Many of us prefer to use Open Office, OO, for our productivity applications, but most of the people we deal with do not. OO does a good job of supporting MS-Office file formats, but it isn’t perfect. I’ve caused format issues with my team and clients because I chose to use OO instead of booting MS-Windows just to run MS-Office. They were not happy that my touching the files screwed up all the paragraph formating or worse.
If your team uses commenting or any other advanced feedback features in MS-Office, give up on OO and load MS-Office for those times when you must use MS-Office.
Enough was enough for me. I’ve already paid for the MS-Office license, so running it under Linux would be ideal for me. WINE to the rescue. Below I’ll talk through the easy installation process and let you know what to expect in each of the apps after you get MS-Office loaded.
WINE – Wine Is Not an Emulator
Linux users have almost certainly heard of WINE before. It works well for most applications that don’t need direct access to video hardware or use back doors into the operating system or depend on other MS-Windows applications to work. MS-Office has always been a difficult problem for WINE. To get started, simply install WINE from the repository for your distribution. For Debian-based distros, that is:
sudo apt-get install wine
I’m running 1.1.42 out of the Ubuntu repository. If you are running anything before 1.1.36, an update is needed to avoid some important issues – like not being able to open or save files. Next, we’ll install Office.
MS-Office 2003 Installation
I’m running the default WINE package, version 1.1.42, for Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid) and did the simplest install of MS-Office possible accepting the defaults. The MS-Office Installer AppDB Entry in the WINE App DB says nothing special is required to install MS-Office. I can confirm that. I did manually mount the cdrom device to access the installer. Your distro my automatically mount it.
Current versions of WINE do not require any overrides to install Office 2003 Pro. Install as you would in Windows: insert the CD and run setup.exe.
It worked for me. All the applications are listed under Wine → Programs → Microsoft Office. I’ve learned that you need to use the menu to start the applications so specific WINE environment variables are setup. I’m certain there’s a way to do this without going thru the menu, but since I don’t run MS-Office very often at all – once a quarter – it isn’t worth figuring out for me.
I was unable to enter any IMAP server connection information – the dialog simply did not display any of the text or fields. Outlook appears to be worthless under WINE without some special installation help. Perhaps with WineTricks, getting it working is possible. Not important to me, sorry.
I opened a few documents authored in MS-Word. Each document appeared to have correct formats. I didn’t see anything wrong in my admittedly trivial test. I did not try to print anything. No errors were displayed while running. Here’s the WineHq MS-Word DB Entry Overall, this application has silver compatibility in the Wine Application Database.
I opened a few documents authored in MS-Excel and OO, but saved in .xls format. Each document appeared to have correct formats, but Macros were disabled. With 3 multi-tabbed documents opened, I switched away to another Linux program. When I came back, there was an Excel runtime error displayed offering to recover the files. It suggested that a reinstall of the program was needed to correct the error. I let it recover the files and it appeared to work. Rather than continue, I closed each file, then closed Excel. I suspect the error was due to missing MS-Windows components that MS-Office expected to be available. Here’s the WineHq MS-Excel DB Entry Overall, this application has gold compatibility in the Wine Application Database.
Check out the comments for more information on MS-Excel.
I’ll take a look at the other applications – MS-Access, MS-Project InfoPath, Publisher, etc. later. For me, Word, Excel, and Visio are the killer applications. PowerPoint may be important too, but I’ll avoid it in favor of the OO presentation tool.
The worst listed compatibility was Bronze, but most are listed as Silver. Pretty good.
I have a license for MS-Office 2007 too, but HATE the interface changes. The ribbon-bar sucks, IMHO. At some future point, I may try to install it under WINE, but not until absolutely mandatory. It is currently running in a very poorly performing WinXP VM on a Windows7 host. Good enough for emergency use. I haven’t booted that VM in well over 2 months.
I’ll be checking the winehq.org web site for registry and other tips to get the best support for Word and Excel. Additionally, I’d like to run MS-Visio 2003 Pro, Quicken 2008 H&B and a stock research analysis program, Toolkit 5, under WINE.
Some mention of using WineTricks was seen in the AppDB at the WineHQ to make some of the applications run better.
Well, WINE has come a long way in supporting even the most complex and difficult to support applications if MS-Office runs. If you need excellent support, there is a commercial product available from CodeWeavers called Crossover Office, that supports MS-Office versions with clearly documented what works and what doesn’t work lists. I actually own a license for this tool thanks to the CEO backing up his left wing political stance with a giveaway around the 2008 election period. I used it twice back then.
When it comes to normal MS-Windows applications, I’d go ahead and install it under WINE. It will probably be fine.
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