CodeWeavers has released CrossOver Office, a groundbreaking software solution that allows Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office to run like clockwork on the Linux operating system. Don’t believe me? I am currently writing this article in Word 2000 on the GNOME desktop, and I’m browsing the Web with Internet Explorer 5. Still don’t believe me? Take a look at Figure A.

Who’s behind this magic?
CodeWeavers has been the primary driving force behind the Wine project. Wine was started a number of years ago by Eric Youngdale, with the sole intention of running Windows 3x and Win32 APIs on top of the Linux/UNIX X Windowing System. Although Wine stands for Wine is not an emulator, you should, in fact, think of Wine as a Windows emulator—but with better performance than many emulators.

CodeWeavers has dumped a good deal of financial backing into the Wine project and used it to further its products. Not only has CodeWeavers given the Linux community the ability to run Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer, it has created a plug-in (called CrossOver Plugin) that integrates into other Linux Web browsers. The plug-in allows browsers to view standard media formats, such as QuickTime, Windows Media Player, Real Player, Flash, and Shockwave, and it supports the Word Viewer, Excel Viewer, and PowerPoint Viewer.

CrossOver Office costs $54.95, and you will need to have a license for Microsoft Office for Windows too. CrossOver Plugin costs $24.95.

Figure A
Look, it’s Internet Explorer running on Linux.

You won’t believe your eyes
With the introduction of CrossOver Office, CodeWeavers has made it possible to install these Windows applications directly on the Linux OS. The Internet Explorer browser you see running in Figure A was installed—with the help of CrossOver Office—from the Microsoft Office 2000 CD. This is not the Mac OS X version, nor a hacked wharez version, but the real deal from Microsoft itself.

With the help of Wine, CodeWeavers has managed to pull Internet Explorer out of Windows and transplant it into Linux. Although some features are not quite up to speed yet (e.g., file browsing doesn’t work, drop-down menus are a bit flaky, the JVM will not install), the browser as a whole works very well.

In addition to Internet Explorer, CodeWeavers has managed to get the entire Office 2000 suite of tools to work. Microsoft Word (Figure B), Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook all work under Linux. CrossOver Office allows you to run the Windows version of Lotus Notes, as well.

Figure B
Here’s an early draft of this article as I wrote it in Word on Linux.

It’s interesting that one of Microsoft’s main arguments in its antitrust case with the Justice Department was that Internet Explorer and the Windows operating system were so tightly integrated that separating them would render both unusable. The fact that CodeWeavers has found a way to get IE to run on Linux seems to show that the Windows operating system and the Internet Explorer browser are, in fact, two separate software entities.

Final analysis
So why is the Linux community in need of the Microsoft Office suite? Why would Linux users want to be able to use Microsoft products? After all, Sun is about to release StarOffice 6.0, a so-called MS Office killer that is poised to bite into a piece of the large Microsoft Office pie. We all know that in almost every organization, there are occasions that call for Microsoft Office. It’s nearly impossible to get through a workweek without having to fire up a Windows machine and open up a Microsoft Office application, especially Word and Outlook. However, with CodeWeavers, at least you have the option of installing these applications on Linux rather than having to dual-boot into Windows or have a separate Windows machine. Furthermore, this could open the floodgate for Linux as a viable alternative to Windows on the desktop.