Many users opt out of the Linux OS simply because they have to use Microsoft Office and, in the past, Linux and Microsoft Office have been the IT equivalent of oil and water—they just didn’t mix. But now, with the help of CodeWeavers‘ new CrossOver Office product, any Linux user can also use Office. In this Daily Feature, I will show you how to do what, until recently, was unthinkable: Install CrossOver Office and work with Microsoft Office 2000 in Linux.

How it works, how you get it
Although I haven’t always been a huge fan of the Wine utility, CodeWeavers has managed to bring it to a much more stable level. Which is a good thing, since Wine is just what CodeWeavers has used to bring Office to Linux. In the past, I’ve found Wine to be the root of multiple problems. Take, for instance, the fiasco involving the (now defunct) Corel Office 2000 suite. Corel had implemented its version of Wine, which did nothing more than lock up the desktop and render either GNOME or KDE unstable. While it’s still not perfect, CodeWeavers’ version of Wine doesn’t affect these areas and is a vast improvement over the earlier implementations of Wine.

Getting CrossOver Office is a simple process. Just go to the CodeWeavers site, purchase a copy of the downloadable version (currently retailing for approximately $55), wait for the download code to arrive in your inbox, click on the provided link (within the e-mail), enter the specific codes, and download the install-crossover-office-1.0.0-sh file.

The installation
Installing CrossOver Office (and Microsoft Office) is very simple. Open up a console, switch to the directory that the binary file was saved to, and issue the following commands (as a regular user):
chmod u+x

Once the above install command is run, the install GUI will open and the installation process will begin. The first step of the installation process is to install the CrossOver tool. Once the CrossOver tool is installed, the OfficeSetup window will appear (see Figure A).

Figure A
Add/Remove allows you to install applications, Associations allows you to dictate which desktop you use (GNOME or KDE), and Configuration allows you to dictate installation and font directories.

To begin the installation of Microsoft Office, insert the Office CD into the CD drive, click on the Add/Remove tab in the OfficeSetup window, highlight Microsoft Office, and click Add.

Eventually, the all-too-familiar sight of the Microsoft Installation Wizard will appear (see Figure B).

Figure B
Even in Linux, you still have to enter the Microsoft CD Key number.

Once the CD Key is entered, the installation of Microsoft Office will proceed as usual. After the application is installed, however, you’ll notice some changes. The first indication that things are a bit different occurs when the Microsoft installation dictates that the machine be rebooted. But this is Linux, so there will be no rebooting. Instead, the CrossOver Office utility simulates a reboot (see Figure C) so that Office can finish up the installation process.

Figure C
No rebooting necessary here, thanks to Linux.

The “reboot” takes only seconds, after which, it’s time to associate certain mime types and services to a particular desktop environment. Each mime type and service must be associated with either GNOME or KDE, a task performed in the Association window. If both desktop environments aren’t used (or if a particular mime type/service doesn’t have a specific association in either desktop environment), then there’s a third entry, Netscape/Mailcap.

After the associations are complete, Microsoft Office is ready to run.

Running Microsoft Office
The default installation directory (when installed as a normal user) will be $USER/cxoffice (where $USER is a normal user, not root). Within the installation directory is the bin directory, which houses all of the executable binary files. Move to the $USER/cxoffice/bin directory and issue the command winword (again, do this as a normal user, not root). Voila. Microsoft Word will run (see Figure D).

Figure D
With CrossOver Office, Microsoft Word runs as if it were under its native environment.

The executables for all of the Microsoft Office Suite can be found in the bin directory. There are also some executables you don’t want to run. One executable, wineserver, shouldn’t be run because it’s called from within the execution of each application. By calling wineserver directly, the individual applications won’t be able to run.

There are a few issues with the CrossOver Office tool. The first and most lethal is that if a previous installation of Wine is located on the machine, none of the Microsoft Office tools will run. To get around this, all of the files in /usr/lib/wine must be removed and the command rpm -e wine must be run as root. Once Wine has been successfully removed, CrossOver Office can be safely installed.

Another quirk of CrossOver Office, due to the use of Wine, is that the drop-down menus (within Microsoft’s Office Suite) don’t behave exactly as they do in the native Windows environment. When you click on a drop-down menu (such as File or Edit), you can’t just move your mouse down to the target entry (such as Save or Save As…). Instead, once you click the left mouse button on File, you have to hold the mouse button down until the cursor reaches the target entry and then click on the entry. Once you release the mouse button within a drop-down menu, the menu goes away. The drop-down menu behavior is a bit annoying at first but quickly becomes second nature.

Is it worth the $$$?
Ask yourself one question: Can you live without Microsoft Office? If you can’t, then CrossOver Office is a must-have. Not only are you able to run Microsoft’s Office Suite in a much more stable environment, but you no longer have to worry about such issues as Word macros taking down a system. That alone is worth $55.