CrossOver Linux 9: Run Windows apps without Windows

A new version expands the number of Windows applications you can run on Linux.

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There are several ways to install CrossOver. CodeWeavers recommends that you use its installation shell script, but if you'd rather use your Linux desktop's installation program, CrossOver also comes in RPM versions for Red Hat, Fedora and openSUSE, and DEB editions for Debian and the Ubuntu family. They both work just fine.

The one problem I found is that there's no upgrade path if you already have an earlier version of CrossOver Linux installed. I had to manually uninstall my older edition of CrossOver before I could put in the new program. CrossOver includes an uninstall option, so that wasn't a problem, but the instructions don't tell you that you'll need to zap your old version before installing the new one.

Putting CrossOver to the test

Once installed, CrossOver 9 has a new GUI that works equally well with both KDE and GNOME. (There's a known bug that prevents CrossOver menus from appearing on KDE 4.4, the most recent version. Hopefully, that will be addressed soon.)

Installing Windows applications is a snap. From the CrossOver interface, you can easily choose which Windows applications you want to install from a supplied list of supported applications. You can also install applications that are not "officially" supported -- for example, my favorite HTML editor, NoteTab, also runs well on CrossOver 9, even though it's not on the list of supported applications.

In this latest version of CrossOver, you also have the option of installing useful Windows components apart from the actual applications. For example, I was able to install the most common Windows fonts, such as Arial and Times Roman, as well as the .Net Framework 3.0 and Visual C++ 6.0 redistributable libraries.

For the most part, the Windows applications I installed ran without trouble. I work with Word 2003 documents, Excel 2003 spreadsheets, IE 7 and complex Quicken 2009 financial statements quite comfortably. It wasn't perfect, though -- some of the icons appeared blotchy. It was never enough to make a program unusable, but it was enough to make them unattractive.

In addition, I would also occasionally need to force a screen refresh when one Windows application's window covered up another. When I'd reveal the "lower" application, the part of it that had been covered by the other Windows application wouldn't render properly. After running a command with the new foreground application, however, the program's screen reappeared as it should.

Two versions

You can download a free 30-day trial version of CrossOver Linux; if you like it, it costs $39.95. You can also get CrossOver Linux Professional ($69.95), which can be used for multiple users and comes with CrossOver Games.

CrossOver Games includes support for DirectX, Microsoft's graphics APIs for games. With this, many Windows games will run well on Linux -- I had no problem blasting monsters in World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. CrossOver Games is also available separately for $39.95.

CrossOver is not an emulator or a virtual machine -- you are running Windows applications on Linux, which means you may run into problems from time to time. My advice: If you run many Windows applications, you're probably better off buying Windows and running them on a virtual machine program like Oracle/Sun's VirtualBox. But if you just run a handful of applications, give CrossOver Linux a try.

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been writing about technology and the business of technology since CP/M-80 was cutting edge and 300bit/sec. was a fast Internet connection -- and we liked it! He can be reached at sjvn@vna1.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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