Just because there's a Windows application you must use doesn't mean you must run Windows. CodeWeaver's CrossOver Linux enables you to run many popular Windows applications on Linux. Supported Windows applications include Microsoft Office (from Office 97 to Office 2010), Intuit Quicken, and some versions of Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop CS. CrossOver also runs games. For example, you can play such popular online games as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars.
Sure, with powerful enough hardware you could run your Windows applications on Linux inside a virtual machine (VM) such as Oracle's VirtualBox. The problem with these is that they don't run well on systems with limited resources. If CrossOver supports the applications you need you won't need to worry with fitting a VM.
Will your program run on Linux, or for that matter CrossOver Mac? CrossOver keeps a complete listing of what runs, and what doesn't. You can also try CrossOver with a 15-day free trial to make sure the software you need works well on a Linux system.
CrossOver is based on the open-source project Wine, an implementation of the Windows application programming interface (API) on top of the Unix/Linux operating system family. Wine is a mature project with 20 plus years of work behind it.
Technically, you don't need CrossOver Linux to run Windows applications on Linux. You can do it with Wine alone -- if you know what you're doing. CrossOver gives you automated installation of Windows applications and technical support. In short, CrossOver makes it much easier to install and manage Windows applications on Linux
CrossOver 15, the latest version, is available as a 15-day free trial. If you like it will cost $59.95. It comes with 12 months of upgrades and technical support. CrossOver is supported on Debian, Fedora, Mint, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and Ubuntu. It should work on any Linux, but these are the officially supported distributions. CrossOver requires almost nothing from your PC except that it be capable of running Linux. Any PC from the last five years will have no trouble running it.
There's also a good free program, PlaysOnLinux, which duplicates some of CrossOver's functionality but doesn't have much support. If you're new to Linux, CrossOver is the best way to go. Since you can try it for free, you'll know before you buy whether it supports your favorite Windows applications.
How to install Microsoft Office 2010 on Linux with CrossOver (Gallery)
CrossOver runs on pretty much any x86 Linux system. To install the program, you simply download the appropriate version for your version of Linux -- Mint in my case -- and open the downloaded file. This will bring up the Package Installer. Then simply click on the "Install Package" button and you'll be on your way.
Once that's done, installing Windows applications tends to be easy. From the CrossOver interface, you just choose which Windows applications you want from the list of supported applications. Then you point the installer to the installtion file or CD/DVD and soon things will look just like they do when you install a Windows program, on Windows.
You can also install applications that are not "officially" supported. For example, I always put one of my favorite HTML editors, NoteTab, on Linux even though it's not officially supported.
You can also add useful Windows components to CrossOver/Linux aside from actual applications. For example, I install the most common Windows fonts, such as Arial and Times Roman.
Some applications will require that you install some Linux components as well. Usually there are 32-bit libraries that you'll need even if you're running a 64-bit version of Linux. The CrossOver installation program gives you detailed instructions on when and how to do this.
In my experience with CrossOver, which goes back for more than a decade now, I've found that most supported Windows programs run well on CrossOver. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't run all Windows programs. Also, I sometimes find graphic glitches, with Linux and the Windows app fighting for the same screen space.
Those are minor issues. Each version runs Windows apps better. I've found CrossOver to be very useful, especially on low-powered systems.
So, if you have one special Windows program you must still run, Linux or no, CrossOver could be exactly what you need.