4 Tools To Help You Run Windows Programs In Linux

Introduction

There was a time a few years ago whereby people did not adopt Linux because they couldn't run their favourite Windows programs.

However the world of open source software has improved immensely and many people have become accustomed to using free tools whether they are email clients, office applications or media players.

There may be that odd gem however that only works on Windows and therefore without it you are lost.

This guide introduces you to 4 tools which can aid you to install and run Windows applications within a Linux environment.

01
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WINE

WINE
WINE.

WINE stands for "Wine Is Not An Emulator".

WINE provides a Windows compatibility layer for Linux which makes it possible to install, run and configure many popular Windows applications.

You can install WINE by running one of the following commands depending on your Linux distribution:

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". 

You can of course 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 has a configuration tool which can be launched via the menu of your desktop environment or from the command line using the following command:

winecfg

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

Click here for a guide to WINE here or here for the project website and documentation.

02
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Winetricks

Wine Tricks
Wine Tricks.

WINE on its own is a great tool. However sometimes you will attempt to install an application and it will fail.

Winetricks provides a nice graphical tool to help you install and run Windows applications.

To install winetricks run one of the following commands:

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 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", "Grand Theft Auto Vice City" and many more.

Some of the items require a CD to install them whilst others can be downloaded.

To be honest out of all the applications in this list, Winetricks is the least useful. The quality of the installations is a bit hit and miss.

Click here for the Winetricks website

03
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Play On Linux

Play On Linux
Play On Linux.

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

As with Winetricks the Play On Linux software 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 there is a toolbar at the top with options to Run, Close, Install, Remove or Configure applications.

There is also an "Install a program" option in the left panel.

When you choose the install option a list of categories will appear as follows:

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

There are a huge number of applications to choose from including development tools such as "Dreamweaver", an assortment of games including 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 menu includes "Adobe Photoshop" and "Fireworks" and the internet section has all of the "Internet Explorer" browsers up until version 8.

The Office section has version up until 2013 although the ability to install these is a bit hit and miss. They may not work.

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

In my experience the software installed via Play On Linux is more likely to work than software installed by Winetricks.

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

Click here for the Play On Linux website.

04
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Crossover

Crossover
Crossover.

Crossover is the only item in this list that isn't free.

You can download Crossover from the Codeweavers website.

There are installers for Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora and Red Hat.

When you first run Crossover you will be 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 which is used to install and configure each Windows application.

When you choose the "Select application" option you will be provided with a search bar and you can search for the program you wish to install by typing a description.

You can also 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? I have found that some programs work only with Crossover and not Play On Linux. If you desperately need that program then this is one option.

Summary

Whilst WINE is a great tool and the other options listed provide extra value for WINE you have to be aware that 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.