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You’re a new Linux user. Maybe you’re a Windows XP refugee The Best Linux Distributions For Windows XP Refugees The Best Linux Distributions For Windows XP Refugees Read More , maybe you’re not on board with Windows 10, or maybe you’re just someone who enjoys playing around with new operating systems.

Whatever your reason for trying Linux, there’s probably a few Windows programs that you miss. Is there any way to get Windows software working on Linux?

As it turns out, there is. It’s called Wine, and while it can be very useful it probably should only be your last resort. Here’s why, and how to get started if you can’t find an alternative to a beloved Windows app.

What Is Wine?

Wine is a compatability layer that makes it possible to run Windows software on Linux machines. (It also works on Macs Wineskin: Run Windows Software On Mac OS X Without An Emulator [Mac] Wineskin: Run Windows Software On Mac OS X Without An Emulator [Mac] Install Windows software on your Mac without the need for a virtual machine, an emulator or dual-booting. Wineskin is a Mac app that brings Wine to your Mac, OS X style, allowing you to create... Read More , but that’s another article entirely). It’s worth noting that this is not an emulator: there is no virtual CPU, and you don’t need a copy of Windows running in the background. Wine runs Windows software directly.

If you’re confused by the above paragraph, just know that Wine is a tool makes it possible to run some Windows software on Linux systems.

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If you prefer Microsoft Office to Libre Office, or Photoshop to GIMP, Wine potentially gives you a choice. You can go ahead and download Wine right now using your distro’s package manager, and try out some software. But there’s a downside.

Why Native Apps Are Always Better

“I can switch to Linux and keep all of my software?”, you might be saying. “Sign me up!”

Not so fast. While there is a plethora of Windows apps that run well using Wine, it’s not necessarily going to be simple or stable. Installing things can be a hassle, and even if you get a program working there’s a chance things will crash somewhat regularly. Updates to Wine frequently break previously working programs, and if you’re not good at troubleshooting it’s going to be hard to work out what’s going on.

wine-pour

Basically, Wine is an option but it’s not always stable and certainly isn’t user friendly for Linux beginners.

For this and other reasons, it’s almost always better to find a native program that does the job. This is particularly true for games, complicated programs where lots of things can go wrong. Finding a native Linux game on Steam is always better Using Wine to Play Games On Linux? Here's Why You Should Switch To Steam Right Now Using Wine to Play Games On Linux? Here's Why You Should Switch To Steam Right Now In the last couple of months, Steam has been getting a lot of attention. Not necessarily because of the games that it's been carrying, but because of its expanding support of different operating systems. If... Read More .

But it’s arguably even more important for productivity software, where crashes can cost you time and money. Before attempting to run software with Wine, check out our list of the top Linux software The Best Linux Software The Best Linux Software Linux is full of awesome apps, both open source and proprietary. People new to Linux and even seasoned Linux users tend to find new and useful software quite often. Here's what we love. Read More and see if there’s a viable alternative.

To summarize: Wine should be used as a last resort, or because you want to mess around with it.

No Wine Until You Finish Your Homework

Say you want to run Microsoft Word. Trying to install the most recent version of that software will almost certainly not work, because it uses all sorts of new Windows features that Wine hasn’t implemented yet. But which version will work?

To find out, head to the Wine Application Database. This is a user-compiled repository of Windows app that are known to run using Wine.

appdb-foobar

Search for a program you’d like to run and you’ll see ratings for various versions of the program. From highest to lowest, these are:

  • Platinum: Work flawlessly, without you having to make tweaks.
  • Gold: Works without issues, but you’ll need to tweak Wine a bit to get things up and running.
  • Silver: Works with tweaks but there’s going to be some minor issues that, while annoying, shouldn’t affect your usage much.
  • Garbage: Don’t even try.

Sometimes the latest version of a piece of software won’t work well, meaning tracking down an older version 10 Websites To Download Older Versions Of Software 10 Websites To Download Older Versions Of Software Read More is probably a good idea. Back at Wine App DB, click through to a version that works and you’ll find notes and tips from other Linux users. Consult this if you have trouble installing software.

foobar-running-wine

It’s worth noting that information won’t necessarily be true of the most recent version of Wine: occasionally software that used to work will stop working for any number of reasons.

Easy Mode: PlayOnLinux Automates Installation

If this all sounds overwhelming to you, I recommend you check out PlayOnLinux. This is a simple app that automates the installation of many programs, notably more than a few games.

play-on-linux-running

The application offers an App Store type interface – browse it and see if the application you want to install is offered. If it is, you’ll be guided through the installation process for your software. In some cases you’ll need access to the CD for the software; in others PlayOnLinux will download the software for you.

foobar-installing-wine

Part of what makes this software nice is its approach to getting software working: basically, if there’s a version of Wine that’s known to work well with a particular program, PlayOnLinux will download that version. This means you don’t need to worry about your applications breaking.

We’ve recommended this as a way to get Windows games up and running PlayOnLinux Brings Windows Games & Programs To Linux PlayOnLinux Brings Windows Games & Programs To Linux Read More , but it also works for a variety of other Windows exclusives. It even gives you access to old versions of Internet Explorer (shudder).

Enjoy Wine In Moderation

So that’s Wine, a powerful but fidgety tool that can help you run Windows software on Linux. It’s worth noting that Wine makes it easier to run really old software on Linux Windows 3.Fun: Getting Really Old Software Running On A 64-Bit PC Windows 3.Fun: Getting Really Old Software Running On A 64-Bit PC Bit by bit, Windows' reverse compatibility is fading. Here’s how to fight that – and get incredibly old 16-bit software and games like Chip’s Challenge running. Read More than it is on modern versions of Windows, so you could argue that Linux is better at Windows reverse-compatability than Windows itself.3d-pinball-wine-linux

Have you given Wine a try? What did you think? Let’s talk about what does and doesn’t work in the comments below, along with any other thoughts you might have.

  1. Evan
    December 30, 2015 at 12:21 am

    I still can't get pinball to go to full screen in Wine.

    • Justin Pot
      December 30, 2015 at 4:02 am

      Yep, there's always something that doesn't work.

  2. lott11
    December 29, 2015 at 11:27 am

    For those of you that today will not put up with windows BS and privacy policies.
    There is a way just VR with QEMU or virtual box, install windows and your applications that is it.
    Then you are running under Linux and you have your applications also just never enable network connection.
    The best thing you do not even have to update.
    If you can not run your applications under wine or play on Linux, this is the way to go.
    Remember just never let it connect to the internet.
    And for those of you that have a low resource PC or old, use Emmabuntus3, linux-lite-2.6, lxle-14.04.3, Zorin, and on and on..
    The point is there are options, you are not just limited to there ways.
    Freedom is still at your hands.
    You do have choices with Linux something that you do not with other OS.
    Hope this helps, and have fun.

  3. RODNEY COPELAND
    December 29, 2015 at 6:02 am

    "if there’s a version of Wine that’s known to work well with a particular program, PlayOnLinux will download that version."

    You can have multiple versions of WINE running on one Linux OS instance?

  4. Doc
    December 28, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    Stop stop STOP. It's WINE - Wine Is Not an Emulator - with an acronym you ALWAYS capitalize the first letter of each word, per the acronym creator's choice.

    • Justin Pot
      December 28, 2015 at 5:46 pm

      That was true once, but as of 2015 Wine's homepage doesn't use all caps for the name. The site ven goes so far as to say that Wine /used/ to stand for "Wine Is Not An Emulator" on the homepage (ie, it doesn't anymore).

      https://www.winehq.org/

      • demencia
        December 29, 2015 at 2:15 pm

        PWND

  5. pierre
    December 28, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    and don't forget the commercial version of ./wine
    is sometimes better - - crossover ..

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