Codeweavers has released a final version of CrossOver Office 6 - the software that provides Windows-application compatilibity - to both Linux and Mac OS X, marking the first-ever release of CrossOver Office for Mac.
CrossOver Office is built upon the open source Wine framework, but provides additional features, such as an easy-to-use interface, and increased support of Windows applications.
Although previous support for Windows games was provided by Apple's Boot Camp or Parallels Workstation, both required you to own a license of Windows XP, and in the case of the former required rebooting, and in the latter required a virtual machine. CrossOver on the other hand, (and Wine for that matter) take advantage of the fact that Linux and Windows both run on an X86 processor, and simply provide a Windows library so that the programs can run.
Of course, no program is perfect, and because Windows is not open source, the developers of Wine had to do it the hard way: reverse-engineer the Windows libraries, which they have proven was quite successful, however many incompatibilities exist in the program, and Wine provides only a Windows 2000 layer. CrossOver Office builds on that, making a bigger and better Wine, although it's not free.
But what's the point of talking about the application? Let's try it out!
Since the Mac release is more significant, and also because I'm running it at the moment, I'm going to use Mac OS X as the test operating system. The dmg is relatively small, weighing in at 27 megabytes.
Installing programs is really easy, as it gives you a list of supported applications to install, as it knows how to install them automatically, or you can manually pick the CD or installation program that you want to use.
For this example, I first tried out Firefox. The installation worked as expected, although it did give out a few minor errors. However, I could not figure out where or if it actually did install. The log was quite lengthy and difficult to tell if it actually was installed. The compatibility database on Codeweaver's site did not reveal any useful information; it simply said that Firefox 2.0 is "untested".
Next, I decided to install an application I knew would work; Internet Explorer 6.0, which is officially supported by CrossOver. The installation went smoothly, and it downloaded the necessary components needed for Explorer.
Once installed, CrossOver creates a nice "Internet Explorer.app" file on your hard disk so that you can conveniently launch a Windows application from the Finder. Internet Explorer performed fairly well, allowing me to browse around and use its features.
I then tried Visual Studio 2005, as this had been unsupported on Wine. Unfortunately, it failed saying and error had occurred. Too bad, I always wanted to run Visual Studio on a Mac ;).
Using it with various programs installed by Wine proved to be very successful, allowing me to operate each with ease.
Installing further applications "fully supported" by CrossOver yielded just as good results, automatically downloading files that were freely available, and with paid apps, prompting you to insert the installation CD.
Here's my final analysis:
CrossOver works very smooth - much smoother than the open source project Darwine, which also is a Wine wrapper. The supported applications worked flawlessly, and it was nice to have separate apps in a convenient folder to be able to run them.
However, don't just throw away Parallels and Boot Camp just yet. For one thing, the application support is quite limited. Although it's supposed to provide far more support than Wine, in reality it doesn't provide that much more. There are many, many unsupported applications, and that is probably the biggest drawback. But also, I found that Darwine had a far worse compatibility than Wine and is far away from maturity still, so CrossOver might be the answer you've been looking for on the Mac platform. If you're on Linux though, you may want to hang back...