OS X

How to Seamlessly Run Windows Programs on Your Mac with Parallels

Sometimes, Mac users need to run Windows software. Maybe there’s a program you need for work that doesn’t offer a Mac version, or maybe you occasionally need to test websites in Internet Explorer. Whatever you need Windows for, Parallels is the best tool for the job.

Why Use Parallels Instead of Boot Camp or VirtualBox?

Sure, you could set up your Mac to run Windows with Boot Camp, but that means restarting your computer every time you need to use Windows. Parallels runs Windows within macOS, using what’s called a Virtual Machine. This allows you to quickly switch between the Mac and Windows desktops. You can even combine the two desktops, if you want, and run Windows software right on your Mac desktop from your Mac’s dock.

Virtual machines are complicated, but Parallels makes it reasonably simple to set one up and use it. There are other virtual machine options available to Mac users, including the open source Virtualbox, but Parallels is different in that it’s designed exclusively with Mac users in mind. Parallels costs more (since VirtualBox is free and Parallels is not), but there are hundreds of little design touches that help make running Windows within macOS as painless as possible, and that make setting everything up quick and easy. it’s well worth the cost.

How Much Does Parallels Cost?

Browsing the Parallels website, it can be a little tricky to find out what the product actually costs. So here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Purchasing the latest home version of Parallels Desktop costs $80 as of this writing. This lets you run Parallels on a single Mac.
  • Upgrading from one version of Parallels to another generally costs $50, and will probably be necessary every couple of years if you keep installing the latest versions of macOS.
  • A $70 annual subscription gives you access to all updates “for free,” according to the Parallels website.

If you just want to try out Parallels and see if it works for you, you can: there’s a 14 day trial of the software, which you can access without providing a credit card number. There’s also Parallels Desktop Lite, which is free on the Mac App Store and lets you create both Linux and macOS virtual machines. Parallels Desktop Lite can only run Windows virtual machines if you pay for a subscription, however.

One more note: purchasing Parallels does not give you a Windows license, or a Windows product key. If you have a Windows installation CD or USB key handy with a valid license you can use that, otherwise you will need to purchase Windows 10 from Microsoft to create a Windows 10 virtual machine.

We’ll point out that you don’t technically need a product key to install and use Windows 10—Microsoft basically gave up enforcing their license requirements with Windows 10, and you can download Windows 10 right from Microsoft at no cost (you’ll probably want it in the form of an ISO file). Legally speaking, however, you still need a product key to use Windows, even in a virtual machine.

How to Install Windows in Parallels

Got everything you need? Good. The new virtual machine wizard, which launches the first time you open Parallels, makes the process simple.

Assuming you already have a Windows CD or ISO,…

How to Control When macOS Updates Are Installed

Updates are necessary, but annoying. Which is why your Mac, by default, installs them automatically.

System updates protect your Mac from malware and other threats, and occasionally add new features. The same goes for software updates, so it’s important to keep all your apps up to date. But popups asking users whether they want to install updates have a way of being ignored, even when the user knows that updates are important. So automatic updates make sense for most people.

…But not all people. Some of you prefer having control over what is installed when. Happily, there’s a way to take control, and it’s in System Preferences.

Click the “App Store” button and you’ll see the automatic update settings right at the top of the window.

The first two options are about checking for and downloading updates—not installing them.

  • The top option, “Automatically check for updates,” controls whether your Mac regularly checks for new versions or not. There’s no good reason to turn this off: it’s important to know about updates when they’re ready.
  • The next option, “Download newly available updates in the background,” controls whether or not you need to tell the system to download updates. The only reason to disable this feature is the need to manage bandwidth usage. If you don’t have that need, it’s best to leave this enabled.

Again, neither of these options installs updates automatically: they just set whether the system should look for updates regularly, and whether the system should download those updates when available. If you check the above two options, and only those options,…

The Best Free Photo Editors for macOS

If you’re a Mac-using professional photographer, you’re probably already paying $10 a month for Adobe Creative Cloud’s Photography plan, which includes Photoshop and Lightroom. But what about the rest of us, who occasionally edit images but not enough to justify a $120 annual bill? Are there any free Mac image editors?

A few, but none without compromise. Most of the options either don’t offer that much power, or don’t have the best user interfaces. But if you’re willing to put up with limitations, or put in the time to learn something that’s not necessarily intuitive, you can edit your photos for free. Here are the best choices.

PicMonkey Photo Editor
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GIMP: Feature Complete With a Steep Learning Curve

In terms of features and flexibility, open source stalwart GIMP is the best free Mac image editor you can find. This layer-based editor supports most file formats, and has all of the tools you need to touch up photos: adjustments for things like color balance and contrast, yes, but also filters and simple drawing tools. You can customize the user interface, putting tools you use regularly front-and-center and burying the tools you don’t.

You just need to find those tools, and figure out how they work. Experience with software like Photoshop won’t help much, because GIMP does things its own way, and expects users to figure those ways out on their own. There’s going to be a learning curve, and it’s going to involve a lot of Google searches. If you’re the kind of person who likes thinking about design, you might end up wondering what exactly the creators were thinking. The GTK interface also doesn’t feel 100% at home on in macOS, and that may turn some diehard Mac users off.

So there are downsides, but they might be worth it, because this is a full-blown photo editor that’s completely free. No ads, no gimmicks: just open source software that you’re free to use as you like.

Fotor: Quick Photo Tweaks…

How to Make Linux and macOS Virtual Machines for Free with Parallels Lite

Parallels is easily the best virtualization software on the Mac, and earlier this year, they quietly added a new app called Parallels Desktop Lite to the Mac App Store—and unlike its cousin, it’s free to download. The catch: if you want to use Windows virtual machines, you’re going to have to pay for a $60 a year for a subscription.

But the program itself is completely free otherwise, meaning if you want to create Linux, Chromium OS, or even macOS virtual machines, you don’t need to pay a dime.

Should I Use Parallels Lite, or the “Full” Version of Parallels?

So how it Parallels Desktop Lite different than Parallels Desktop? Parallels outlines all of the differences here, if you’re curious—there are a few limitations related to Mac App Store sandboxing. Other than that, the main difference is that Lite is free for anything except Windows virtual machines. If you want to run a Windows virtual machine, you’ll need to pony up $60 annually.

How does that compare to Parallels Desktop for Mac, the “full” version of this software? Well that product currently costs $70, and is yours as long as you can keep it running. Parallels versions typically stop running every couple of macOS releases, after which you’ll need to either stick to an older host operating system or pony up $50 for an upgrade license. Assuming you need to upgrade every two years, which is roughly consistent with our experience, the two pricing plans are about that same.

But that’s only if you want to run Windows. If your interest in virtual machines lies entirely on the Linux and macOS side of things, Lite is without question the better deal, because you can’t beat free.

Getting Started With Parallels Desktop Lite

Start up Parallels Lite for the first time and you’ll see the Parallels Wizard, which makes setting up or adding virtual machines simple.

There are three main options here. The most prominent points you to download Windows 10 from Microsoft, which will cost you around $120 for Windows itself on top of the Parallels subscription. To the right, you’ll find the option to browse your computer for any installation images on your computer. Below these two prominent options, you’ll see quick tools for downloading several other operating systems, including:

  • Chromium OS (the open source version of Chrome OS)
  • Ubuntu 16.04
  • Fedora 23
  • CentOS 7
  • Debian 8

Let’s get started with setting up a couple of these installers, then move on to setting up macOS in a virtual…

How to Use an External Drive as Local Storage on the PlayStation 4 or Pro

PlayStation users have long wanted a way to plug in an external USB drive to their console and use it as local storage for games, apps, and the like. After years of waiting, Sony incorporated this feature in Software Update 4.50. Here’s how to do it.

Before you get started, you should make sure to pick the right drive. If you have an old USB 2.0 drive lying around, I’d probably avoid that one as it will just be too slow. USB 3.0 drives will be the way to go, which should be prolific at this point. Just keep in mind that you’ll be playing games from this drive, so the faster it is, the better.

With that in mind and drive in hand, go ahead and plug that bad boy in to your PlayStation. I’m using a PS4 Pro here, so my drive is plugged into the the USB port on the back of the unit, but it really doesn’t matter which way you go with it.

As soon as you plug it in, the PlayStation should show a notification letting you know it found the drive and you can install things on this drive. Click the notification to get started.

If, for some reason, it doesn’t show the notification, you can also jump into the Settings menu, scroll down to Devices, then select USB Storage Devices. Select your USB drive here. This should get you into the same menu as clicking the notification, had it actually been there.

How to Use macOS’ Spotlight Like a Champ

There are two kinds of Mac users: those who use Spotlight constantly, and those who ignore it.

If you’re in the second category, that’s too bad: everything about using a Mac gets faster with Spotlight. This search tool doubles as a text-based Siri alternative, and with just a few keystrokes, you can launch or look up anything. Getting started couldn’t be easier: just click the little magnifying glass.

But if you really want to be quick, don’t click: press Command+Space on your keyboard to launch Spotlight. If you only learn one Mac keyboard shortcut, make it this one. You’ll instantly see a blank search window.

What can this search box do? A lot: just start typing. Let’s dive in, starting with the basics and working our way toward lesser known features.

Getting Started: Looking for Files

The basic functionality of Spotlight is instant search of every file on your computer. A very simple use for this is to launch software: just type the name of the program.

Results will pop up instantly as you type, and you can hit “Enter” right away to launch an app or game. It feels silly at first, but it’s actually faster than clicking an icon somewhere—you never even have to take your hands off the keyboard. Once you get used to it, you will seriously wonder why you ever opened software any other way.

You can also use this to launch individual panels in the System Preferences, again just by typing the name.

This becomes really useful when you need to quickly find a file. If you want to quickly find a photo you took in Paris, just hit Command+Space and search for the word “Paris.”

In the above example, you’ll notice that music came up before photos. No matter: you can use the up and down arrow keys to quickly jump from item to item. As you scroll through the photos, you’ll see thumbnails in the right panel.

Searches look at filenames, but in the case of documents, Spotlight also looks inside the file. For example: way back in college, I helped publish a parody publication that was “written” by a cat named Muffles. All these years later, searching Spotlight for “Muffles” brings up the document, even though “muffles” is nowhere in the filename.

If you’re like me, sometimes you can’t remember where you put a document, or what its filename was. In those cases, typing a phrase you know is in the document can help. You can open the document by hitting Enter, or see where it is in the Finder by hitting Command+Enter.

If you want to get fancy, you can also use basic boolean queries, including OR, AND, and NOT. It’s usually not necessary, but good to have sometimes.

Searching for Files With Natural Language

Spotlight is useful enough for simple searches alone, but you can go deeper by using natural language. What does this mean? That you can type surprisingly specific queries and get the results you’d expect. For example: type “pictures from december…