Practical Technology

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New CrossOver Linux improves Windows apps support


Who says you have to give up all your Windows programs to use Linux? Not CodeWeavers, with its latest version of CrossOver Linux 6.2.

With this new version of CrossOver Linux, you can run more Windows programs on Linux than ever and such Windows mainstays as Microsoft Office–from 97 to 2003–Internet Explorer 6, and Quicken run better than ever. Even programs like Adobe Photoshop are coming along. At this point, I’d recommend that only people who are interested in helping to debug Photoshop on Linux give it a try, but I can see Photoshop running well on Linux sometime soon.

But, for the rest, many Windows mainstay applications run quite well on Linux with CrossOver Linux 6.2. This isn’t just an idle opinion. I’ve been running CrossOver Linux, the release candidate and the final version, for several weeks now. With it, I’ve been running Office 2003, Quicken 2005, and IE 6 without a single hitch.

How does CrossOver pull this off? The program is based on the open-source project Wine. Wine, in turn, is an implementation of the Windows API on top of the Unix/Linux operating system family. There is also CrossOver Mac, which brings the same functionality to Intel-powered Macs.

You don’t need CrossOver Linux to use Wine. What CrossOver brings to the table is that it automates Windows application installation and smooths the entire process. Wine also requires a fair amount of technical expertise. So, I recommend that only Linux experts who also know a fair amount about Windows software try it. There are also other programs, which are not as comprehensive as CrossOver, that make it easier to use Wine to run Windows programs on Linux.

This latest version, according to CrossOver, includes improved game support, major improvement to its Outlook support, and overall improvements in stability and performance. Looking ahead, Jeremy White, CodeWeavers’s CEO, says he is looking forward to improving Outlook and adding support for many more games, as well as a wide range of other applications, including many from Adobe’s product line, Apple’s iTunes and Nuance Communications’ Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

That’s tomorrow. What about today? Here’s what I found.

I tested CrossOver Linux 6.2 on my main openSUSE 10.3 desktop. This is an HP Pavilion A6040N Desktop PC. It’s powered by a 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6320 dual-core processor.

For RAM, the A6040N has 2GB of 533MHz RAM. To store the operating system, applications and data, it uses a 320GB SATA (Serial ATA) hard drive running at 7,200 rpm. For the display, this PC uses an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 with 32MB of dedicated graphics memory. The graphic chip uses main memory for the rest of its requirements. In short, this is a good but not exceptional PC of 2007 vintage.

This PC has more than enough power to run openSUSE 10.3, CrossOver Linux, and multiple Windows and Linux applications all at once. As you can see in the CrossOver Linux 6.2 Annotated Screenshot Tour, installing Crossover and then installing and running Windows applications is as simple as 1, 2, 3.

Once in place, the Windows applications ran extremely well. I spent most of my time working on Word 2003 documents, Excel 2003 spreadsheets, IE 6 and fairly complicated Quicken 2005 financial statements. The programs ran exactly as I would have expected them to run.

Performance was never less than outstanding. Indeed, when I dual-booted to Vista Home Premium on the same system, Office 2003, in particular, was clearly running slower on Microsoft’s own operating system. It’s a heck of a note when Microsoft applications run faster on Linux than they do on Windows, but there it is.

The only problem I ran into with any of these programs was that I’d sometimes need to force a screen refresh. This happened when I had one Windows application covering up another. When I’d reveal the ‘”lower” application, the part of it that had been covered by the other Windows application wouldn’t show up properly. By doing anything with the revealed application–moving the Window, running a command, whatever–the program’s screen cleared up to its proper state.

While some applications clearly aren’t ready for prime time–Photoshop leading the pack–I found the applications I needed ran without fail on CrossOver. White encourages users to download and test a “free trial” of CrossOver before buying it, regardless of platform. “We recommend that anyone who is interested in CrossOver first download a trial version and make sure that it works well for you,” he said.

He’s right. The trial version runs for 30 days. It’s free and it’s a full working version of the program. I highly recommend it for anyone thinking about using CrossOver.

You should also keep in mind that while CodeWeavers supports, or is trying to support, the most popular Windows applications on Linux, it doesn’t support every program by any means. You should also check the company’s Compatibility pages to see if others have tried to run a particular program with CrossOver and how well it’s gone for them.

CrossOver Linux 6.2 Standard is available now for $40. CrossOver Linux 6.2 Professional, the enterprise version of the product, is priced at $70, with volume discounts available. The major technical differences between Professional and Standard are that Professional can be deployed to multiple systems over a network and a single instance can be used by multiple users.

Professional also comes with a year of higher-level support, whereas Standard comes with six-months of a lower level of support. CrossOver Mac is priced at $60 for the download version, or $70 for the CD version.

A version of this story appeared on DesktopLinux.

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