For many users, the biggest hurdle to using Linux is one or more necessary applications that only exist for the Windows platform. Although the system exists (Wine), it’s not something the average user (or system admin working with a lot of machines) wants to deal with. Fortunately, there are tools that allow you to easily install popular Windows software from an easy to use GUI.

One such tool is PlayOnLinux, a graphical front end based on Wine. PlayOnLinux has all of the advantages and power of Wine, without the complexity of the command line. PlayOnLinux is so simple to use that anyone can install Windows applications on a Linux box. Why would you want to run Windows software on a Linux system? For many, the answer is simple: You can have the applications of a Windows system with the security and reliability of a Linux system.

What PlayOnLinux offers

PlayOnLinux offers a lot of games, but if you look at the other categories of installable applications, you will find these options among the listing:

  • AutoCAD 2000-2008
  • Flash MX
  • Adobe Photoshop C4
  • Fireworks 8
  • IE 6/7
  • Safari
  • iTunes 10
  • Windows Media Player
  • Microsoft Money 2003/2004
  • Microsoft Office 2000/2003/2007/2010

Installing PlayOnLinux

I will be installing on a Ubuntu 11.04 box, but depending on your distribution, these steps will differ. Visit the PlayOnLinux download page and download the package suitable for your distribution. Then open a terminal window and install the application. For the Ubuntu distribution, the installation command would be:

sudo dpkg -i Playonlinux-XXX.deb (where XXX is the release number)

You can install from the Add/Remove Software tool, but I find that you wind up with an out of date version of the software if you do. Figure A illustrates what you will see when you are running an out of date version.
Figure A

Not only is the version update warning available, but the icons are also of the older variety.

After the installation, start PlayOnLinux from the Start menu (you will most likely find the menu entry in the Games sub-menu). When you first run PlayOnLinux, you will have to walk through the first run wizard. This wizard includes the installation of the Microsoft core fonts. Once the fonts have been downloaded and installed, the core drive will be created, and you are ready to begin.

Installing applications

Now the fun begins. From the main window, click the Install icon. In the Install Menu window (Figure B) that happens, you can select from the left navigation the applications you want to install.
Figure B

A nice touch is that you can also install patches for currently installed applications.

Before you begin the installation, be aware that some applications (such as Microsoft Office) require the installation CDs, and any application that requires a license key will require the key, so have all that ready before you begin the installation.

To highlight the installation process, let’s install Microsoft Office 2010. You won’t find the 2010 release of Microsoft Office in the Office menu entry. If you click Most Downloaded, however, you’ll find the listing (Figure C). Click the Microsoft Office 2010 entry from there and then click Install.
Figure C

I don’t understand why Microsoft Office 2010 is in the Most Downloaded listing but not in the main menu.

The installation wizard is simple, but you need to be aware of two possible gotchas. The installer will probably not find the Geko engine installed and will have to install the tool before it continues. The second gotcha is if the installer can locate your installation media (Figure D). More than likely you won’t have any problem with that, unless your desktop isn’t set up to autodetect installation media. If it isn’t, make sure the media is mounted before you begin the installation process.
Figure D

The Microsoft Office Media is detected and ready to install.

For the installation of Microsoft Office, the .NET Framework will automatically be downloaded and installed. After the installation completes, you will see the individual Microsoft Office applications listed in the main window (Figure E). To run the application, select it and click the Run button.
Figure E

The individual Microsoft Office applications listed in the main window.


As you can see, PlayOnLinux makes it easy to install Windows applications on Linux. PlayOnLinux is not, however, perfect; you may come across some bugs in the system. If you spot any bugs or crashes, do yourself and the developers a favor and submit the automated bug reports, so they can continue improving the product.