The Microsoft Store has gained some great apps but sometimes it's better to just have one app that can take care of a bunch of things. Parallels Toolbox is a Jack of many trades that make it easy to be more productive. It packs a screen recorder, video converter, and plenty of more tools into the system tray.
The app is available for Windows but you have to download it through Parallels' website rather than the Microsoft Store. It costs $15.99 per year, though you can try it for seven days for free.
Parallels Toolbox has quite a few tools, but some of the more notable ones are screen capture, screen recording, changing your device's resolution, and a presentation mode that turns of notifications and prevents your PC from going to sleep. It also has a disk cleanup tool and a handy video downloader. These are all accessed through the system tray. When you open up Parallels Toolbox a transparent-themed windows appears on the right side of the screen with all of your options. You also have an option to pin favorites to the bottom or program shortcut keys for specific tasks.
Parallels Toolbox doesn't replace the notifications and actions center but it has some similar design choices and replicates some of the same features. While that might seem redundant, it creates a productivity hub that lets you easily jump into a number of tasks.
I'm impressed how such a simple collection of tools can speed up a workflow. Some of the tasks that Parallels Toolbox can do are accessible through other parts of Windows 10 but require quite a few more clicks. These add up and having to only launch one program and look in one area for all these tools is convenient.
One major flaw
One of the features of Parallels Toolbox is the ability to open multiple programs or folders at once. This is great for jumping straight into your work flow. For example, you could click one button to open a browser, a few programs you need for work, and boot up a music player. This works well but has a limitation that holds it back, it doesn't work with apps from the Microsoft Store.
You can click and drag a program from your desktop into a window to setup a group of tasks but you can't do this with any apps from the Microsoft Store. As someone who has spent some time trying to have as many of my apps come from the Microsoft Store as possible, this limitation of Parallels Toolbox is a big deal.
It might be theoretically possible to include Microsoft Store apps in a group if you find the right folder hidden in your system but it certainly isn't easy to do, if it's possible at all.
Is it worth it?
It's difficult to judge how much Parallels Toolbox is worth. On one hand, it doesn't provide any features that are unique. There are other ways to record a screen, silence notifications, and keep your PC awake and do the other tasks that the program does. But Parallels Toolbox isn't designed to have unique features, it's meant to make these features more accessible. And in that regard, it does very well.
Parallels Toolbox makes it remarkably easy to jump into presentation mode, record your screen, or use any of its other tools. It works smoothly and swiftly without any kinks. You'll have to judge for yourself if that's worth the cost of an annual subscription but it's absolutely worth taking advantage of the free trial.
- Tons of tools
- Easy to use
- Customizable shortcuts
- Can launch multiple programs at once
- Requires an annual subscription
- Won't launch apps from the Microsoft Store
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at firstname.lastname@example.org.