Keen to use Linux, but still need to run Windows applications on your PC? Or interested in trying out Linux? This page is about using Linux and Windows in a common environment.

Running two PCs

If you're interested in using Linux and have the space, consider running a machine for Linux and another for Windows. This is what I did when I began using Linux in late 1999. (I have been working without Windows altogether since 2002.) You might consider running two PCs overkill, but there's something to be said for having a spare PC for emergencies. In fact, I've had three in the office for some time now. Don't, however, make the mistake of trying to install Linux on an obsolete machine. Pick a suitable Linux distribution and take the system requirements for that as your yardstick. If you think a PC is well past its use-by date for day-to-day translation, it almost certainly isn't adequate for Linux.

Dual-boot systems

This is a popular solution for those who want to try out Linux without buying a new PC, or who don't have the space or financial resources for a dedicated PC. A Linux installation requires several partitions on the hard drive, which are set up during installation; most distributions offer the facility to create a dedicated partition for a Windows system, or to resize an existing Windows partition, leaving the data on it untouched. Alternatively buy a second hard drive and install Linux on it. For the ultimate in convenience, install an interchangeable hard drive bay.

Windows emulators

Despite their confusing name, Windows emulators don't "emulate" Windows. Rather, they allocate part of the system's hardware resources for themselves and use them to emulate a PC within the PC. A copy of Windows can be installed on this "virtual machine". Probably the most popular emulators are VMWare and Netraverse's Win4Lin. In addition, you'll need a copy of Windows. Other emulators, at least one of them free, are now available - this is a good place to start looking.

VMware and Win4Lin have both been used successfully by translators to run translation memory applications, particularly Déjà Vu. These emulators often present problems for applications requiring a dongle, however. I have anecdotal evidence of Transit being used with an emulator. Trados has published a web page on how to use Translator's Workbench with an emulator.


The open source community's knight in shining armour, WINE stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator, meaning that it pretends to be Windows itself, rather than emulating a hardware environment in which Windows can be installed. It can therefore be used to run Windows applications without the need for a copy of Windows and the associated licence. WINE is also free. The bad news is that despite development having come a long way, it is still far from the stage where it will enable any Windows application to run hassle-free. Strictly for the adventurous only.

Crossover Linux

Crossover Linux, originally known as "Crossover Office", was launched by Codeweavers in early 2002. It is a commercial product, costing around US$60. Crossover is associated with the WINE project, which will benefit financially from sales of Crossover Linux, and like WINE, Crossover Linux is not an emulator in that it doesn't require a copy of Windows.

Crossover Linux slots in between WINE and the emulators: easier to install and less bug-prone in use than WINE; less expensive and, at least theoretically, less demanding on hardware resources than the emulators, and without the need for a copy of Windows and the corresponding licence.

At its introduction, the only applications supported were Microsoft Office (97 or 2000) and Lotus Notes; a facility was provided for installing other Windows applications, but these were not supported by Codeweavers, and generally failed to install, at least without serious tweaking.

Since its launch, Codeweavers have progressively improved Crossover on two counts. Firstly, the compatibility with the supported Windows applications has steadily improved, and secondly, the number of supported applications continues to grow.

Follow the links from the Codeweavers website for more detailed reviews of the product and an up-to-date list of Windows applications which can be run on it.

Windows applications already supported by Crossover Linux and of particular interest to translators include:

(special thanks to Rick Henry at Parafrase for the above information)