CodeWeavers CrossOver Mac Pro 8

Sometimes, what is possible it not always practical. Some users, such as those who absolutely must run a legacy Windows application, have found it's possible to load Windows on a Mac. Not for the faint of heart, the process involves booting into Windows--you'll need software such as Apple's Boot Camp (free)--or running Windows within a virtual machine application such as Parallels ( Macworld rated 3.5 out of 5 mice ) or VMware Fusion ( Macworld rated 4.5 out of 5 mice ).

A slicker option is CodeWeaver's CrossOver Mac Pro 8.0, an application that runs a virtual environment so you can run Windows applications on your Mac. (We tested the Pro version, which supports both apps and games.) With CrossOver 8 installed on your Mac, you can insert a Windows installer disc such as the one for Microsoft Office 2007 or Quicken 2009 for Windows, install the program, and run it without actually running Windows. This saves time, because you never have to boot the Windows OS. And, theoretically, it should make Windows apps run faster on your Mac.

CrossOver Mac Pro 8 is a smart application; it relies on the open-source Wine application for running Windows apps and streamlines the install process. However, since the CrossOver 7 ( Macworld rated 3 out of 5 mice ) release last year, the new version only adds support for one major, new Windows application (Quicken 2009) and tweaks Office 2007 compatibility. CodeWeavers has not addressed my chief complaint, which is that the application does not provide any guidance as to whether an application will work at the time of install, and relies instead on an online user forum. So, CrossOver 8 is smarter, but still not smart enough.

Application testing

Of course, the real strength of CrossOver 8 is whether it will work for the applications and games you want to run, not any interface issues. For example, I know of a design agency that still uses Adobe FrameMaker 7 to access an extensive archive of page layout documents. In some other cases, you might need to run a Windows program such as Microsoft Word 2007 because that's the version dictated by your company. Fortunately, CrossOver 8 has tweaked support for Office 2007 and now runs more reliably and faster, and adds support for features such as inserting clip art. That said, on my MacBook with 2GB of RAM and a 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo processor, Office 2007 still crashed to the Desktop at least once per hour.

CrossOver 8 supports some of the more popular--but still not the very latest--PC games, such as Left4Dead. That game in particular is important because it ranks up there with World of Warcraft ( Macworld rated 5 out of 5 mice ) as a popular multiplayer game without a Mac version (yet). Left4Dead actually ran quite smoothly and even worked for a multiplayer co-op match.

I also tested Internet Explorer 7. After a few "dry runs" the app finally installed. Sites rich with ActiveX components, such as Live.com, ran quite well. Quicken 2009 never crashed, although parts of the program (such as the start-up screen) have noticeable graphical glitches. Accessing these apps is easy: CrossOver puts icons for Windows apps in a folder, a nice touch, and you can even drag them to the dock for easy access.

Still, most new Windows apps will not work. I tried Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Windows (which uses PC-centric copy protection) and a preview version of Word 2010 (which requires .Net) without success. Recent games--everything from Fallout 3 to Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood--also failed to install.

CodeWeavers says that CrossOver 8 will be the last to support OS 10.4 (Tiger). Versions of CrossOver released before version 8 are not compatible with OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Also, if you're running OS 10.5 (Leopard), you need to use CrossOver 6.2 or later.

Macworld's buying advice

You might think that CrossOver 8 is a terrible way to run Windows apps--even Office 2007 support is limited. In my view, for a company of only 25 people trying to create a way to avoid virtual instances of the full Windows OS, CrossOver 8 is getting there, slowly but surely. I imagine by next year, with the already-planned release of CrossOver 9, Codeweavers will iron out more Office 2007 bugs. (Okay, by that time, Left4Dead 2 will be out and Windows 7 will cause even more headaches.) Still, with CrossOver 8, the possibilities are endless; now they just need to work on the practical.

[John Brandon is a 20-year veteran Mac user who used to run an all-Mac graphics department.]

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