Users are now able to run most of the applications in Office XP on Linux, following the release of commercial software that allows the package to run on the open-source operating system.
CodeWeavers' CrossOver Office now supports the full Office XP suite, with the exception of Outlook XP and Access XP. Outlook 2000 and Access 2000 are supported. The package plugs in to the standard Gnome or KDE desktops for Linux and Unix.
"Once installed, your application will integrate directly with your Gnome or KDE environment," the company said in a statement.
CodeWeavers is aiming to make Linux more viable as an alternative to the Windows platform by letting Linux users stick with familiar Windows applications. CrossOver Office is priced at around $55 (£34) which, together with a basic installation of Linux at around £20, is significantly cheaper than Windows XP Home Edition, selling for about £164 in the UK.
However, Linux must still overcome significant obstacles before it can begin to challenge Microsoft on the desktop. Linux is not as widely distributed as Windows as a pre-installed desktop operating system. And switching from Windows to another operating system involves some difficulty, although projects such as KDE and Gnome have made Linux increasingly user-friendly.
There is also the matter of support: Microsoft has said it will not offer full technical support to Office XP users who are running the software on Linux.
Ironically, one of Linux's key advantages on the desktop has recently come from Microsoft itself. The software giant's unpopular Licensing 6 programme, which commits volume licensees to regular software upgrades, has caused many large businesses to take a second look at Linux and other alternatives.
CrossOver Office supports more than just Microsoft products. Adobe Photoshop 7.0 is supported, as is Lotus Notes and Intuit's Quicken. The compatibility software runs on all major Linux distributions.
Other projects also target Microsoft's dominant market share in productivity and operating system software. The OpenOffice.org office suite is an open source package that aims for interoperability through the use of an XML file format. The suite is clocking up around 350,000 downloads a week, across all supported platforms, which include Linux, Mac OS and Windows.
Lindows, a version of Linux, runs some Windows applications, and the open-source WINE project aims to add Windows compatibility to Linux.
Another key project is Evolution, an open-source Linux groupware application, which allows users to connect to Exchange servers and dispense with Outlook altogether.