MACUSER
Windows for the Mac Masses

By Victoria L. Herring

As most people know by now, Apple decided to switch the vendor of its processing chip and moved to Intel. The Intel processor provides the Mac with greater speed and processing ability with lower power requirements. As the Intel processor runs cooler, it also gave Apple the ability to upgrade its laptop line, catching up to the desktops in that respect.

Because the switch to Intel meant the Mac would run on the same processors as most Windows machines, the rumor mills started to churn. Think of it—Mac OS and Windows OS applications running seamlessly on the same computer!

Virtual PC, Boot Camp, and Parallels

Historically, the Mac has acquired the ability to run Windows applications through emulation programs. The best known of the emulation programs, Virtual PC, remained slow and sludgy, even after Microsoft acquired the program. For a time, Virtual PC sufficed as a makeshift solution for Mac attorneys who had the need to run a Windows program (even if somewhat slowly) every once in a while.

Shortly after releasing the Intel-powered laptops, Apple released a free beta version of a new program it called “Boot Camp.” Apple has announced that the finished, release version of Boot Camp will come free with the new Leopard operating system (OS X version 10.5) in the spring of 2007. Use of Boot Camp does require having a Windows system disk, of course.

At about the same time, Parallels, Inc. (www.parallels.com) created Parallels, an application that allows Mac computers to run Windows applications alongside the Mac OS, not sequentially. From the user’s perspective, the ability to run programs on both operating systems in separate windows at the same time from a single boot-up presents a more workable and desirable possibility than having to shut down and reboot each time you want a program in a different operating system.

So, this is the new world of 2006 where one computer, an Apple Macintosh machine with an Intel chip, can run two or more operating systems and their programs all at the same time. Jeffrey Allen explored this concept in great detail in his “MacNotes” column, MacIntel Does Windows for the August 2006 GPSOLO Technology eReport, and I won’t repeat it here. Another helpful article about the two programs is by David Pogue in the “Circuits” column for the New York Times, April 13, 2006. Both articles are well worth reading to better understand what you’re asking your Mac to do. For this article, I test-ran one more entrant in the Add-Windows-to-Your-Mac race, CrossOver by Codeweavers (www.codeweavers.com).

CrossOver

As a solo with a tight budget and expensive tastes (including a hunger for buying new Macs more frequently than my pocketbook can tolerate), I wanted a way to run Windows-only applications on my Intel MacBook Pro without having to also shell out for a copy of Windows. That is one drawback (although it ends up being a wise move) to using Boot Camp and Parallels. Neither of those programs works without some version of Windows installed on your Intel Mac computer. I didn’t want to pay for Windows on top of various programs that only run with it, so opted to see if CrossOver comes close enough for my use. Frankly, I have very little (perhaps even no) reason to use a Windows program—my Macs can do all that I wish and need them to do. But, every now and then, it does seem that some ability to run a Windows program is called for. My question: Will CrossOver suffice?

My answer: maybe. This is, perhaps, a typical attorney’s answer to any question, but in this case it seems apt. Sometimes my Windows applications ran fine, and sometimes they did not work at all.

Codeweavers allows you to download a 60-day beta version of CrossOver. The download is free, and if you pre-order the program, it will cost $40, which is about half the cost of Parallels but more than Apple’s free Boot Camp (unless, of course, you count the cost of OS 10.5, as Boot Camp will come bundled with OS 10.5). After installing CrossOver, you don’t need to install the Windows operating system; you simply install the other Windows programs and see what works. Because CrossOver is part of the Wine Project (an open-source attempt to run multiple operating systems on one computer; for more information, go to www.winehq.org), the application creates what it calls “bottles” for each of the installed applications, some of which require Windows 98 bottles, some Windows XP bottles, and others Windows 2000 bottles.

Once I had installed CrossOver on my MacBook Pro, I borrowed a friend’s copy of Quicken 2005 for Windows. I put in the disk and ran the installer; CrossOver took over and installed the program, creating the “bottle” using Windows 98 for its “type.” So far, so good. At the same time, CrossOver installed Internet Explorer 6 for Windows. I hope not to have to use it, but it also installed without a hiccup. I had to run the installer twice, but once the program was installed, it opened and ran as the ugly Windows-type program I expected. CrossOver does something in the process called “simulating a windows reboot,” which looked to my untrained eye to be similar to what I have seen Virtual PC do: run the Windows system and programs in a shell on the Mac.

I then realized that there was a disk that I wanted to open and access on my Mac that was purportedly only for Windows: the Association of Trial Lawyers of America Convention disk we received with our materials in Seattle this summer. I tried three times to install the LawDesk program on that disk, and although at various times it seemed it would work, it failed. It showed up on my computer but never ran.

Next, I thought I would try a friend’s disk of photographic images assembled using a Windows-only program. That, too, failed. But when I tried a CD I bought in Ecuador, which had a Windows-based encyclopedia, I was pleasantly surprised. That opened just fine and played as if it was meant to be on my Mac (which it wasn’t, thus the excitement over the successful test).

So, at this time at least, CrossOver will work just fine with some and not at all with other Windows applications. Still, it does not require that you pay for a Windows license, and because it is a work in progress, I expect we’ll see some positive developments. If, like me, you only need to run Windows programs every now and then, and you don’t want to buy a copy of the Windows OS, you might want to give CrossOver a try. I suggest you download and test out the free test version before buying the program. Make sure it works with the Windows program you will need.

As for me, having run this little test, I no longer wanted any vestiges of Windows operating on my otherwise pristine Mac. I removed CrossOver and all the test programs and have gone back to work in my OS X world. Happily so.

Victoria L. Herring practices in Des Moines, Iowa, in an office that has used only Apple/Macs since the early 1980s. She can be reached at .

Copyright 2006

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