Darwine 1.0 review

Wine, the open-source tool that enables you to run Windows programs in UNIX-based environments, has reached 1.0 status. That’s great for Linux users, folks running BSD and other UNIX derivatives. What about humble Mac owners? There are a couple of Mac projects out there that will allow you to taste Wine.

The one we’ve been testing is closest in spirit to the open-source release for UNIX-like platforms and is lumbered with the jovial moniker ‘Darwine’. Of course, the really important thing is whether or not it works. The answer is yes, it does. Sort of.

Unlike commercial emulators that require you to buy a copy of Windows, Wine implements the Windows API on top of Mac OS X – or, to be more accurate, on top of X11.

Reading through the program compatibility lists at Wine’s Application Database (appdb.winehq.org) fair wets the appetite. With game-download tool Steam near the top of the list, tantalising you with access to top titles like Portal and Quake 4, it would be easy to get carried away... And, indeed, we were able to get Steam to load and start with our installation of Darwine. We just couldn’t get it to start any games.

Using Darwine is still a fairly frustrating experience. Even the initial installation is a little cumbersome. We downloaded the stable release from the current project page, but you’ll need to install the latest version of Xquartz too. That’s an updated version of X11, the Mac’s X Windows system. Once both are installed you can try some of the sample programs bundled in the package. These include Windows Notepad, a clock, Minesweeper and, intriguingly, an implementation of Windows File Explorer. The latter is the most interesting tool in the pack, giving you unfettered Windows-style access to your file system. Others have tested Windows stalwarts like Solitaire and WordPad with success.

Still, Darwine has a way to go before it will run more complex tools like Microsoft Office. As for Portal, there’s always the free, 2D Flash version at portal.wecreatestuff.com.

OUR VERDICT

Darwine’s a free download and, although it’s not perfect it won’t put a dent in your pocket, so it’s worth trying. There are commercial tools based on Wine too – Crossover Mac (www.codeweavers.com) runs a range of Windows games and applications from £25.99.

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