Easily run Windows apps on Linux with CrossOver Linux 8

I was running Windows, and before it came along, MS-DOS, applications on Unix and Linux for ages. It was never especially easy, but experts could do it. With CodeWeavers' latest CrossOver Linux 8, though, it's become so easy that anyone should be able to do it.

Now, if all your desktop needs are already being met by Linux applications, you don't need to worry with Crossover. But, if like many of us, you still want to use Quicken for your banking or you're stuck with a Web site that refused to work with any Web browser except Internet Explorer, then Crossover Linux 8 is for you.

CrossOver Linux 8 is built on top of the open-source project Wine. This is an implementation of the Windows API (application programming interface) on top of the Unix/Linux operating system family. As far as any given program is concerned, it's running on Windows so you don't have to tweak the applicaton itself to run on Linux. Wine is a very active project, with 16 years of development behind it. In other words, this program has been better-tested for Windows compatibility than almost any native Windows operating system.

You can use Wine alone to run Windows programs, but it requires a fair amount of technical expertise. With CrossOver, you don't need to be an expert.

CrossOver Linux delivers automated Windows application installation and technical support. If you'd rather just run your Windows application, and not worry over whether it will run better in Windows 98 or XP mode, CrossOver Linux, which sells for $39.95 for a single-user license or $69.95 for a multi-user license, is well worth the money. I know this for a fact, because I've bought CrossOver licenses myself.

I put this latest version of CrossOver to the test on two different PCs. The first is my main Linux desktop on which I run MEPIS 8, a Debian Linux. This is a Dell Inspiron 530s, powered by a 2.2GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800MHz front side bus, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB SATA drive, and an Integrated Intel 3100 Graphics Media Accelerator.

I also tried CrossOver 8 on my Ubuntu 9.04 desktop. This is an older Gateway 503GR running Ubuntu 8.04. It comes with a 3GHz Pentium 4 CPU, 2GB of RAM, an ATI Radeon 250 graphics card, and a 300GB SATA drive. Neither machine is close to being state of the art, but they both have more than enough resources to run Linux, CrossOver Linux, and multiple Windows and Linux programs at the same time.

CrossOver 8 will run on any modern Linux. It comes in versions for 32-bit and 64-bit Debian and Ubuntu Linux-based distributions and for 32-bit Red Hat, Mandriva, and SUSE distributions. In addition, there's a distribution agnostic version, which will install on any up-to-date Linux. While I didn't test it out to any real extent, I did find that CrossOver seemed to work just fine on Fedora 11 and openSUSE 11.1. No matter what version of Linux you run, CrossOver will do fine on all three of the popular Linux interfaces: GNOME, KDE 3, and KDE 4.

Installing Windows applications with it is mindlessly simple. You just pick, which popular Windows application you want to install and either start the download or pop in the CD or DVD. You can also install Windows applications, which haven't been tested throughly. Some, such as my favorite HTML editor, Fookes Software NoteTab, run more than well enough to be useful.

CrossOver already supports though a large number of popular Windows applications. The list includes Office 97 to 2007, Quicken, Internet Explorer, and QuickTime. The multi-user version also comes with support for Windows games like World of Warcraft and, my personal favorite, Guild Wars. Since I play Guild Wars competitively, I can assure you that, much as I like Linux, I wouldn't be running a Windows game on it if the game wasn't as responsive on Linux as it is on Windows.

This particular version of CrossOver also comes with new support for Internet Explorer 7 and Quicken 2009. It also includes many fit, polish, and performance enhancements.

While CrossOver can't run every Windows program, and you will find glitches from time to time in some others, it really does make it possible to run the most often needed Windows applications without having to pay for Windows. I must also add, that in some cases, such as with Quicken, I've found CrossOver to be more compatible with the popular finance program than Microsoft's own Vista has been.

Not sure if it will work for you? Judge for youself. You can download a free 30-day trial version of CrossOver Linux. Finally, I must mention that CodeWeavers also offers CrossOver Mac, which brings the same functionality to Intel-powered Macs. I use this to Quicken for Windows on a Mac, since, for reasons that only Quicken's maker Intuit might know, the Mac and Windows versions of Quicken use incompatible data formats.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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