Windows Apps on Linux with Wine

Extra Resources

If you've looked inside the .drive_c/windows/ directory of your Wine installations, you might have noticed a few .exe files. Yes, Wine includes simple versions of Windows Explorer, Notepad, and Regedit (Figure 4). Regedit is especially useful for fine-tuning settings and fixing compatibility issues. You can run it in place by simply entering:

Figure 4: Wine is bundled with various tools such as its own editor for the dreaded Windows Registry.
wine regedit.exe

An especially useful online resource for checking compatibility of programs under Wine is the Wine AppDB [5]. You can see that apps have different ratings, such as platinum (runs perfectly without any Wine tweaking required), gold (runs perfectly but needs come configuration), silver (has minor issues but is otherwise usable), and so forth.

Use the search bar to find the apps you want to use, and check whether other Wine users have made any comments at the bottom of the page; they often contain useful tips and tricks for that specific app. If you've had success getting a program to run, but it's not listed in this compatibility database, click Submit App in the menu on the left to add a new entry and describe how well it works and what you had to do.

Last, I'll give a quick mention to Winetricks [6], an "easy way to work around problems in Wine." Winetricks is a script that assists with the installation and setup of some common apps. To get it, click the link for the latest version from the website, which will display a plain text file called winetricks in your browser. Save this to your home directory and run it:

sh winetricks

A menu will appear offering to help you install apps or games (Figure 5), so just choose what you want to do and follow the instructions.

Figure 5: Winetricks lets you install various well-known Windows apps in Wine with just a few clicks.

Winetricks can save you a huge amount of time if you need to install many programs in Wine, but it's still important to know how Wine works under the hood – hence the "do it yourself" approach described earlier. With this knowledge and Winetricks at your disposal, you're in a strong position to help move friends and colleagues off Windows for good (see the "Alternatives to Wine" box for more information).

Let us know how you get on!

Alternatives to Wine

If classic MS-DOS games float your boat, it's worth checking out DOSBox [7]. This is a fully fledged emulator that includes a virtual x86 processor and basic implementation of DOS, and it is capable of running a huge number of old DOS games. Install it from your distro's package manager and then start it by simply providing a directory as follows:

dosbox mydir

This starts a new DOS session, with the C: directory mapped to mydir (or whatever you specified). Now you can enter the good old dir command to view files inside the directory or run a program. If you're running a game and DOSBox grabs control of your mouse pointer, hit Ctrl+F10 to get it back.

DOSBox is highly configurable: You can change how fast the emulated CPU runs, customize the virtual video and audio devices, and much more. The DOSBox wiki [8] at is packed with information on fine-tuning the emulator, so take a look. Oh, and it's even possible to run Windows 3.1 inside DOSBox [9].

Another alternative to Wine – or more precisely, a commercial version of Wine – is CrossOver [10]. CrossOver is like a value-added version of Wine with extra compatibility patches, configuration tools, and other bits 'n bobs. So, if you're having trouble getting something to work under Wine or need support, it's worth investigating. Plus, changes to CrossOver are rolled back in to the Wine codebase, so the original open source project benefits.

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