4 Tools to Help You Run Windows Programs in Linux

Get the best of both worlds with these Windows emulators

Years ago, people tended not to adopt Linux because they couldn't run their favorite Windows programs. The world of open-source software has improved immensely, however, and many people have become accustomed to using free tools, from email clients and office applications to media players.

Windows Applications And Linux
Gary Newell

Still, there might be that odd, must-have software gem that works only on Windows. In this case, try using one of these four tools that will help you install and run Windows applications within a Linux environment.

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What We Like

  • No Windows license required to use Windows applications.

  • Capable of running most Windows games.

What We Don't Like

  • Doesn't always run the latest versions of Windows products like Microsoft Office.

  • Some games and applications run sluggishly.

WINE stands for "Wine Is Not An Emulator." WINE provides a Windows compatibility layer for Linux that makes installing, running, and configuring many popular Windows applications possible.

To install WINE, run whichever of the following fits your flavor of Linux.

  • Ubuntu, Debian, Mint, etc.:
sudo apt-get install wine
  • Fedora, CentOS:
sudo yum install wine
  • openSUSE:
sudo zypper install wine
  • Arch, Manjaro, etc.:
sudo pacman -S wine

With most desktop environments, you can run a Windows program with WINE by right-clicking on the file and choosing Open with WINE program loader

Of course, you can run the program from the command line using the following command:

wine path/to/application

The file can be either an executable or an installer file. 

WINE offers a configuration tool you can launch using the menu of your desktop environment or from the command line using the following command:


The configuration tool lets you choose the version of Windows to run programs against, manage graphics and audio drivers, manage desktop integration, and handle mapped drives.

You might find this guide to WINE and the project website and documentation helpful.

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Wine Tricks

 Gary Newell 

What We Like

  • Greatly expands what WINE can do with minimal effort.

  • Doesn't require installation.

What We Don't Like

  • Not directly supported by its maker WineHQ.

  • Not as optimized for gaming as other alternatives.

WINE on its own is a great tool. Sometimes, however, installing an application can fail. Winetricks provides a nice graphical tool to ease the install process and run Windows applications.

To install Winetricks, run whichever of the following commands is appropriate for your setup:

  • Ubuntu, Debian, Mint, etc.:
sudo apt-get install winetricks
  • Fedora, CentOS:
sudo yum install winetricks
  • openSUSE:
sudo zypper install winetricks
  • Arch, Manjaro etc.:
sudo pacman -S winetricks

When you run Winetricks, you are greeted with a menu with the following options:

  • View help
  • Install an application
  • Install a game
  • Install a benchmark
  • Select the default wineprefix
  • Select office2007pro
  • Enable silent install
  • Show broken apps

If you choose to install an application, a long list of applications will appear. The list includes the Audible player, ebook readers for the Kindle and Nook, older versions of Microsoft Office, Spotify, the Windows version of Steam, and various Microsoft development environments up until 2010.

The games list includes a number of popular games including Call of Duty, Call of Duty 4, Call of Duty 5, Biohazard, and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

Some of the items require a CD to install, while others can be downloaded.

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Play On Linux

Play On Linux

 Gary Newell 

What We Like

  • Hands down the best emulator for Windows gaming.

  • Install multiple versions of WINE simultaneously.

  • Excellent community support.

What We Don't Like

  • Starting games in full screen mode can sometimes cause crashing.

  • Error reporting is lacking.

The best free tool for running Windows programs is Play On Linux.

As with Winetricks, Play On Linux provides a graphical interface for WINE. Play On Linux goes a step further by allowing you to choose the version of WINE to use.

To install Play On Linux, run one of the following commands:

  • Ubuntu, Debian, Mint, etc.:
sudo apt-get install playonlinux
  • Fedora, CentOS:
sudo yum install playonlinux
  • openSUSE:
sudo zypper install playonlinux
  • Arch, Manjaro, etc.:
sudo pacman -S playonlinux

When you first run Play On Linux, a toolbar appears at the top with options to run, close, install, remove, or configure applications. You'll also see an installation option in the left panel.

When you choose the install option, a list of categories appears as follows:

  • Accessories
  • Development
  • Education
  • Games
  • Graphics
  • Internet
  • Multimedia
  • Office
  • Other
  • Patches

You can choose from a huge number of applications including development tools such as Dreamweaver, an assortment of retro classics such as Sensible World of Soccer, modern games such as Grand Theft Auto versions 3 and 4, the Half Life series, and more.

The graphics section includes Adobe Photoshop and Fireworks, and you'll find browsers in the internet section.

The office section is a bit hit and miss. Those apps may not work.

Play On Linux requires you to have the setup files for the programs you are installing, although you can download some of the games from GOG.com.

Software installed via Play On Linux is generally more likely to work than software installed by Winetricks.

You also can install non-listed programs; however, the programs listed have been specifically configured to be installed and run using Play On Linux.

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 Gary Newell 

What We Like

  • Streamlined setup makes it easier for Linux newcomers to use Windows programs.

  • Reliable 24/7 customer support with premium plan.

What We Don't Like

  • Applications take up more space on your hard disk due to how it handles containers.

  • Free trial is limited to 14 days.

Crossover is the only item in this list that isn't free. Installers are available for Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, and Red Hat.

When you first run Crossover, you are presented with a blank screen with an "Install Windows Software" button at the bottom. If you click on the button, a new window appears with the following options:

  • Select application
  • Select installer
  • Select bottle

A bottle in Crossover is like a container that is used to install and configure each Windows application.

When you choose Select application, you'll see a search bar from which you can search for the program you wish to install by typing a description.

You also can choose to browse the list of applications. A list of categories will appear, and as with Play On Linux, you can choose from a wide array of packages.

When you choose to install an application, a new bottle suitable for that application will be created, and you will be asked to provide the installer or setup.exe. 

Why use Crossover when Play On Linux is free? Some programs work only with Crossover and not Play On Linux. If you desperately need that program, then this is one option.

While WINE is a great tool, and the other options listed provide extra value for WINE, some programs may not work properly, and some may not work at all. Other options include creating a Windows virtual machine or dual booting Windows and Linux.