CrossOver Strikes Out
CrossOver is an awesome idea - it lets you run Windows software without having to buy Windows. That is an offer that beats Parallels, VMWare Fusion, and Boot Camp.
Or at least it would beat them if it worked well.
After backing up a few files, I decided to give it a try on my MacBook. It is a no-brainer to go to their website and download a demo copy. It was almost too easy, and the install isn't difficult - you just drop the program in your Application folder.
CrossOver runs as an independent program. A few popular applications are known to work well with it, but I didn't have any of those. I gave it a try with the programs that I had around the house:
- School Tycoon
- AutoCAD 2004
- Microsoft Office (backup files)
- Canon Camera Software
School Tycoon was the first test. Installation was smooth. CrossOver is based on the open source project Wine (Wine Is Not Emulation), so each application is magically stuck in a Wine bottle. It has bottles for Windows 98, 2000, XP, and Vista. (It's kind of a silly metaphor, but whatever - as long as it works.)
After School Tycoon was installed, I called my son over to give it a try. The program ran the opening sequence just fine. But once you were actually in the game, everything was slow. Running slow was only the first problem. Next the video of the game flipped upside down, then instead of inserting the first game piece, the program crashed. Several more test runs all ended with the game crashing.
Next I tried the AutoCAD install. Again the installation went well, but a requirement by AutoCAD to have a text program selected stopped the install. My "bottle" didn't have a text program in it, nor did the install disk. So while my computer has several text programs, none could be used as a reference to finish the install.
I then tried loading Microsoft Office from a backup disk that I'd saved from an old computer. It wasn't an install disk, but all the files needed should have been backed up on the disk. I was faced with immediate trouble. CrossOver was expecting an installer that I don't have. I can't just copy the files to a "bottle" and get it loaded. I pick one of the executable files and hoped for the best. After running the installer for an hour, I gave up.
My final attempt was to install the Windows software that came with my Canon camera. This disk showed a half dozen install files, and every one of them was grayed out. That meant I could only view the Mac files on the dual format CD. I couldn't read the Window files to install them.
Out of four attempts, one application was installed and that one crashed.
Obviously CrossOver has a lot of things going for it, but full compatibility isn't one of them. It does have a list of known applications that work well, but nothing I have was on that list. If what is on their list is what you plan to use, it could be nice software to own. If, like me, you just have a bunch of random programs, then you need a real version of Windows to handle it.
I still have hopes for this software. It seems that every version of Windows has too many glitches and other weirdness. It is hard to make an emulator for it. The few functional applications for CrossOver probably work because things have been tweaked to deal with the quirks. This tweaking is one of the things coming back to haunt Microsoft with Vista. Even the staff at Microsoft has a hard time keeping all the older applications working.
While I may play around with CrossOver some more, if I am going to need compatibility with Windows, I'll just have to bite the bullet and buy a copy. But like the Get a Mac commercial shows in "Choose a Vista", whatever version you pick feels like you lost your turn.
If you want to read a more in depth review of CrossOver, check out CrossOver: Run Windows Apps on Intel Macs without Windows by Alan Zisman. It's from last year, but things haven't changed much.
I went looking for a text editor to use with the AutoCAD install. I found a freeware version called ConTEXT. It appears to work fine with CrossOver. It could even open a Word document. It is worth trying CrossOver before shelling out the money to buy Windows. You may get lucky and have everything working.
Reloading AutoCAD 2004 was not a success. I was somehow able to get the software installed. AutoCAD starts fine, but then there's a fatal error before it finishes loading. So far my luck with finding programs that work isn't too great.
Your results may be different, so give it a try.
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