Crossing over to Linux

Changing your operating system from Windows to Linux can be a traumatic process. Not only is Linux a completely new system to learn, but many mainstream applications won't run on it. A solution to this is Codeweavers' Crossover Office, a tool that allows you to run many major Windows applications, such as Microsoft Office, on the Linux OS. Based on WINE (www.winehq.com), Crossover Office uses the WINE compatibility layer to run Windows applications natively - rather than in an emulation mode - so you don't need Windows installed. A 30-day trial version is available for download from www.codeweavers.com.

Compatibility

Version 3.0 of Crossover Office includes official support for around 30 commercial applications, including Microsoft Office (all versions from 97 to XP), Adobe Photoshop versions 6 and 7, Quicken, and Macromedia Flash and Dreamweaver MX. A complete list of supported applications is available at www.codeweavers.com/site/compatibility.

In my experience, Crossover Office runs the officially supported applications very well. Applications run at a similar speed to Windows, but the startup time is significantly longer in some cases. I've yet to encounter a bug with a regularly used feature of any of the programs I have tried (including several versions of Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and Flash MX). I have, however, experienced crashes and lockups with some less commonly-used features. It is clear Codeweavers has optimised Crossover Office for the most common uses of applications. Compatibility is not perfect, but for most uses it should be sufficient.

I've had some success running small unsupported applications with Crossover Office. In my experience, the smaller the un--supported application, the more likely it is to work with Crossover Office. As the complexity of an application increases, so does the likelihood of it using a feature of Windows that hasn't yet been completely implemented under Crossover Office. You'll find more details from users on a large number of unsupported applications on the previously-mentioned compatibility list. The list also includes a voting system, allowing users of Crossover Office to influence the range of applications supported in future versions of the product.

Installing Crossover Office

The trial is available in the popular RPM and DEB formats or as a self-installing binary, which will work with any modern Linux distribution. To install Crossover Office, simply run the binary while logged in as the super user, or use the RPM or DEB tool. You may need to type the following in a shell before using the 'su' command to become the super user:

$ xhost +<hostname>

where <hostname> is the name of your computer. If you do not know the hostname, typing the following command in a shell will tell you it (in my case, it is figaro):

$ hostname
figaro

This command allows the installer to open a GUI on your desktop, which is necessary for the installation to complete successfully. Now you can begin to install applications into the Crossover Office environment by using the officesetup program, which is installed in the /opt/cxoffice/bin/ directory by default. It is also available under GNOME and KDE under the crossover menu, which should be created by the Crossover Office installer.

To install an application under Crossover Office, click the Install... button on the main officesetup screen. You will be presented with a list of officially supported applications from which to choose. At this time, place the CD for the program you wish to install into your CD-ROM drive and select the program from the list. If the program you're after isn't listed - and therefore unsupported - click on the Install unsupported software box. After clicking the Next button, the installation program for the selected program will be executed. The installation will proceed in an identical way to installing the program under Windows.

Click here to view a screen shot.

After a program is installed, a script to execute it will be created under /opt/cxoffice/bin/. For example, after installing Microsoft Office, the following scripts will be created:

/opt/cxoffice/bin/outlook - Outlook
/opt/cxoffice/bin/iexplore - Internet Explorer
/opt/cxoffice/bin/winword - Word
/opt/cxoffice/bin/excel - Excel
/opt/cxoffice/bin/powerpnt - PowerPoint
/opt/cxoffice/bin/access - Access


To run any of these programs, simply run the script. If you wish to create desktop shortcuts for any of these programs, icons for each can be found in either /opt/cxoffice/support/dotwine/fake_windows/Windows/Icons/ or ~/.cxoffice/dotwine/fake_windows/Windows/Icons/. The standard version of Crossover Office is available from www.codeweavers.com for $US39.95 and includes six months of support and upgrades.

Click here to view a screen shot of the officesetup menu, which shows a list of currently installed applications.

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Alastair Cousins

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