As free and open source software continues to become more powerful and more prevalent, there’s less and less need to choose anything else.
It’s not at all surprising, for example, to see the recent growth in usage of desktop Linux, or similar trends in software like Firefox and LibreOffice.
Even if you’re generally humming along happily on a Linux desktop with most every application need covered, though, there may still occasionally be a piece of software that you just can’t live without, but that still runs only on Windows.
What to do? One option is Wine, a compatibility layer designed to let you run Windows apps on Linux or other operating systems, including also BSD, Solaris, and Mac OS X.
The Wine project on Wednesday just released version 1.4 of its software, representing the newest stable release in almost two years. More than 16,000 changes are reflected in this new version, including compatibility with a bunch more Windows software.
Wine 1.4 is now available as a free download for Ubuntu and many other Linux distributions from the project’s site. A paid version with support, meanwhile, is available in the form of CrossOver XI from CodeWeavers.
Even if you’ve tried Wine before, this latest version is worth another look. Here’s a rundown of some key highlights.
1. Support for Microsoft Office 2010
Now among the many Windows applications you can run on Linux using Wine is Microsoft Office 2010. So, if LibreOffice isn’t your cup of tea, Microsoft’s package is now an option–as are Adobe Photoshop CS3 and Adobe Flash CS3, to name just a few. The Wine Application Database lists many others you can use.
2. A New Graphics Engine
A new graphics engine in Wine 1.4 supports rendering into Device Independent Bitmaps (DIBs), which can yield considerable performance gains in some applications, the project team says. All possible color formats are supported by the DIB engine as well, thus eliminating previous versions’ limitation by the color resolution of the display. Wine 1.4 also adds support for a variety of graphics elements and styles, and it offers improved PostScript output quality. Meanwhile, gradients now use dithering on low color resolution devices for a nicer appearance, according to the developers, and many more image codecs have been implemented.
3. A Redesigned Audio Stack
Wine 1.4 features a completely redesigned audio stack that’s now based on the model used in Windows Vista. The Audio tab in the Wine Configuration tool, meanwhile, has been redesigned as well; particularly notable is that the appropriate driver is now selected automatically, so manual configuration is no longer necessary.
4. A Smoother User Interface
Among the tweaks to Wine 1.4’s user interface are support for Vista-style dialogs and improved common controls. Desktop integration has been improved as well, the project team says, including support for drag and drop of OLE objects across applications. In addition, animated mouse cursors are now fully supported.
5. More International Support
Bidirectional text rendering is fully supported in Wine 1.4, as is mirroring of windows, menus, and window controls for right-to-left languages. Vertical fonts are now supported as well, such as for Japanese. The software has been fully translated into French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, Portuguese, Catalan, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Slovenian, Lithuanian, Japanese, and Korean, with partial translations for another 15 languages.