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CrossOver Office: The Killer App for the Linux Desktop? - page 5

CrossOver: A Little WINE for the Office

  • April 1, 2002
  • By Dee-Ann LeBlanc

There's no handy dandy icons included on the desktop or in the menus to start any of the MS Office programs, but CodeWeavers does include scripts to use, as described in the manual--though the default directory is cxoffice, not crossover. I type ~/cxoffice/bin/winword and lo and behold, there's Microsoft Word (Figure 9).

I work with Microsoft Word 2000 on a regular basis, and I've been asked to really take this baby for a test drive, so I put it through the works. I find the little buttons on the bottom left that allow me to change between views (Layout, Normal, and so on) first don't work but then they do. The usual start is to make a document so I type in some text, press Ctrl-S to Save, and the Save As dialog box appears with a default location of the My Documents folder, just like it would on a Windows box. Misspelled words get corrected automatically (you decide if that's a bad thing or not, but that's the default Word 2000 behavior), Revision Marks properly show up when I turn the tracking and their visibility on, and accepting revisions works properly. I can properly use the highlighter to mark up text, change text colors, embed a comment, and then properly view all comments. Don't take my word for it. See Figure 10 and my ugly Frankendocument.

It takes me a moment to find my Word document, it's in ~/cxoffice/support/dotwine/fake_windows/My Documents. I FTP the document over to my Windows 2000 Professional box and double-click it in the file manager. Poof. The associations under Windows are correct, so Word starts automatically and the Frankendocument looks exactly as I made it, down to the little unaccepted revision marked period at the end of the last sentence.

Now I make lots more changes, including entering Outline view and placing the entire document under a header, save the file out, and FTP it back over to the Linux box with CrossOver Office 1.0.0 on it. I open up the file (~/cxoffice/bin/winword "This is my new document 2.doc") and there's the document (Figure 11), still in outline view, outlining properly set up.

When I hover my mouse over a Comment it doesn't pop up the Comment's contents at first, but later this works again. However, the Comment wasn't actually lost, so that's a minor glitch I can live with. Now, to really test things out I open up a long (30 pages) chapter of a book that I've been technical editing. The Word 2000 behavior of opening a second document in an entirely new Word window works properly, and the large, heavily formatted document opens without a hitch.

For a moment I have trouble using the Window menu to switch between the two documents I now have open, but then the feature starts to work again. I save out the formatting template from the chapter's file and import it into my Frankendocument, and to my happy surprise it once again works perfectly! Selecting "update styles" properly changes the fonts to Courier and I'm able to change the formatting at will using the Styles dropdown list box. Once again, I FTP the file over to my Windows box, and it opens like a charm with everything properly working. Satisfied with Word, I move to Excel. I throw in data, autosum, select a chunk of data, and insert a chart of its characteristics in the middle of my spreadsheet. If I drag dialog boxes around too fast sometimes I get a little video glitch over the document, but minimizing the window and opening again gets rid of that little problem.

Building formulas that utilize data from more than one sheet works with no problem, as does anything else I can think to throw at this one, so I figure it's time to save and move on. But I press Ctrl-S to Save As with my new document and the program crashes. Oops. Good thing I didn't do too much work before I saved. I start up Excel again and give it another try and this time everything saves properly.

So, I FTP the Excel document over, make a bunch of alterations including changing the name on one of the spreadsheet tabs, bring it back and everything's as it should be. Next, let's check out PowerPoint, since I don't want to bore you with my software-testing prowess! My PowerPoint opens fine, lets me create all kinds of nutty slides (though sometimes when a dialog box opens I end up with some other dialog boxes from Linux programs also hovering over the PowerPoint window), saves and fine. I FTP what I've got to the Windows box and make a lot of changes, bring it back to the Linux box and make more changes, and everything is perfect--aside from every time a dialog box comes up I also get The GIMP hovering over my PowerPoint window). I run a slideshow and it gives me the fullscreen treatment in all its glory.

With Outlook, I go right for the gusto. I use Microsoft Outlook 2000 on my Windows box, so I've already got a lot of data I can export from there and move over. Rather than bringing it all over, I figure I'll export the contents of one of my mail folders and then import it into Outlook on the Linux end. However, Outlook keeps crashing on me during the import procedure. I eventually give up on the importing idea and just do a few "normal" things with the software instead. Those all work fine. I can send mail, make appointments and recurring appointments, create contacts, and more with no problems.

We've all heard about how Outlook is prone to virus attacks, so I thought I'd better ask CodeWeavers CEO Jeremy White what happens when you're using Outlook in a Windows emulator under Linux, aren't running a virus scanner under the Windows emulator, and you get hit with a Windows virus.

His response boiled down to this. The virus actually will activate if Outlook is properly supported with the features it tries to use, and this is one reason that the Outlook support won't ever quite be considered complete, because CodeWeavers wants the software to be able to accept every Outlook security update that comes out of Microsoft. However, all of your Windows files are kept by CrossOver Office 1.0.0 in a little "virtual world" in your hard drive, in areas I've outlined throughout the article itself. Even if the virus tries to wipe out your system, the most it can do is attack the emulated Windows section. You can then uninstall and reinstall the software to restore your pre-viral state.

I'd recommend having a script regularly back up your files from the Windows section, however. Don't make it automatic unless you do staggered backups where you don't always overwrite the backed-up files. After all, mail comes in all the time, and if you get hit with a virus and aren't around, you otherwise could end up overwriting your healthy files with virus-infested versions. The same goes for Word macro viruses, Excel macro viruses, and so on.


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