Run Windows On Linux: Win4Lin Revisited

Can Win4Lin Substitute A Native Windows Installation?

If you are a Windows user who interacts with Linux on a regular or occasional basis, you will eventually feel disenfranchised. The best analogy might be a left-hander in a world full of righties (and right-hand bias). In that same way, Windows dominates the desktop marketplace, and until some shift changes the status quo, this bias will continue to exist as a phenomenon known primarily to early-adopters, former Windows users, and those fluent in both platforms by way of work or play.

Seemingly simple tasks can get lost in translation. This can easily occur, owing to differences in form, functions, or features in some Windows or Linux-equivalent application. Sometimes it reflects the total lack of any suitable replacement for a desired Windows or Linux application on the "other" platform.

For those brave souls who migrate away from Windows and into the Linux realm there will always be a void left where Windows functionality is unmatched on the Linux platform, or where Linux lacks a suitable replacement. Usability is another factor - until recently, there was little convergence between Linux-based development and the usability expertise that distinguishes a successful design scheme from an almost-ran.

Good faith initiatives such as the Free Desktop forum, the Better Desktop project (sponsored by Novell, distributor of Suse Linux), and Open Usability organization all represent independent efforts to bring greater usability to the Linux desktop and its applications. Ideally, a good Linux application should attempt to mirror successful design features that an equivalent Windows application provides if it wants to compete on the same level and attract the same target audience. For the instances where this is either not possible or not yet available, Win4Lin provides a happy middle ground.

Gaming applications based on DirectX use an elaborate graphics library for Windows that does nothing for Linux enthusiasts, unlike OpenGL-dependent games. OpenOffice still doesn't fully comprehend MS Word's proprietary file format, and continues to serve up warnings when a Word document is opened, modified, or saved in OpenOffice Writer. Occasionally this results in a poorly formatted Word document when it's returned to the Windows desktop, and often implies a time delay between composing a document in Linux and examining the results in Windows. And although the flagship Linux image manipulation, called Gimp, does a great job of rendering professional quality images it still can't match the breadth and depth of functionality found in Adobe Photoshop or Jasc Paintshop Pro.

Those who aren't too proud to cross the Linux-to-Windows divide, take heart! All of these tried-and-true applications are just a single click away with the assistance of Win4Lin Pro. Chuck Reese wrote a first-look review of the Win4Lin Professional emulation environment for Tom's Hardware in December, 2001. Since then, Win4Lin has improved substantially, as have most Linux emulators in general. NeTraverse CEO Jim Curtain contacted us to request an up-to-date review of their latest flagship product. This article is an executive summary for that follow-up. But first, here's a quick refresher on the current state of emulation technology.

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Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a long-time IT writer, researcher and consultant, and occasional contributor to Tom’s Hardware. A Windows Insider MVP since 2018, he likes to cover OS-related driver, troubleshooting, and security topics.