Monday, May 20, 2024

The year of WINE on Linux

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WINE is a tool that allows Linux users to run select Windows applications without the need for a Windows installation. Yet historically, even with this tool, running Windows software with WINE on Linux has been very hit and miss.

However now that WINE 2.14 is available, I believe we may finally see the year of WINE on Linux. In order for WINE to be of any value to an individual or company, it must run legacy applications not otherwise available for Linux users. With WINE 2.14, I think we may finally be approaching that hard corner where we can claim that this is happening. Let me share some examples.

Microsoft Office 2013 runs on WINE on Linux

News of being able to run Microsoft Office 2013 with this release of WINE for Linux was a welcome bit of news. Obviously this isn’t something that everyone reading this finds terribly important, but it does mark how far WINE has come.

Even though Office 2013 isn’t the latest Office release available, it’s recent enough that running it in WINE is tempting for those who require Office for work, but would rather side-step using Windows altogether. Additionally, having the option to run a relatively modern version of Microsoft Office on Linux definitely has a number of Linux users tempted.

Speaking for myself personally, I’ll stick with LibreOffice. It runs on Linux natively and doesn’t require me to worry about Microsoft licensing or other related hassles.

New games and Windows applications run on WINE

Perhaps the biggest point of excitement for WINE users is that there’s been significant improvements made to WINE gaming. Video games like Need For Speed, Magic: The Gathering Online 4.0, Venom Codename: Outbreak and UnrealEngine4 games now work with this latest release of WINE.

WINE gaming has definitely benefited from advances with Direct3D along with better compatibility with its graphics card database. I’ve also been led to believe that some work has been done on the DirectX 11 side of things, which has me wondering if some of the Windows games that failed in previous WINE releases might finally work. That’s going going to be an interesting question I think.

What I found most fascinating about this current release of WINE for Linux was that we’re beginning to see potential for current game support. Remember games like Grand Theft Auto 5? Not too long ago, the mere idea of running that game in WINE was insane. Remember, DirectX 11 was holding back the ability to play a number of modern Windows games on Linux due to its past incompatibility with WINE. Today, this is no longer the case…although it’s by no means perfect.

WINE on Linux today, WINE on Linux tomorrow

WINE for Linux today is surprisingly robust, especially when you compare it to WINE just a few years ago. No longer is it as limited as it once was and its future is looking brighter than ever! The real question is what will WINE look like tomorrow and how does it find its footing in a world of Virtual Machines?

I think we must first address WINE’s main advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of using WINE is that you can run a growing number of Windows games and applications without needing to bother with Windows at all. This is absolutely a huge advantage for the following reasons.

No need for a Windows license. This means you can take the same funds and invest them back into other things like hardware.

Some applications run faster. It’s pretty weird and isn’t an absolute rule, however there have been instances where some games and applications run with a noticeable performance increase.

Sadly, there are some disadvantage as well that we need to consider here.

DirectX 10 and 11 based games can in some cases run a bit slower. This can sometimes mean these titles run with a slower frame rate or perhaps an application feels a bit sluggish when compared to running the same title on Windows.

WINE doesn’t run all Windows software. Due to the nature of WINE running applications without the benefit of Windows, there is a lot of catching up that has to happen to run software in WINE. This means an older application has a far greater chance of running great as it’s been tested heavily whereas a brand new application hasn’t.

I don’t see the above advantages or disadvantages changing anytime soon. But on the plus side, this year has seen some of the most significant advances in terms of compatibility in recent memory. Having the ability to work with Direct3D and DirectX 11 on Linux buys us time for other non-Microsoft advancements to finally catch up a bit. I’m looking at Vulkan, it’s benchmarks compared to DirectX 12 (incompatible with WINE) and crossing fingers we can see more games utilizing Vulkan over Microsoft’s limited compatibility DirectX beast.

For gaming, WINE 2.14 buys us time so we can finally see Vulkan based titles making an appearance. As for those legacy Windows applications that some of us just have to have. WINE 2.14 provides a pretty solid alternative to dual-booting or running Windows in a virtual machine.

Will WINE on Linux be relevant ten years from now?

Since it’s safe to say that there will always be games and legacy Windows applications that users want to run on Linux, I think we’ll always see a place for WINE in our lives. The real question will be whether or not we can get things to a point where platform dependency remains a hurdle in the years to come.

Remember the promise of Java years ago, the idea that you develop once and run it on everything? While today we know that Java doesn’t make for a pleasant end user experience, it does prove that the overall concept of developing one application for all the popular platforms is impossible. I think the key in the coming years will be a means of balancing application performance, compatibility among platforms and security. The closest we’ve come thus far is cloud computing and even that has a lot of work yet to do in the security department.

Speaking exclusively for myself, I generally stick to native Linux applications. The only Windows software I use is run on WINE via PlayOnLinux as it makes managing my “WINE bottles” a snap. Each bottle is setup for a specific application which I’ve found makes my life a lot easier.

What say you? Is WINE must have tool in your PC’s toolbox? Perhaps instead, you prefer to keep to Linux native only applications instead? I’m interested in hearing your views on this. Hit the comments, let’s talk about where WINE is headed and what you think about WINE version 2.14.

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