Running Windows applications under Linux with CrossOver

Linux has a large and robust set of desktop applications that are equal or superior to their Windows equivalents. Some users, however, need specific applications that are only available in Windows. CrossOver Linux helps you deal with this by allowing you to install and run many Windows applications within Linux. No rebooting, no switching to a virtual machine, and no Windows license required.

CrossOver costs money, although a 30 day free trial is available. The makers encourage you to test the free trial with the applications you need before plunking down any money.

CrossOver Linux is available in two versions, standard and professional. The instructions that follow are based upon the professional version but are for the most part applicable to the standard version as well.

Although CrossOver Linux comes in RPM and DEB packages, I second the makers’ recommendation of using their easy-to-install script. Simply follow their clear installation instructions.

If you accept the makers’ recommendation to install in user mode, the CrossOver application will be installed in ~/cxoffice, while Windows applications and configuration files will be placed in ~/.cxoffice. Insure you have enough room in your home partition to accommodate this. For reference, my newly installed ~/cxoffice directory took 105 MB, and my newly installed ~/.cxoffice directory with one bottle (for Internet Explorer 7 and no user files) took 92 MB. You will certainly want to exclude ~/cxoffice from your backup routine, keeping the installer file in your backup archive instead. Depending on what you keep there, you may want to exclude ~/.cxoffice from your backup routine as well.

If instead you choose to install in private multi-user mode, then the CrossOver application will be installed in /opt/cxoffice, while each user’s Windows applications and configuration files will be placed in ~/.cxoffice. Again, consider available free space and backup configuration.

For simplicity’s sake, in the rest of this article I shall assume that the directory where the CrossOver application was installed is ~/cxoffice.

TODO: Next time, consider having /opt as a separate partition and install there, to keep /home cleaner.

When the installer finishes, you will have the option to install Windows software, which you will probably want to do.

On Debian or on an XDG-compliant desktop environment (DE), the installer creates the menu category Crossover, which contains the following items:

  • Install Windows Software ~/cxoffice/bin/cxinstaller
  • Manage Bottles ~/cxoffice/bin/cxsetup
  • Run a Windows Command ~/cxoffice/bin/cxrun
  • Terminate Windows Applications ~/cxoffice/bin/cxreset
  • Uninstall ~/cxoffice/bin/cxuninstall
  • User Documentation www-browser ~/cxoffice/doc/en/index.html

Gnome, KDE, and LXDE are popular DEs that are XDG compliant; as of this writing, Xfce is not. Users of non-compliant DEs may want to manually create these menu entries for this. How this is done depends upon your preferred DE, but the appropriate terminal command for each is shown above.

The following instructions assume you are using an XDG compliant DE.

Open the CrossOver Software Installer (usually CrossOver – Install Windows Software). For most supported software, the CrossOver Software Installer works similarly to many distribution’s package management system, fetching what you want from the Internet and installing it for you. In other cases you will be prompted to supply an installation medium. In any case, simply follow the on-screen instructions. Accepting the default values is usually best. In particular, I endorse the recommendation to install a new application into its own new bottle. That way, a troublesome application can’t break anything and is easy to cleanly remove.

When the installer finishes, application entries are created in the menu for you.

Users of non-compliant DEs may want to create menu entries for the new application; look for an appropriately named executable in ~/.cxoffice/BOTTLE-NAME/desktopdata/cxmenu/Shortcuts. For example, after installing Internet Explorer 7 into the uncreatively named bottle “Internet Explorer 7.0” I found the executable ~/.cxoffice/Internet Explorer 7.0/desktopdata/cxmenu/Shortcuts/cxoffice-6ecfb07c-1cf8-4655-86a9-363cbaaf5229.iexplore; giving that command from a terminal as user launched Internet Explorer.

TODO: Consider spinning off all consideration of menu entries for non-compliant DEs into a separate article.

Developing Windows code on Linux


About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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6 Responses to Running Windows applications under Linux with CrossOver

  1. wpost says:

    Yep, old hardware + MS Office = fail. You did well to upgrade.I'm not a Ubuntu user, so I can't help you with anything Ubuntu-specific. I do use Gnome as my desktop environment (in fact I grudgingly switched to it from Xfce for its CrossOver support) so perhaps some of this information will become useful to you later as you grow into Ubuntu and Linux.Have you tried CrossOver support? I've found them to be helpful, informative, and refreshingly non-techie.Do let me know if there are any ways I can add upon or improve on this information. I'd like to make it as generally useful as possible.And… good blog you have. Thanks for the URL.

  2. anonymous says:

    Non-techie Talk writes:I've been writing about my experiment with Ubuntu – while I'm generally excited about using it as my standard platform, but it's not "easy" for a non-techie person to navigate."Their clear installation instructions" are, unfortunately, not clear to me.I had been using Ubuntu in Wubi and that was a cool start but not viable long term (nor was wubi intended to be). I did, however, manage to install CrossOver on both work and home computers and was able to use MS Office in Ubuntu. That was cool, but the computers I was using were older and the experience, though novel, was not viable for my purposes.I recently got a new(er) desktop with Ubuntu fully installed on its own partition, and was looking to get my registered version of CrossOver up and running, and I can't figure it out, hence I did a search looking for (dare to dream) instructions that I could follow.Thus far, nothing :-(Anyway, I appreciate your post, it's just still over my non-techie head.

  3. anonymous says:

    Jon Parshall writes:Quote:"Have you tried CrossOver support? I've found them to be helpful, informative, and refreshingly non-techie."Thank you, Warren: that warms the cockles of our collective hearts. We feel we have great support ninjas, and I'm sure they'd be gratified to hear this. And thank you very much for the review–we appreciate it!-jon

  4. wpost says:

    My pleasure, Jon. A great product and great support from a great company deserves no less.

  5. Pingback: Developing Windows code on Linux | A maze of twisty little passages

  6. Pingback: Internet Explorer on Linux | A maze of twisty little passages

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