Windows Apps on Ubuntu

Anyone working in the business world may find they need to still run Microsoft applications even though they are committed to open source, Linux, and Ubuntu. The question I asked myself was how best to accomplish this. Are applications like WINE or Crossover Linux enough or do I really need to go the full virtualization route with something like Sun’s Virtualbox? The answer is that it depends on your needs, and you may want to consider installing both types of software. That is the answer for me, as became clear today when I tried to participate in an online meeting.

My choices for participating in the meeting were these:

  1. Native Ubuntu, with Firefox
  2. Native Ubuntu, with Crossover Linux, with Internet Explorer 6
  3. Sun’s Virtualbox, with Windows XP, with Internet Explorer 8


The online meeting site refused option 1, because it could sense I was not on a Windows computer.  This was unsurprising, so I fired up Crossover Linux.  But the site still recognized I was on the wrong OS – the use of Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 didn’t fool it.  This was not an optimal choice for me, either, because I’m not a big fan of IE6.  When I started my virtual Windows XP instance and Internet Explorer 8, the conference site recognized the OS, the browser, and installed the necessary plug-in.  I was able to use Skype and join the online conference.

Crossover Linux / WINE v. Virtual Windows

The limitations of WINE and Crossover Linux are the extent to which they support current Microsoft and Windows technology.  Currently, I have an Iomega Windows utility, Microsoft Office 2007, and IE6 installed in Crossover.  IE6 was a safety blanket; I wanted a relatively quick way to access sites that required a Microsoft browser.  But it’s a piece of junk and Crossover’s lack of support for a more current version is a problem.

On the other hand, it is easy to start up Microsoft Word or Powerpoint and get work done, as fast as opening up Open Office applications.  By avoiding having to start up the vritual OS, I can get in and out of my productivity tools quickly.

But there is no beating a virtual Windows XP experience when you have other Microsoft or Windows applications to install.  I would have been unable to conference in today without having that virtual environment.  It enables me to use a current Microsoft Internet Explorer version as well as some of the other applications that are Windows-specific.  The snapshot capabilities of Sun’s Virtualbox mean I can use it as a sandbox for other Windows applications without having to worry about screwing up either my primary OS (Ubuntu) or my virtual one.

So the best option may be to mix applications that run inside a “bottle” created by Crossover (or WINE if you can get it running) with those that really need to have the virtual OS that Virtualbox can support.