.
Another useful utility is the photo resizing tool, this tool allows an image file to be selected and then quickly and easily resized to specified dimensions and (if necessary) exported into another file format (e.g. a PNG to a JPEG file).
Again, as with all of the tools I have looked at prior the resizer has very few options other than setting the new dimensions (and optionally fixing the aspect ratio), selecting the location to save the new file to and the format to save the image in. This is great for some quick resizing work but not suitable for anything involving selecting certain areas of a photo, adjusting contrast levels etc.
Finally, one little tool which might actually be quite helpful for those who spend far too long at their PC is the break timer tool!
There is not to much to this one, it simply times a specific interval and then alerts the PC user to take a break. On some levels this is very basic but then again it is also very important to take regular breaks when using a PC over long periods of time, as such this little tool isn’t without its merits!
There is little security functionality within Parallels Toolbox, there is an app to lock the screen although I don’t think this is really adding anything given a PC can easily be locked by pressing Windows key and “L” to begin with. The Archiving tool also allows for an archive to be password protected, although it makes no mention of the type of encryption performed (and it doesn’t encrypt filenames, only the file content, so beware).
Should you ever get stuck then Parallels do have a good knowledge base which answers many of the questions you might first have about the software. Providing your subscription is active Parallels additionally allow access to their community support portal for additional help.
Parallels Toolbox is priced at $19.99 per year.
All of the tools in the Parallels Toolbox are well designed and work well despite it being very clear there are hardly any configuration options available throughout the entire suite. This makes the application great for more casual PC users who are looking for tools which “just work” but not ideal for more tech savvy users who like to configure and optimise everything (like myself).
If you are a more casual user or maybe shopping for tools for someone who is less confident on a PC then I would definitely recommend looking into this suite of tools further. Whilst the tools are basic they will still undoubtedly help open up the usefulness of what a PC has to offer far beyond what a basic Windows installation will provide.
One element of this application I didn’t like is the subscription pricing model, at $19.99 per year it is hardly expensive but in my personal opinion a subscription pricing model is the wrong approach for such a tool. I don’t have anything against subscriptions when a service such as cloud storage is provided (for example) but simply for keeping the software up to date I think it is a bit unnecessary. I think it would be much better to price this as a one-off purchase and let users decide if and when they might like to upgrade to a newer version when the time comes.
In conclusion, the Parallels Toolbox is a nice suite of useful tools which ideal for more casual PC users wanting to get more from their PC. It is let down a little by the pricing model in my opinion but overall the value is still reasonable and it is overall a good choice for many.