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Review: Crossover Office 5

By Aditya Nag on December 23, 2005 (8:00:00 AM)

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If you just can't bear to part with Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, or Quicken, but want to make the switch to Linux, relax -- CodeWeavers' CrossOver Office has you covered.

While it is technically possible to install Windows software on Linux using the Wine project, it requires a lot of technical knowhow and painful troubleshooting. It's not as simple as putting in a CD and clicking Install.

CodeWeavers' flagship product, Crossover Office, is based on the Wine project, but incorporates substantial changes to make installation of Windows programs a piece of cake. CrossOver Office version 5.0 was released at the end of October, and offers support for several versions of Microsoft Office -- including Office 2003 -- Adobe Photoshop, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Quicken, and a host of other Windows software.

The most notable change in this new version is the concept of "bottles." A bottle is basically a separate virtual drive for each instance of installed software. For example, if you install Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop, they will exist on separate virtual drives, with separate files.

This approach has certain drawbacks, the most noticeable of which rears its head when you need something like Internet Explorer, which is generally installed only once and then used by various programs. When using CrossOver Office, you'll need to install IE in every bottle separately. It is possible to force an application to install in an existing bottle, but CrossOver Office warns you that doing so is "likely to produce errors." I tried installing Flash MX and Dreamweaver MX in the same bottle, and it worked, but other applications might not.

The advantages to this approach outweigh this inconvenience, though. You can be sure that installing a new program will not ruin a working program. This used to happen occasionally with previous versions of CrossOver Office, and it was a major show-stopper. The peace of mind the new approach gives is worth the slight trouble of installing some software multiple times.

CrossOver Office is available in Standard ($40) and Professional ($70) editions. The two are functionally identical, but the Professional version has some extra features that home users won't really miss, such as multi-user support and the ability to create RPMs with CrossOver Office and Windows apps installed under CrossOver Office. The company also offers a CrossOver Office Server Edition, which allows CrossOver Office to run on thin clients.

Installing the software

According to the requirements page, CrossOver Office should run on many Linux distributions on x86 hardware, with a 200MHz or faster CPU and at least 50MB of disk space available. CrossOver Office also requires Glibc 2.2.5 or higher, and Perl 5 or later with threads enabled.

Installing Microsoft Office with CrossOver
Installing Microsoft Office with CrossOver - click to enlarge

I tested Crossover Office Professional under Ubuntu 5.10 and SUSE 10.0. After I downloaded the 15MB file, installation was a simple matter of double-clicking and pressing "Next" a few times. It installed properly in less than two minutes, and added itself to the GNOME menu in Ubuntu, and the KDE menu in SUSE.

Once I had the software installed, I started to install a list of Windows software: Microsoft Office 2003, Dreamweaver MX and Flash MX, Adobe Photoshop, Apple iTunes, and Musicmatch Jukebox.

Office 2003 installed and worked fairly well, with the exception of Outlook 2003. Outlook support in CrossOver Office always lags a version or two behind the latest version of Microsoft Office. Outlook 2000 and XP work to some extent, if not perfectly. The lack of Outlook 2003 support is noted on the CodeWeavers site.

Running Microsoft Excel in Ubuntu Linux
Running Microsoft Excel in Ubuntu Linux - click to enlarge

Word 2003 and Excel 2003 worked well, and I was able to open complex documents on which OpenOffice.org chokes. The apps even seemed to work a little faster on Linux than on Windows, on the same hardware. This is probably because my Windows installation has accumulated all sorts of crud, while the Crossover Office bottle has nothing but the essentials required to run Microsoft Office. Still, it was rather surprising to see Microsoft apps working better under Linux!

Dreamweaver MX and Flash MX worked perfectly, but the more recent 2004 versions do not work at all. Adobe Photoshop had a similar tale to tell. Version 7 worked flawlessly, but the newer versions would not even install. Apple iTunes 4.9.0 was functional, though CD ripping and syncing with my iPod did not work. Musicmatch Jukebox 10 did not install at all.

The separate bottles approach leads to some interesting situations. For instance, if you are using a version of Internet Explorer in one bottle, and have Microsoft Office loaded in another bottle, you can't copy and paste text between them. It seems like it should work, but it doesn't. It was a bewildering few minutes before I figured out what was going on. As long as you remember that different bottles are essentially independent Windows machines, everything's fine. Web developers especially will appreciate the ability to have different versions of Internet Explorer installed independently, for testing purposes.

Summary

At the end of the day, Crossover Office does a few things very well. Office runs well, and some major apps like Dreamweaver, Flash, and Photoshop will work, as long as you don't try using the latest versions.

Is this worth paying for? It depends on your needs. If you are able to work with the Linux alternatives like OpenOffice.org, the GIMP, and Nvu, then by all means save your money and buy a Tux T-shirt instead.

However, if you have effort and money invested, or you absolutely have to have Microsoft Office, Dreamweaver or any of the other supported apps, Crossover Office is a useful purchase, and less expensive than alternatives such as Win4Lin and VMware (those those programs also offer more functionality for their higher price). It's not perfect, and has its share of problems, but CodeWeavers has focused on getting the essentials right, and it has done a fairly good job.

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Comments

on Review: Crossover Office 5

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cxoffice only works on full versions, not upgrades

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 23, 2005 11:48 PM
I tried Crossover Office 5 as soon as it was released. I have a copy of Works and the Upgrade to Office 2003. I started the installer and it got as far as asking for the upgraded app's CD, then balked.

I spoke to support, whose response was "we've not tested upgrades but it probably won't work. Can you use a full version of MS Office?".

Sorry, no I can't. I'm not shelling out another several hundred dollars, I'll just use VMWare instead. I'd quite happily have paid for this product but right now it simply doesn't do what I want (of which, letting MS Office install would be the first step).

#

Re:cxoffice only works on full versions, not upgra

Posted by: jeremy_p_white on December 24, 2005 01:09 AM
I'm not sure I'd make a blanket statement on that; we can't test every CD, but it should
work, and we'd like to make it work for
every CD.



We're also tweaking some installer code in our
upcoming 5.0.1 release which will hopefully
improve the situation a bit.


This can be a bit tricky, because there are enough
versions out there that we can't make any promises.


So we often need folks to send us the
fully licensed CD that causes trouble so
we can iron out wrinkles. Understandably,
that's not always easy for folks, so this
takes time.
But we got through this with Office 2K
and XP, and we'll get through it with
o2k3 as well.


Not sure what happened in your case. Candidly,
we try not to spend too much time on trial
users (we tend to focus on customers), but
usually we offer someone the opportunity to
send us a troubled CD; those that do, often
have their problems fixed.


Cheers,


Jeremy

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Re:cxoffice only works on full versions, not upgra

Posted by: The Spoonman on December 28, 2005 12:30 AM
What happens if you try to install Office without installing Works first and when it asks for the upgrade CD, you simply point it at the Office CD you're installing from? That's worked for me in the past when I only had an upgrade version available (it worked in at least Office 2000, haven't had a need to try it with later versions). Older versions of Office only required msoffice.exe to be somewhere on the hard drive in order to "update".

#

I like FOSS

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 24, 2005 02:18 AM
I like more to use FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) and that is free of charge.

And I can use Wine, it is good for me. And there are much Linux native software that is very good too.

#

Re:I like FOSS

Posted by: jeremy_p_white on December 24, 2005 05:23 AM
You do realize that the reason Wine works well
is because we work directly on Wine, and
then only release CrossOver as a stable
and supported version of Wine?


And that we've only been able to improve
Wine as dramatically as we have because
of the support our customers have shown us?


It's not an either/or choice; you can use
all of our work for Free, by visiting www.winehq.org, or you can choose to support us
and be supported by us by visiting www.codeweavers.com. That's the part of
'Free' I like best - Free Market.


Cheers,


Jeremy

#

screen shots

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 24, 2005 02:25 AM
what kind of moron makes screen shots in jpegs? Use gif or png.

#

Re:screen shots

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 24, 2005 03:44 AM
What's wrong with jpegs? Please enlighten.

#

jpegs

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 24, 2005 06:01 AM
aren't "free" as in speech

#

Re:jpegs

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 26, 2005 03:16 AM
> aren't "free" as in speech

As I understand it, there's some unscrupulous IP company that's claimed they own a related patent. It's kind of like saying Linux isn't "free" because SCO says they own it.

#

Re:screen shots

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 25, 2005 05:19 AM
You don't use jpegs for screen shots because jpeg is a lossy format. GIF or PNG are lossless and work great on screen shots or animation. JPEG is better for continuous tone images like pictures.

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"Pictures"

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 27, 2005 03:20 PM
Pictures --> meaning "Photographs"

Gifs would've been smaller for the same quality.

Darkelve

#

Seems ironic...

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 24, 2005 06:22 AM
Ok everyone complains about paying for an os from microsoft, but will gladly pay for middleware to run microsoft apps. qemu is free and will do what vmware will (at half the speed) or buy vmware and enjoy what windows can offer. it's like having a blonde and a brunette girlfriend. Heck, download the latest osx-x86 and run with a pack of os's.

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This is great.

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 26, 2005 05:17 PM
I can only shake my head at the previous posters' comments.

As CTO of a multimillion dollar company, I tend to use FOSS tools primarily, but not exclusively. What the CodeWeaver group is doing should be supported by the community as much as possible for several reasons:

* they improve wine, a good thing
* they are facilitating FOSS software penetration into the corporate ecosystem, which pays numerous peripheral benefits.
* they are willing to support companies with quality software, which is somewhat rare in the FOSS world.

so instead of complaining, or offering totally useless commentary (i.e. "I like for free stuff better"), offer your -help- in getting bugs worked out or just keep quiet.

my<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.02.

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I'm very happy with v5.0 of Crossover Office

Posted by: Anonymous Coward on December 30, 2005 08:03 AM
I waited almost a year for v5.0 of Crossover Office. I had purchased the Student Edition of Microsoft Office 2003 at the beginning of 2005 and was very disappointed when I couldn't find any means to run it on Linux. Once v5.0 of cxoffice was released I waited a couple of weeks then downloaded the trial version. I was delighted with the product. It installed very easily. It is easy to install applications into the cxoffice environment. Cxoffice even created menu items in my KDE start button menu, and adds icons when I add Microsoft applications. I am definitely going to purchase this excellent product. I highly recommend it for anyone that absolutely need to run Microsoft Office 2003.

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iam confused

Posted by: Administrator on December 24, 2005 06:23 PM
this is confusing me i thought this site was to create a site but i can find the purpose for this site

#

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