My MacBook Pro Experience - Day 28

WOW! I’ve been a Mac user for 28 days! Did you know that it's possible to run a number of Windows applications on a Mac? All you need is an emulator, such as Crossover Mac. But how good a solution is this for those wanting to run Windows-based applications on a Mac? This is what I tried to discover.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

WOW! I’ve been a Mac user for 28 days!

Did you know that it's possible to run a number of Windows applications on a Mac?  All you need is an emulator, such as Crossover Mac.  But how good a solution is this for those wanting to run Windows-based applications on a Mac?  This is what I tried to discover.

The idea behind CrossOver is simple - it's emulation software that uses Wine that allows you to install and run a number of popular Windows applications and games on Mac OS X running Intel CPUs.  In theory the software sounds simple to use - you download CrossOver (there's a 60-day trial if you want to try it out), create a "bottle" (a virtual Windows environment), install the applications and start using it.

If you want to see CrossOver in action, I've put together an image galley that you can browse through here.

In theory, things are a bit different.  I won't bore you with the installation suffice to say that it's what I have come to expect from a Mac and pretty straight-forward.  The only hiccup is that you need a file off the Mac OS X disc called quartz-wm.  This is to make Windows  apps look and feel more like Mac applications.  I since wasn't supplied with the Mac OS X disc, this presented a bit of a problem.  Fortunately, the file is available as part of the X11 update from Apple (thanks to Mac OS X Hints for the pointer here).

On the CrossOver website there's an extensive list of software that can run under CrossOver Mac.  This is handy because it lets you see what apps you can run before you buy or even install the software.  I was interested in trying out a game on CrossOver but I couldn't find a game that was listed as working that I had immediate access to so I gave up on that.  Instead, I decided to see whether I could install a couple of Windows applications.  I picked on UltraEdit and Microsoft Word Viewer 2003. 

First off I tried installing UltraEdit (a text editor that I use all the time in Windows).  Things went fine until it tried to register a file and then the installation bombed out.  I went back to the compatibility page and confirmed that UltraEdit is listed as working.  I tried the installation again and it bombed out again.  All I can think of is that a previous version of UltraEdit worked and that something new in version 12 causes problems.

Next I tried installing the Word 2003 viewer.  I was amazed to find that I didn't have to go find and download this app myself - the program knew where it was located on the Internet, went away and downloaded it and then proceeded with the installation. 

When the installation was done I was eager to see if this would work.  Amazingly it did.  And it worked very well indeed. 

CrossOver is a great applications but I can see one limitation - while there's a lot of software listed in the compatibility list, much of this is untested.  To top that off, as I discovered with UltraEdit, not all software marked as working will work.  Another issue is that much of the listed software has been around for a while now.  For example, Photoshop 6 and 7 works under CrossOver Mac, but CS2 is untested.  I found this to be very common indeed - CrossOver seems OK if you want to run old Windows apps on a Mac, but it's not that good with newer releases.

I'm left with mixed feelings about CrossOver Mac.  It's an amazing application but it's very limited.  My advice would be to take advantage of the trial and thoroughly test each application before you hand over your cash.  Don't part with your money based on information in the compatibility list.

Anyone else have any CrossOver experience?  What do you think of the software?  What applications do you run on your Mac using CrossOver?

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