It’s a common belief that one cannot simply run Windows software while running with a Linux distribution. And to be fair, this is partially true, at least when it comes to running said software natively. The real truth of the matter is that with some modifications, additional tools and a bit of patience, you can indeed run many Windows applications as if you were using them on a Windows desktop. The downside to this however, is there are a multitude of common methods to make this a reality.

No sense in whining, just use WINE

One of the fastest ways of running various Windows applications is through the use of a tool called WINE. What makes using WINE compelling is the fact you don’t need a copy of Windows to run the Windows software. It’s actually pretty good with a number of titles, despite often being incredibly slow to install and run those apps. Still, it can be an effective means of running software without a lot of frustration.

For the most part, the software titles with the great history of success tend to be Windows games for some reason. In recent years the software with the worst case of failure of running or installing are Microsoft software products. Sometimes one can find tweaks to deal with this, but it rarely works and the best bet is to refer to the WINE database before even getting started. Can save you a lot of wasted time.  As you can see in this image below, you can run MS Publisher 2007 just fine, until you try to open a template in which it freezes. And yes, the image of the Storm Trooper is indeed Moonwalking. That’s how they “roll” in the Empire.

How To Run Windows Software With Linux
Photo by Matt Hartley

Run an OS inside of an OS – Virtual Machines

Without question, the easiest method to run Windows software is simply to run Windows. I happen to be partial of VirtualBox, since it allows me to install any OS I choose in a matter of minutes and each installation supports cool stuff like USB devices, on the guest OS installation. This means if I want to run updates for my iPhone, I can do so safely without fear of breaking something. The device thinks I’m running Windows natively and all is well because of this.

There are plenty of other options with the same general idea. VMWare, Parallels, the list goes on. One really cool approach I had not tried before, is basically using VMWare to launch what visually appears to be a single application thanks to VMWare unity mode. Check this out.

vmware-unity-helper -r /home/matt/vmware/Windows 7/Windows 7.vmx 'C:\Program FilesMicrosoft OfficeOffice12WINWORD.exe'

Running that command will allow MS Word to run in a mode of VMWare that makes it feel like the software is running without the benefit of Windows. What should be noted however is, Windows is indeed installed on the VMWare appliance. Cool, huh? You can also use this same approach with other Windows applications as well. Just need their executable addressed in there. And unlike using WINE, this method with VMWare ensures it’s going to work well.