One of the reasons why some users don't opt for Linux is because their favorite Windows applications cannot be found within the various iterations of the software center (GNOME Software, Ubuntu Software, Elementary's AppCenter, KDE's Discovery, etc.) That's an understandable concern, as many depend upon Windows software to get their daily job done, even though there are open source equivalents for most tasks. But when an open source alternative won't work, what do you do?
You make use of Wine.
For those who aren't aware, Wine (which was originally a recursive acronym for Wine Is Not an Emulator) is a compatibility layer that makes it possible to install many Windows apps on Linux. The problem with Wine (especially for the average user) is that it's a command line tool, and most new and average Linux users aren't always comfortable with the command line. On top of that, should a desktop user be required to make use of the command line? Although that question might ruffle a few feathers in the Linux community, if it were asked within the Windows community, nary an eye would blink before someone would answer, "No."
SEE: Software licensing policy (Tech Pro Research)
And so, it should go without saying, anyone that needs (or wants) to install Windows apps on Linux shouldn't have to bother with the command line. It's a good thing they don't. How? Even though Wine is a command line tool, there is a powerful front-end for this compatibility layer, called PlayOnLinux, that allows users to easily install Windows apps—all through a well-designed GUI tool.
PlayOnLinux serves as a sort of app store for Windows software on Linux. Once installed, you can search through the lengthy listing of software, select what you want, and install it. Do understand, for any piece of software that requires an installation license, you'll need that license on hand (as PlayOnLinux isn't a means to install proprietary software without having to pay the piper). In some cases, you might also need an installation media (although that is becoming rare these days) or a downloaded installer file.
I'm going to show you how to install PlayOnLinux on the Ubuntu Desktop 18.04. The process is similar in most desktop distributions, but you'll need to alter the steps accordingly.
With that said, let's install.
Since we're talking about avoiding the command line, let's install PlayOnLinux via the GUI app store. In the case of Ubuntu, that means Ubuntu Software. Click to open Ubuntu Software. From the main window (Figure A), click the search button and type PlayOnLinux.
Click on the PlayOnLinux entry, and then click the Install button. You will be prompted for your user password. After typing your password, hit Enter and the software (and its dependencies) will be installed.
After PlayOnLinux is installed, click on the Dash and type PlayOnLinux. You should see the application launcher. Click the launcher, and the program will start. From the main PlayOnLinux window, click the Install a Program button. A new window will appear (Figure B), populated with categories and titles of software that can be installed.
Search through the categories and listings of software until you find the app you want to install. Select that app, and click the Install button in the bottom right corner of the window. As I mentioned earlier, many applications will require that you either have the installer CD or the downloaded installer file. Should that be the case for the app you are trying to install, you will be prompted to either insert the CD or locate the downloaded file. The installation wizard at this point is as simple as if you were installing on Windows. A click of a button here, a type of a license there, and viola!, your software is installed.
Simple Windows App install
That's all there is to installing Windows apps on Linux. I should mention that not every app will work with a 100% compatibility. However, most apps do work quite well, but you will run into an occasional piece of software that has a few issues. To find out how well supported your app in question is, head over to the PlayOnLinux Supported Software page.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.