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Win4Lin: Running Windows Applications Under Linux
Computing in the real world
January 29, 2001
Linux applications are gaining ground, but Windows applications still dominate. If you are like me, you still need to use Windows apps to work with files that other users need. Win4Lin let me have the benefits of Linux and Windows desktops at the same time. It is even possible to cut and paste between Windows and Linux applications.
Win4Lin is effectively a set of Windows device drivers plus support code that lets Windows run on top of Linux. This affords users two key benefits. First, Windows itself is not changed so compatibility is high. Second, performance is good because minimal translation is required between the Windows application and the Linux device drivers.
Win4Lin�s interface is comparable to a remote control program. Windows runs in a Linux window. It can also run full screen. Windows applications run within this window. Linux applications run in their own window. Switching between windows is a matter of a mouse click or an Alt-TAB combination. Windows hot keys work when the main Windows window is active.
The Win4Lin default installation uses a folder in a user�s home directory as the C: drive, but this an be mapped to almost any directory including a DOS disk partition. Dual-boot installations need to be careful of this feature, since the Win4Lin Windows directory and a native Windows Windows directory will contain different information due to the differences in device drivers. Direct Windows access to the floppy disk and CD-ROM drives is also supported.
Overall, my Win4Lin experience has been excellent. Win4Lin supports Winsock, so applications like Internet Explorer and email applications work if the Linux system is connected to the Internet, but the Windows Network Neighborhood is not supported. Still, sharing network files and printers is possible using the Linux support. More on this in the Networking section.
The lack of DirectX support is the main limitation. DirectX is used by almost every Windows-based game but few other applications use DirectX.
Audio support is provided if Linux has audio support. There are some restrictions on Linux audio support, but check the website for details as Win4Lin updates should eliminate these. Printer support uses Linux printer connections but Windows printer drivers.
Win4Lin worked well with my normal suite of applications, including Office 97, ACT!, and Photoshop. I need to find my Quark CD-ROM to reinstall it under Win4Lin but that should work as well. As expected, none of the Windows games would even install. The result, dual boot stays for games but real work gets done with Linux, Win4Lin and Windows.