WINE is Fine, but Crossover is Quicker by David Whelan As much as I like the applications that run natively in Linux, there are still times when I need to have access to Microsoft Windows-only applications. While I use Sun’s Virtualbox to emulate Windows in its entirety (but rarely to actually work in), I wanted to use Wine more. Wine allows Windows programs to run in Linux without creating a virtual instance, and also without having to have a Windows license. This ideal for one application in particular: Microsoft Office. Wine ended up not being the answer for me, after a few attempts, but Codeweavers has a great alternative.
Wine for Ubuntu is still in development. If you attempt to load it through your package installer, you may get version 1.0. The most succesful installations appear to be using 1.1.1 or later versions, and for that you need to set up additional package sources. Most solutions involve identifying the dynamic link libraries (DLLs) Windows applications need and putting them in the /home/youruser/.wine/drive_c/windows/system32 folder:
These two were the clearest but the two basic steps that each person used were to (a) find the necessary DLLs and, in Wine, making sure they were configured to run native and (b) to use Winetricks to provide additional DLLs. I was really impressed with the Winetricks app and I was finally able, after making sure all the DLLs were in the right place and configured properly, to install Microsoft Office 2007 as a Wine application. I saw some other users who were getting setup errors even though it looked like Wine was set up correctly. I had a setup problem in Windows with my Office CD and so ended up installing on Linux from a USB drive and it went smoothly.
In the end, though, the Microsoft Office applications would not open on Ubuntu. They would look like they were starting and then they disappeared. I am sure there are good reasons for it and, with a bit more elbow grease, I might have solved it.
This is where I like the flexibility of the open source world. Codeweavers have taken Wine and customized it to resell as a product. For $40, you can install an application that takes all of the experimentation out of using Wine and they specifically support the most important Microsoft applications. In the end, this is the route I took and I removed Wine and installed Codeweavers Crossover Linux. They also have a product for Macintosh. The installation was smooth and well explained. As soon as it was over, I ran the Office setup again and it went straight through. Unlike with native Wine, Codeweaver’s application actually worked and I’ve been able to use both Word 2007 and Powerpoint just as if I was sitting at a Windows computer.
Particularly in the open source environment, where so much software is available without cost, Crossover Linux seems a no-brainer purchase considering the amount of time you can save without the hit-and-miss of a regular Wine installation.