This article covers navigation of the Parsec app for macOS, advanced configuration file, advanced installation with command line options, service and proxy settings, and Parsec on headless systems with virtual displays.
Table of contents:
The Parsec interface while logged in is composed of:
- A set of tabs in the left which take you to different parts of the app: Computers, Arcade, Settings, Friends, Help, and Log out
- A list of users currently connected to this machine, at the bottom left
- Hover over the profile picture to see the network latency between this computer and that user
- Click the profile picture to add and remove input permissions or kick the user
- The two icons next to each user blink different colors depending on whether they are using the mouse or keyboard
- Green: Has permission, and is interacting currently
- White: Has permission, and isn't interacting
- Gray: Does not have permission, and isn't interacting
- Red: Does not have permission, and is trying to interact (the input is ignored)
- A text field which lets you paste share links or peer IDs to join computers at the bottom right
- Your Parsec name and ID at the top right
The 'Computers' tab displays your current computer, computers your Parsec account is logged in to, and computers that are shared with you via Friends, Guest Access, and/or Team computers. Please note, for computers to show up in this tab, the computers support hosting, and have 'Hosting' enabled in the settings.
The computers list refreshes automatically, although it can also be refreshed manually by clicking 'Reload'. You can click 'Share' to get a share link for your current computer. You can also right-click any computer in the list to get its peer ID. Both the share link and peer ID can be entered in text field at the bottom right.
If you've never set up hosting on macOS before, the 'Share' button on this machine will instead be an orange 'Setup' button, which will take you to the host settings with instructions on permissions to give for Parsec to host, to enable hosting.
The 'Arcade' tab displays ongoing gaming sessions, which you can join. On macOS, you can join Arcade sessions, but hosting a co-op gaming session to others is exclusive to the Windows version of Parsec at this time.
Similar to the 'Computers' tab, the list of available sessions is refreshed automatically, although you can refresh the page manually by pressing 'Reload'. Access to the Arcade can be disabled, via the Teams admin portal, if you are a Teams or Enterprise customer.
The 'Settings' tab contains a tab for each of the following categories of settings: Client, Host, Network, Hotkeys, Gamepad, and Account. Additionally, the build number and build release date can be found by hovering your mouse above the build number at the top right.
When the 'Settings' cog is clicked, you'll land on the 'Client' tab. This is where you can adjust settings related to how Parsec works when you're connecting to a host as a client. The following settings can be configured here:
- Enhanced Pen - Enable enhanced pen functionality while connected, such as tilt, rotation, and pressure. NOTE: This will enable Windows Ink mode on the host.
- Overlay - Display the Parsec button and overlay while connected.
- Overlay Warnings - Display network and hardware performance warnings in the client overlay.
- Swap Command and Ctrl for MacOS - When connecting to a MacOS host from a non-MacOS client, or connecting to a Windows host from a MacOS client, swap the functionality of the Ctrl and Command/Windows keys for easier hotkey actions.
- Window Mode - Switch to fullscreen mode or remain in windowed mode when connecting to the host.
- Renderer - Graphics API used for application rendering. Metal is preferred. Restart required.
- You are able to choose between OpenGL and Metal
- VSync - VSync increases latency, but eliminates screen tearing. Available on macOS 10.13 (High Sierra) and later. Restart required.
- Decoder - Select which decoder Parsec should use. Hardware decoding decreases latency and resource consumption. Only set to Software for compatibility reasons.
- You are able to choose between Hardware and Software
- H.265 (HEVC) - Attempt to stream using the next-generation H.265 video codec, falling back to H.264 if both computers don't support it. Turning this on may ignore the Decoder setting above.
- Immersive Mode - Pass certain hotkeys (such as Alt+Tab) to the host and lock the mouse to the Parsec window.
- You are able to choose whether you want to affect the Keyboard, Mouse, or Both
- The Parsec window must be active for input to be passed to the host correctly
- If you want to be able to use combinations like Command+Tab during a Parsec session, you must give Parsec accessibility permissions in the settings. Refer to the bottom of the Configure Hotkeys page for more information
- 10-Bit Color (Experimental) - Attempt to stream using high bit depth (10-bit). This allows for minimally better color accuracy at the cost of latency and network bandwidth. This setting will only be effective when HEVC is enabled. Turning this on may ignore the Decoder setting above.
The 'Host' tab is where you can adjust feature and functionality availability. These settings affect the options and performance characteristics when a client connects to your host computer. These settings are only available on macOS 10.15 or newer, which support hosting. The following settings can be configured here:
- Hosting Enabled - Allow connections to this computer.
- Host Name - The name of your computer. Leave blank to use the hostname.
- Stay Awake - Prevent the system from sleeping while hosting is enabled. This allows network access so the host remains available. Restart required.
- Bandwidth Limit - The maximum bandwidth used by Parsec, split between all connected guests.
- Virtual Displays (Beta) - Add additional displays to the host during owner connections.
- Virtual Display Aspect Ratio - This will create a virtual display of either 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio.
- Privacy Mode - While virtual monitors are enabled, shut off all physical displays connected to the host. The host computer will be automatically locked after the last guest disconnects.
- Idle Kick Timer - The number of minutes after which an idle client is kicked. Idle time is the time since the last button, keyboard, or pen input. The minimum time is 5 minutes, 0 is off.
- Display - Select which monitor Parsec should capture.
- Audio - Select which audio device Parsec should capture.
- If people are connected to this machine when this setting is changed, they must all leave, then rejoin for this setting to apply
The 'Network' tab is where you can adjust network related settings. These settings affect how the Parsec app handles connecting between machines, and performance characteristics related to network conditions or the audio codec. These settings can be changed:
- Client Port - The port the client will use when connecting to a host. Set to 0 to use a pseudorandom default. Must be greater than 1024 and less than 65535. Restart required.
- This setting is useful when you plan to manually port forward the client side. We recommend using 9000 for the client port, but anything can be used
- Host Start Port - The first port the host will try to use when accepting guests. Set to 0 to use a pseudorandom default. Must be greater than 1024 and less than 65535. Restart required.
- This setting is useful when you plan to manually port forward the host side. We recommend using 8000 for the host port, but anything can be used
- Parsec will increment the given port for each additional client that joins the stream. If you are manually port forwarding, you should also port forward these additional ports if it is crucial that multiple clients be able to join. For example, with a start port of "8000", also port forward "8001", "8002", up to the expected maximum client amount
- UPnP - UPnP increases the chance of successful peer-to-peer connections. Restart required.
- The Parsec app leverages UPnP "hole punching" to open a listener port for the inbound session packets
- Congestion Algorithm - Behavior when network conditions deteriorate or increasing bitrate begins getting throttled. Don't change this unless you are having network problems. This setting is most important on the host.
- Audio Codec - Stream audio using Opus for high quality compressed audio (default) or, select uncompressed audio (on host and client) when quality is important and host bandwidth is not limited. Both codecs use 48.000KHz/2-channel audio. Restart required.
Hotkeys can be used when connected to a host computer. The following hotkeys and actions can be configured here:
- Disconnect - End an active client connection. System quit keys will also work, such as Alt+F4 or Command+Q.
- Menu - Open the overlay menu during an active client connection.
- Chat - Open the chat box during an active client connection.
- Switch Display - Cycle through remote displays.
- Add Screen - Create an additional window to view multiple monitors on the host at once.
- Enhanced Pen - Toggle Enhanced Pen mode, useful for apps that don't function properly with Windows Ink.
- Send CTRL+ALT+DEL - Send CTRL+ALT+DEL to the host.
- Window Mode - Toggle between windowed and fullscreen mode.
- Immersive Mode - Toggle immersive mode during a client connection.
- Ignore Hotkey - Prevent this hotkey from being passed to the host during a client connection. Useful for your Discord push-to-talk hotkey.
- Detach Mouse - Free the mouse cursor from the Parsec client window. The cursor will re-attach on the next click.
- Accept All - As a host, accept all waiting guests.
- Kick All - As a host, kick all connected guests.
If you are using a game controller such as a Dualshock 4 or Xbox 360 gamepad, its mappings can be adjusted on the 'Gamepad' tab.
- Reset will reset any manual changes made to the mapping of the current controller
- Show Raw Data will display all the raw information we see for this controller. This is useful for checking whether a specific button can be mapped at all on Parsec
- Map lets you switch what button on your controller will represent the given button on Parsec
- Unmap lets you completely remove a specific button map
Clicking the account tab will use your default web browser to open your Account page.
When you click the 'Friends' icon, you can see your list of friends, send, accept or decline friend requests, or change the default permissions when your friends connect to your computer. Friends will see your computer on their 'Computers' tab, where they can click 'Connect' to connect to your computer. Access to the Friends list can be disabled via the Teams admin portal, if you are a Teams or Enterprise customer.
- Add Friend - Lets you search for the name and/or Parsec ID (e.g. #123456) of a friend, and send a friend request
- View Friend Requests - Shows incoming and outgoing friend requests. You can accept or decline requests sent to you, or cancel requests sent to others
- Friend settings - Clicking an existing friend will let you change the default permissions they receive upon joining a computer in the 'Computers' tab. You can also unfriend them from here. These permissions can be configured:
- Gamepad Control (enabled by default) - Gamepads are not available for macOS hosts, but this setting will still show to allow you to change it for Windows hosts in your account
- Keyboard Control
- Mouse Control
- Can connect without your approval (careful!) - Be careful if you decide to enable this setting, as the selected friend will be able to connect to your computer without requiring your approval before establishing a session. For example, if you are away from your host computer and a friend with this permission clicks 'Connect' on your computer, they will immediately see and/or be able to control your desktop, whether you want them to or not
The 'Help' menu is helpful when trying to find information about Parsec, submit a support case, or troubleshoot issues. The following options are available through the 'Help' menu:
- Help - Uses your default browser to open our Knowledge Base
- Support Ticket or Discord - If you are a Parsec for Teams customer, you will see 'Support Ticket', which will take you to a website where you can submit a support request. Otherwise, you will see 'Discord', which will take you to our community Discord server
- Console - The console is useful for troubleshooting issues with Parsec. Similar to tailing a log file on Linux, our console will display session information as it sees in the log file. The console output does not persist if you restart the Parsec app. More information is available in our page for Stream Overlay, Stats, and Logging
- Log File - This will open your log file in a text editor. This is an easy way to find and copy the log file, which would behoove you (and us, frankly) to include in your support case :). The path depends on what installer you've used for Parsec:
- Normal installation:
- Custom shared installer for login screen access:
- Normal installation:
The 'Log out' icon can be used to close the Parsec application, or log out.
You can access the configuration file going into Parsec's settings, scrolling to the bottom and clicking "edit the configuration file directly". The order in which the key/value pairs are written in the config file does not matter. These are available on all platforms, except Android.
Alternatively, you can find config.txt at the following path (these can be pasted in Finder's Go to Folder window, which is accessible with Command+Shift+G):
- Normal installation:
- Custom shared installer for login screen access:
You can see a list of the available configuration options here.
Command line installation and configuration
We do not support command line options for the macOS installer.
Use system proxy
Some companies put a proxy server between computers and the network. That's not a problem for Parsec. You can tell Parsec to use specific proxy settings advanced configurations. Refer to the section about
app_proxy in Parsec's article about advanced configuration.
You can add up to 3 additional virtual displays to the host while connecting to a machine you own through Parsec. Additionally, the physical display(s) can be disabled during the session by using the Privacy Mode setting. See our Virtual Displays technical reference for additional information.
Access to login screen
In certain scenarios people may need access to the login screen of the host computer, a common example being after a reboot. In order to access the login screen on a macOS host, you will need to use a different installer, and ensure a few requirements are met.