How to Run Windows Programs on Linux

Want to run Windows programs on Linux? You're not alone, and you're not out of luck. If you need to run Windows programs on Linux operating systems, you've got plenty of options.

Why run Windows programs on Linux?
Linux is good for more than just running a Linux server or providing Linux Web hosting. In fact, the computer users who prefer Linux are highly vocal and highly protective of their operating systems. Why, then, would Linux users want to run Windows programs? While many open source and Linux implementations exist to replace Windows programs, there's not a Linux equivalent for everything. If you want something you just can't get with open source or a Linux variant, you'll need to run it in Windows.

Install Wine.
Wine is an alternative implementation of the Windows API that works on Linux operating systems. Wine stands for "Wine is Not an Emulator" because it is, in fact, not an emulator. It's completely free of Microsoft code, but it can run many Windows programs on Linux. However, Wine isn't compatible with all Windows programs, so, before you install it, make sure that the program you need is supported. Wine is the most popular way to run Windows programs on Linux, but it's not your only option. You may be able to find an open-source program that suits your needs even better.

Launch Wine.
If you decide on Wine, install Wine on your computer, and run the Wine file to launch the program. The Wine file browser opens, and from there you can browse to the Windows software that you want to run.

Install your Windows software.
From within Wine, select the installer for the Windows software that you want to use, and run it. Double-click to run the installer, and follow the prompts in the install wizard, just as if you were using a Windows installation.

Use the Wine browser to run your Windows programs.
Once you've got it successfully installed, you can simply use your Wine browser to navigate to your new Windows program file, and double-click it to run. From there, it runs just as it would on a Windows computer.

Run Windows on Linux.
If Wine doesn't support the program you need, you can always use Win4lin or VMware to run Windows and the Linux platform simultaneously. These programs actually boot the Windows software in Windows, which means you can get virtually any Windows program to work with it. However, many Linux users don't want Windows running on their machines at all, and they prefer an alternative.

Use a Linux version.
Many Linux developers have created Windows-equivalent software designed specifically for Linux. Because Linux is an open-source platform, it's easy to develop for Linux, and a lot of people do. You can find Linux implementations equivalent to most software programs you can find on Windows. They're not exactly the same thing, but they're often still compatible with Windows software if you're sending files back and forth, but simply want to do things in a Linux way.

Use Windows remotely.
Depending on your needs and capabilities, you may simply want to run a Windows application remotely from a Windows desktop. If you have a Windows desktop, you could always use rdesktop or other remote connection tools to connect to the desktop and run the Windows program on a Windows-native machine. However, if you're in a large corporate setting and need scalability, connecting remotely to a Windows desktop won't do it. In that case, you can use commercial Linux programs such as Citrix to bring Windows programs to Linux desktops.

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