Linux and Apples Mac OS X are effective desktop operating systems, to be sure, but Microsofts Windows has such a big piece of the operating system market pie that many app vendors dont even bother making their products available for non-Windows platforms.
Codeweavers CrossOver 6.0, a commercial distribution of the open-source Wine Project, allows users to install Windows applications on non-Windows operating systems. The most interesting new element of CrossOver (which was formerly called CrossOver Office) is its support for Mac OS X, a feat made possible by Apples move to the x86 processor platform.
CrossOver Mac 6.0 and CrossOver Linux 6.0 began shipping in January.
The Linux version comes in a $69.95 Professional edition and a $39.95 Standard edition. The Professional edition comes with deployment tools for bundling CrossOver with applications into RPM (Red Hat Package Manager) packages, the ability to enable multiple users on a system to access the same installed Windows applications and one year of support. The Standard edition comes with six months of installation support.
CrossOver Mac 6.0 comes in a single, $59.95 edition.
CrossOver Mac and CrossOver Linux are essentially the same product with different interfaces. eWeekFONT Labs found the interface for the Linux version of CrossOver a bit rough around the edges, but CrossOver Mac fits in very well with the look of OS X.
We have been tracking Wine and CrossOver for some time now. Along the way, CrossOver has picked up some handy features and developed better ways of offering support to its user community. However, fundamentally, CrossOver has not progressed very far.
The trouble is that Wine is-and must always be-a work in progress: Windows contains an enormous mountain of code, and Wine must address enough of the Windows API so that Windows applications can run on Wine-equipped systems. To make matters more difficult, Windows is a moving-albeit a slow-moving-target.
As a result, getting Windows applications to run with Wine can be very tricky, and can involve numerous application-specific workarounds.
With CrossOver, Codeweavers takes a handful of popular Windows applications, comes up with the workarounds needed to get them running, adds some features for smoothing installation and desktop integration issues, and wraps it all around the free Wine core.
For supported applications, CrossOver works well, and it is certainly easier to use than Wine alone (although, in its defense, Wine has grown significantly more user-friendly during the past few years). Unfortunately, CrossOver supports relatively few applications, and, in our view, there are good native alternatives for many of the applications that CrossOver does support.
There are 46 applications listed in Codeweavers compatibility database that have been designated as fully supported (gold) or almost fully supported (silver).
Many of the 46 applications, however, are different versions of the same application. For example, Word 2000 is certified gold, and the Japanese version of Word 2000 and Word 2002 are certified silver. When you filter out the gold and silver applications that arent simply different versions of each other, there are 21 gold- or silver-rated applications, including the version-old Adobe Dreamweaver MX and Photoshop 7.
eWeek Labs installed the Windows version of Word 2003 on a Mac Mini running Mac OS X and on a Fedora Core 6-based machine. Word 2003 carries a bronze rating, which means that Codeweavers does not recommend use of the application. In any case, Word 2003 worked properly during our tests on both of our systems.
We tried to install the totally unsupported Dreamweaver 8, but the applications installer hung early in the process on both test machines.
According to posters in the forum page attached to Dreamweaver 8 at Codeweavers Web site, others have had success installing Dreamweaver 8 with plain Wine, albeit via a workaround that requires copying files from an existing installation of Dreamweaver on a Windows machine. We wanted to install VMwares Virtual Infrastructure client, which required us to manipulate a VMware ESX Server in our lab and needs Windows and the .Net Framework 1.1 to run. We could not, however, coax .Net Framework to install.
Wed love to see Codeweavers extend support for .Net Framework (Version 2.0 isnt supported, either), because a growing list of Windows applications depend on it.
We ended up addressing our need for the Virtual Infrastructure client on Linux by running it from a Windows XP Service Pack 2 virtual machine running on the free VMware Player.
While taking the virtual machine approach adds some administrative overhead and additional licensing costs, weve found that the surest platform on which to run Windows applications is, not surprisingly, Windows.