All About Wine: Run Windows Apps Under Linux

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Games and More

TaxAct is not my only recent Wine success story. Wine tends to choke on games (the überpopular World of Warcraft is apparently a notable exception), but on the other hand, the games I like best--adventures--tend not to require too much of the underlying system. So when I picked up a copy of Scratches, I decided to give it a go under Wine. The installer worked fine, and so did the game, with a few minor glitches here and there. The bottom line is, the game was perfectly playable. (That is to say, the game more or less worked properly. There are less charitable things I could say about the game's playability, but that's another topic.)

Your Wine experiences may not go as smoothly. While Wine has been under active development for 14 years now, it still has not reached a 1.0 release. Application compatibility is scattershot, and users have no good all-in-one resource to visit if they run into trouble.

The Wine Wiki is largely developer-oriented. The official Wine FAQ provides a lot of geeky context but not much useful help; the so-called User FAQs have a few recipes for very specific kinds of trouble, and that's it. You can access a Usenet newsgroup and mailing list for Wine users on the Web via Google Groups; this is probably the best place to inquire about getting a particular app running if you hit trouble.

Alternatively, depending on what program you're trying to work with, one of two commercial versions of Wine may help. CrossOver Linux from CodeWeavers is Wine with several extras thrown in, including spiffy tools for installing and removing Windows software, plus support for Windows Web browser plug-ins inside your Linux browser.

CodeWeavers maintains its own Compatibility Center; if plain-vanilla Wine doesn't give you what you need, check there to see whether CrossOver can. CrossOver Linux will set you back $40--a relatively small price to pay if it gives you access to that one app you cannot live without. (This is money well spent in another way, too: CodeWeavers finances much of Wine's ongoing development.)

If it's a game you're looking to run, check out Cedega from TransGaming. Cedega is a Wine hybrid that concentrates on gaming. It's sold as a subscription service for $5 a month, and your membership gives you the right to vote on which games the TransGaming developers should concentrate on supporting. (Interestingly, you can buy extra votes for $5 apiece.) Check the TransGaming Games Database to see if your favorite game will work before you plunk down your hard-earned cash.

You have other ways to run Windows apps under Linux. Booting an actual copy of Windows in a virtual machine is a better solution in terms of compatibility: Wine can run only some Windows programs, but of course Windows itself can run them all. I'll cover this approach in a future column.

In the meantime, I'd be interested to know how well Wine serves all of you. What are you successfully running under Wine? What hassles have you encountered (and overcome--or not)? Let's hear it in the Comments section below. Until then, enjoy Wine responsibly (as they say), and stay as Free as you can.

Matthew Newton is PC World's QA engineer and unofficial Linux guru. If you're new to Linux and are feeling a bit lost in one way or another, drop him a line and let him know what's vexing you. Or, speak Freely in the Comments section below!
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