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November 10, 2003

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Jeremy White and Mike Angelo Discuss Crossover Office, Wine, and MS Windows APIs for Linux

Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems

An Implementation of MS Windows APIs for Linux providing a Linux-based, Windows-software compatible environment

Mike Angelo -- 10 November 2003 (C) -- Page 1

Thanks to CodeWeavers, there is an inexpensive solution that allows MS Windows users migrating to GNU-Linux to have the broad power and stability of the GNU-Linux desktop plus access to many MS Windows applications -- the best of both worlds. Crossover Office allows computer users to run many popular MS Windows programs on the GNU-Linux desktop. The bottom line here is that computer desktop users no longer need to buy or to run the MS Windows operating system.

Some GNU-Linux operating system distributions such as Mandrake and SUSE provide a better computer desktop solution than does Microsoft Windows. Microsoft has failed to refute this. However, many MS Windows applications are more feature-rich than their comparable GNU-Linux counterparts. In some instances, there might not be a counterpart. That can discourage people from migrating from MS Windows to a GNU-Linux desktop.

People Use Applications, Not Operating Systems

Applications are important. If you think about it, most people run and use applications, not operating systems. Thus, they chose an operating system that runs the applications they use. For example, if one wants to run Microsoft Word and the only OS that it will run on is MS Windows, that person needs to be running MS Windows.

There is a perhaps somewhat subtle, yet very important, distinction here. People use applications and applications use operating systems.

Think about that. Place two similar computers sitting side by side -- and they both have MS Word on the desktop. However, one computer is running GNU-Linux and the other MS Windows. Then grab an MS Word user that has no idea that one computer is Linux-based and the other computer is Windows-based. Chances are it will be a toss-up as to which of the two computers the MS Word user uses to do his/her document writing.

Then set up the same scenario, but one computer has MS Word on the desktop and the other has some other word processor application on its desktop. Chances are the MS Word user will sit down at, and use, the computer with MS Word on its desktop.

To some degree, it is only when several competing operating systems can run the same programs that people start to look at the pros and cons of each OS. When several competing operating systems can run the same programs, then people start to make OS choices.

Mandrake Linux founder Gaël Duval's statement, the only current showstopper for widespread Linux adoption is . . . the relative lack of end user applications compared to the Windows world clearly stresses the importance of available applications in operating system selection decision making!

Crossover Office Implements MS Windows APIs for Linux

One reason Crossover Office means that computer users no longer need to buy or to run the MS Windows operating system is that Crossover Office provides a set of APIs (application programming interfaces) that allow MS Windows programs to run directly (natively) on the GNU-Linux desktop. That means that computer users no longer have to purchase or license the MS Windows operating system in order to run many MS Windows applications. And it means that computer users no longer have to put up with MS Windows crashes, viri, security and privacy invasions, and Product Activation horrors! Please see the sidebar on page 3 for more about MS Product Activation horrors.

Crossover Office is a commercial rendition of Wine, an Open Source software product. Both Crossover Office and Wine help to allow computer users to make their operating system choices on the basis of the quality of the OS rather than upon what software will run on the OS -- because they allow many popular MS Windows applications to run on GNU-Linux systems.

Wine and/or CrossOver Office are important and perhaps essential parts of a good desktop-Linux system. That's so that people that are use to using, and own copies of, software such as the MS Office applications, Internet Explorer (IE), PhotoShop, mIRC, and so forth can run those MS Windows applications within their GNU/Linux-based computer systems.

Wine is free software and is included with most GNU/Linux distributions. CrossOver Office is a commercial version of Wine that you have to buy. However, CrossOver Office seems to work better than Wine.

CrossOver Office is included with some desktop-Linux distributions such as the SUSE Desktop Linux products. If your GNU-Linux distribution does not come with Crossover Office, you can buy Crossover Office directly from CodeWeavers.

Jeremy White on Crossover Office and Wine

Technology Approach

Both VMWare and Win4Lin are emulators. In other words, Windows applications are actually run under Windows in a separate virtual machine on the client PC, and the emulator handles displaying the applications under Linux. Unlike emulation technologies, CrossOver Office is based on an open-source technology called Wine. Wine is a complete re-implementation of the Win32 API under Linux. As a result, using CrossOver to run Windows applications does not require one to have a Windows OS running in the background. Instead, Windows applications run "as if natively" directly under Linux. This provides the user with an immediate cost savings associated with the purchase of the Windows OS, and has other implications as well. (Emphasis added.)

Memory Allocation

Most emulation technology requires a dedicated block of memory to run the emulator. It is not uncommon, for instance, for a VMWare session to soak up 128MB of system RAM. This RAM is used exclusively by the emulator as long as it is run, regardless of whether any applications are being run or not. CrossOver Office, on the other hand, consumes RAM dynamically, based on the application's needs at the time.


Emulators like VMWare tend to be pricier than Wine. VMWare is $299.00 (as of 10/25/02), and Win4Lin is $89.99. In addition, each of these solutions requires a WindowsXP license, which retails at $199.99. In other words, complete emulator solutions retail for between $289-$499. CrossOver Office retails for $59.95.

CrossOver Office: Comparison with Competing Solutions. Link in Resources section at end of this article.

Article Index

Jeremy White is the founder and CEO of CodeWeavers, Inc. In a recent e-mail discussion he told MozillaQuest Magazine that Wine stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator. It's an implementation of the Windows API that lets you run Windows programs on Linux.

MozillaQuest Magazine: If Win4Lin and VMware are called emulators, what do you call Wine and Crossover Office that just simply supply the Windows APIs?

Jeremy White: I like to call it a 'Windows compatible' environment, or more simply -- it allows you to run windows apps in Linux as though they were native.

MozillaQuest Magazine: How are you involved with Wine?

Jeremy White: I like to say that we're the main corporate sponsor of the Wine project.

MozillaQuest Magazine: In a paragraph, can you explain why CrossOver Office is better than Wine and what the difference is between Wine and CrossOver Office?

Jeremy White: The main differences are support and polish. CrossOver just works, and if it doesn't we'll make it work. We try not to accentuate the differences, though, because our overall goal is to help Wine grow. (Emphasis added.)

  • See Crossover Office and Wine are not emulators on Page 2 ----->

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