Running Microsoft Office on Linux with CrossOver Office 2.0

This tutorial shows how to install and run Microsoft Office on a Linux system using CrossOver Office.

After finally patching your last Windows desktop for the latest RPC vulnerability, have you ever thought to yourself, "I wish there was an easier way"? Maybe you considered dipping your toes in the water with Linux at the desktop but quickly realized the hurdles that you would have to jump to get there— especially the hurdle imposed by your users' use of Microsoft Office. With CrossOver Office 2.0, you can make that first leap to Linux AND almost flawlessly run Office 97, 2000, and XP at the same time.

Getting CrossOver Office 2.0
CrossOver Office is available for a 30-day trial download from the CodeWeavers Web site. You can also purchase a single copy for $54.95. If you need a large quantity of licenses, you should contact CodeWeavers. For this article, I downloaded the trial to give the product a shot. I'll be installing Office 2000 Premium. Office XP is also supported, but it has more problems running than Office 2000.

Once I signed up for the trial, I downloaded a script to execute in order to install the software. Once executed, I was greeted with a license, which I agreed to, followed by the screen shown in Figure A below.

Figure A
This is the initial CrossOver Office installation screen.

For the purposes of this article, I am installing CrossOver Office into /opt/cxoffice, which is the default location. If you install the product while logged in as root, you can provide the ability for all users to use the software. If you install it as a non-root user, only the user who installed the software will be able to make use of it. As a non-root user, the program will be installed into $HOME/cxoffice.

To continue the installation, click Begin Install. You'll see a progress bar followed by a completion notice. That was the complete installation!

Installing Office
Once installed, you need to start the CrossOver Office setup utility. Choose the Gnome icon | Programs | CrossOver | Office Setup to begin the configuration. You will be asked to provide proxy information if you use a proxy server. Then, you will be presented with the screen shown in Figure B.

Figure B
This screen shows the CrossOver Office Setup.

As I said, for this article, I'll be installing Office 2000 Premium. According to CodeWeavers, you should be able to run Office 2000 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Internet Explorer with very few problems. It should be noted that Outlook and Access are only supported for Office 2000—not for Office XP. Additionally, only Word 2000, Excel 2000, and PowerPoint 2000 have "gold" certification, which means that the programs should operate as expected with only very minor—if any—problems. Outlook 2000, Access 2000, and Internet Explorer 5.0 and 5.5 have silver support, which means that the application runs well enough to be usable but may have significant functionality problems. However, CodeWeavers is committed to getting these silver applications gold certified. Also be aware that the XP/2002 versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are silver certified. Outlook XP/2002 and Access XP/2002 are not supported.

To begin the installation of Office 2000, click the Install button. Make sure that the Office 2000 installation CD is in the system and mounted. You will be presented with a list of currently supported applications, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C
Here is the list of CrossOver Office-supported applications.

From this list, select your desired application and click Next. I've chosen Office 2000. On the next screen, shown in Figure D, you will be asked to provide the location of the Office 2000 CD. I have my Office CD mounted at /mnt/cdrom. This is the default choice.

Figure D
On this screen, you will select the Office 2000 CD location.

Click Next to continue. Throughout the installation process, CrossOver Office will assist you in installing the components that are required for a successful Office 2000 system. One of these components is DCOM95. Since it's probably not on your Linux system, the CrossOver Office installer will go get it and install it for you, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E
This screen recommends that you install DCOM95.

Click Next to continue. When the DCOM95 installation is completed, you'll have the option to delete the installation files and to continue with the Office 2000 installation. Click Finish to continue. When the Office 2000 installer starts, you'll see the screen shown in Figure F.

Figure F
Here is the Office 2000 installer.

If you've ever installed Office 2000, you should recognize this screen, as it looks almost identical on every Windows system. Provide the requested information and click Next.

The next screen is the Office 2000 EULA. Click Next. Then, you can choose either a typical or custom installation. I'm going to use the default typical installation, which will install IE5 and the most common Office components. Once the installer starts, you'll see a progress bar.

During the Office 2000 installation, a system reboot is sometimes required. CrossOver Office also handles this by simulating a Windows reboot. You'll get a screen like the one in Figure G when this happens. Your computer will not actually reboot when this happens.

Figure G
Here you can see a Windows reboot simulation.

After the simulated reboot, you'll see the window shown in Figure H. You generally see this after installing Internet Explorer on a Windows machine.

Figure H
This screen shows the Windows user settings being updated.

After Office 2000 is installed, you'll get a notice from CrossOver Office that it's done. Office 2000 is installed. Click Finish to exit.

The CrossOver Office Manager now includes a number of Windows applications, including Office 2000, Media Player, and some TrueType fonts, as shown in Figure I. Click OK to exit the CrossOver Office setup.

Figure I
Here you can see the Windows application list.

Running Office 2000
Now that it's installed, you can run Office 2000 just like any other Windows application. Point to the Gnome menu | KDE menus | CrossOver | Your application. On my test system, I was unable to use the CrossOver option on the Gnome menus to start the Windows applications. In Figure J below, you can see that I am successfully running Word 2000 on my Red Hat desktop.

Figure J
Here you can see Word 2000 running on my Red Hat system.

If you have printers defined on your system, they should show up in the Microsoft applications as if they were Windows printers. CrossOver Office uses CUPS. I have created a printer on the system named HP3300. As you can see in Figure K, this printer shows up as available for Word's use.

Figure K
The HP3300 shows up in Word, too.

Another common application: Internet Explorer
Much to the chagrin of many who prefer standards compliance over functionality, there are a plethora of Web sites that only support Internet Explorer. With the Office 2000 installation, Internet Explorer 5 was installed and can be used to browse many of these sites. Additionally, Internet Explorer 6 is supported by CrossOver Office.

To install it, start the CrossOver Office management utility, click the Install button, and select Internet Explorer 6 from the list. Rather than a minimal install, which just installs IE and its required components, perform a Typical Installation instead, which includes Outlook Express and Media Player. Figure L shows the installation progress screen for IE6.

Figure L
Here you can see Internet Explorer 6 installation progress.

When the installation finishes, CrossOver Office will simulate a Windows reboot and configure IE6's user preferences like it did before for IE5. Once complete, I had to manually add an icon for Internet Explorer 6 because CrossOver Office did not add one for me. While CrossOver does include a utility for fixing broken icons, it did not work for me in this instance.

I added an icon to the KDE menus | CrossOver group called Internet Explorer with a run dialog of:
/opt/cxoffice/bin/wine "C:~WB~Program Files~WB~Internet Explorer~WB~IEXPLORE.EXE"

The C: drive in CrossOver Office and Wine is simulated and backslashes are replaced with ~WB~. After this, IE6 ran as it should, as you can see in Figure M.

Figure M
You can see that Internet Explorer 6 is installed and running.

Unfortunately, the browser hung each time I tried to use Outlook Web Access on my Exchange 2003 server. For browsing other sites, it worked just fine.

Cross over to the other side
Getting Windows programs to run under Linux is extraordinarily difficult. Microsoft programs are especially difficult because they don't always use standard API calls. However, for Office 2000, once minor installation annoyances are fixed, it does what it is supposed to do.

Installation is pretty easy, although I had to take a couple of manual steps to get certain applications running and no Windows applications showed up on the Gnome menus.

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