Hands up those who find the notion of cheap desktop operating systems appealing from a cost-saving perspective — not to mention freedom of choice? Okay, I won’t bore you with details about the Linux revolution — on account of the revolution is already happening and you probably know all about it. To suggest that it’s simply a question of swapping a desktop OS over is ludicrous, of course. Custom applications, user training and the initial deployment cost in terms of time all have to be factored into the equation.
But it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing scenario. Almost every company I’ve ever come across has a number of staff that work primarily in Microsoft Office — usually Word, Excel or PowerPoint. (And of course they need an email client.)
One of the challenges of putting Linux on the desktop has been this domination by Microsoft Office and while emulators exist, such as VMWare or WinforLin, that let you run Windows apps, they all require that you have a Microsoft OS licence, which kind of defeats the purpose of a Linux desktop.
Enter CodeWeavers CrossOver Office — a $US54.95 product that you install on your Linux desktop and which then lets you install MS Office 97 or 2000, plus a Lotus Notes v5.0 client — and you don’t need an MS OS licence for them to run. (Fanfare, applause please.)
I chucked a copy of CrossOver Office on my Red Hat system and then installed MS Office 2000 in just a few minutes. The amusing part was the “virtual” reboot that the Office Installer insisted on performing — which didn’t actually happen but the Office installer thought it did, so we were both happy. The not so amusing bit was I had to ring Microsoft to get a new activation key for Office 2000, as the internet registration kept failing — because it maintained my copy of Office 2000 had been previously activated. (It had — just on a different partition on my hard disk.)
I had great fun installing Office — deliberately de-selecting Outlook (which I loathe) and then discovering Explorer and Outlook Express got installed anyway, courtesy of the MS installer — neither of them worked though. Not that that is an inconvenience — any default Linux desktop installation will offer at least three Web browsers and half a dozen email clients to choose from.
CrossOver Office even lets you install Microsoft’s default fonts from the MS website, so if you have a hankering for Georgia or Verdana or the other MS typefaces you can feel right at home.
CodeWeavers says that CrossOver Office doesn’t support Access, Explorer or Outlook properly at this stage but that Word, Excel and PowerPoint all work fine. After a week of working with it I’ve found Word and Excel to work fine and PowerPoint is okay 99% of the time, but importing a Windows XP PowerPoint presentation caused CrossOver Office to hang — hardly surprising since it doesn’t support XP.
CrossOver Office is a version 1.0 product but shows great promise. As an exercise, why not have one of your staff analyse who uses what around your organisation. If even 10% of your staff uses nothing more than Word, Excel and an email client, then swapping them to a Linux desktop with KDE 3.0 and CrossOver Office could offer you some serious savings on the donations you make to Seattle.
Further information: www.codeweavers.com
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