Just because there's a Windows application you must use doesn't mean you must run Windows. CodeWeavers CrossOver Linux enables you to run many popular Windows applications on Linux. Supported Windows applications include Microsoft Office (from Office 97 to Office 2010), Intuit Quicken, and some versions of Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop CS. CrossOver also runs games. For example, you can play such popular online games as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars.
Sure, with powerful enough hardware you could run your Windows applications on Linux inside a virtual machine (VM) such as Oracle's VirtualBox. The problem with these is that they don't run well on systems with limited resources. If CrossOver supports the applications you need you won't need to worry with fitting a VM.
CrossOver runs many but not all Windows programs. For example, you can run Visio 2010 on CrossOver Linux. AutoCAD? Not so much.
Will your program run on Linux, or for that matter CrossOver Mac? CrossOver keeps a complete listing of what runs, and what doesn't. You can also try CrossOver with a 15-day free trial to make sure the software you need works well on a Linux system.
CrossOver is based on the open-source project Wine, an implementation of the Windows application programming interface (API) on top of the Unix/Linux operating system family. Wine is a mature project with 20 plus years of work behind it.
Technically, you don't need CrossOver Linux to run Windows applications on Linux. You can do it with Wine alone -- if you know what you're doing. CrossOver gives you automated installation of Windows applications and technical support. In short, CrossOver makes it much easier to install and manage Windows applications on Linux.
CrossOver 15, the latest version, is available as a 15-day free trial. If you like it will cost $59.95. It comes with 12 months of upgrades and technical support. CrossOver is supported on Debian, Fedora, Mint, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Ubuntu. It should work on any Linux, but these are the officially supported distributions. CrossOver requires almost nothing from your PC except that it be capable of running Linux. Any PC from the last five years will have no trouble running it.
There's also a good free program, PlaysOnLinux, which duplicates some of CrossOver's functionality but doesn't have much support. If you're new to Linux, CrossOver is the best way to go. Since you can try it for free, you'll know before you buy whether it supports your favorite Windows applications.
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