The Wine project was started back in 1993 by Bob Amstadt and Eric Youngdale. The meaning of ‘Wine’ has changed several times during the project, but currently stands recursively for ‘Wine Is Not an Emulator’ – a technical way of referring to the fact that Wine runs Windows application code directly, rather than feeding it through an interpreter. The main corporate sponsor of Wine is the CodeWeavers company, which in turn has received sponsorship from Google. CodeWeavers sell and support an enhanced commercial version of Wine called CrossOver.
Note that Wine and CrossOver provide ways to install and run Windows software that you already own. They do not (and legally cannot) supply free versions of commercial software.
Wine can be downloaded and installed with the Synaptic Package Manager. Various ancillary packages are also available, including a ‘front-end’ called PlayOnLinux which automates the process of installing some common Windows applications. Installing Wine will also add Windows native fonts to your font collection if they’re not already there.
Once installed, Wine adds the following options to your Mint menu:
- Browse C: drive – Mint installs Windows applications in a ‘virtual’ hard disk drive called C. This is actually a subfolder of your hidden <username>/.wine folder, but to Windows applications running under Mint, it looks as if they have it all to themselves.
- Configure Wine – Allows you to change the operating parameters for Wine as a whole, or to configure specific settings for individual programs. Sometimes an application which will not run under the default Wine settings can be ‘tweaked’ here to make it function.
- Notepad – A clone of the useful Windows Notepad software. This may be useful in its own right, but it’s intended primarily as a simple way of testing whether Wine has installed properly and is working.
- Uninstall Wine Software – A convenient shortcut to removing unwanted Wine applications.
- Winetricks – A simple interface to install some common Windows programs. If you have installed the more comprehensive PlayOnLinux interface, that will appear in the menu as well.
Figure 49: Winetricks, showing Windows programs available to install
The second test of Wine, after running Notepad, is to start up Winetricks. Here you can create a Wine ‘prefix’ – a reserved area in which to install Windows applications. Some users like to keep their Windows applications in different prefixes to prevent them from interfering with each other; others are happy to lump them in together. Each ‘prefix’ requires its own set of Windows ancillary files, which will take up some space on disk.
Once a prefix is established, Winetricks will allow you to download and install some open-source Windows applications. Selecting these will normally trigger an installer program, which will go through the same steps as it would on a Windows PC. You can also install any open-source Windows fonts which are not already on your system, and choose to browse files.
Use the ‘Cancel’ button in Winetricks to return to the previous level.
If you have installed PlayOnLinux, running it will bring up a much larger list of applications that work under Wine, downloaded from the internet. (PlayOnLinux requires the XTerm application to run, so you’ll need to install that as well.) Once this is done, click the ‘Install’ button to see a list of available software. This includes many commercial games sourced through the GOG.com site. The list also includes the Microsoft Office package, but again you will need to possess a copy of these to install them. PlayOnLinux also has a ‘manual installation’ option that will walk you through the steps required to install a new application.
By default, Wine will associate itself with files that have the extension ‘EXE’, so if you locate and double-click on one of these, it will open something called the ‘Wine Windows Program Loader’. If you have alternate programs like CrossOver installed that recognise the same extension, you may need to right-click the file name and say ‘Open With…’
If the file is an installation file, this should trigger the Windows installation procedure. You will need to supply the usual user registration details and serial numbers, etc.
Configuration and debugging
A list of programs that will run under Wine is available from appdb.winehq.org. These are grouped into categories depending on how well they run. At the time of writing the Platinum (perfect) category contained 3515 applications, Gold (requires minor tweaks) had 3057, Silver (fine for ‘normal’ use) had 2645, Bronze (works, with issues) had 2331, and Garbage (unusable) had 3790. Wine ratings are provided by users, and the Wine developers direct their efforts towards those applications which users flag as important.
If you have an application which is not running, or not running properly, under Wine, you may be able to fix it by opening Configure Wine. This will open a Wine Configuration window with an Applications tab. Use the Add Application button to locate and add the EXE file for the application which is giving problems.
Some specific details of how to change the settings for individual programs can be found on the appdb.winehq.org website.