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Technology Review

Windows Programs on a Mac? The CrossOver Option

By Bob Christensen

I had expected to give CrossOver a resounding “buy” recommendation for anyone with a need to run Windows programs natively on a Mac computer. Unfortunately, even though CrossOver is the perfect answer to our office’s specific needs, that will not happen.

In more than three decades using and managing hundreds of Macs and their Apple and Lisa predecessors, there have been only a handful of times that have required that my office have the ability to run Windows-specific programs. In early days when that happened, we bought a few HPs. Later, a very slow and piggy version of Parallels — which has since dramatically improved — became our solution. Today, it’s CrossOver.

The Upsides to CrossOver vs. Parallels

CrossOver’s approach to allowing a Mac to run specific Windows programs is radically different from Parallels, BootCamp and the other Windows OS-enablers. My concerns with the others are the malware that using Windows might bring to our Macs, the extra layers of security about which we’d have to become knowledgeable, and the massive amounts of memory those programs tie up. Parallels 8, for instance, starts to become comfortably fast only when it has 4GB of dedicated RAM and more than 15GB of disk storage available.

CrossOver completely avoids exposure to the social diseases to which Windows is vulnerable. Rather than creating a space for Windows to operate, which would then allow Windows programs to run, CrossOver takes a different approach entirely, using its 200MB footprint to build a “bottle” in which selected Windows programs operate natively. It leaves all the external details — printing, email, web — to the Mac OS. No Windows is necessary, just the program you want to run. Without Windows, it is a far safer and, for me, more intuitive and comfortable arrangement. CrossOver can save its files within its bottle or directly in the Mac’s Finder environment, where they can be managed by the Finder just like any other Mac or Windows file.

I use Mac’s Mission Control to dedicate an entire desktop to CrossOver, reducing the transition from any Mac program to Word 2007 or 2010 to a flick of three fingers and less than a second. Getting back home is just as fast and easy. We use Word for Windows on documents ranging from one to hundreds of pages, from simple as pie to world-class complex with graphics, tables, sections, TOCs, links and sophisticated formatting. By using separate CrossOver bottles for each, running both Word 2007 and 2010 simultaneously on the same machine is safe and easy.

CrossOver has been completely stable for the past six months of daily use, and no more demanding of attention than any native Mac program.

If you need Word 2007 or 2010 for Windows on your Mac, I think CrossOver is the safest, most efficient and all-in least expensive solution.

The Bad News

CrossOver, priced at $59.95, is built by CodeWeavers, Inc. on the open source Wine Project, which claims more than 600,000 enthusiasts worldwide. As is typical of such community projects, more attention is showered on game programs than business productivity tools. So, while Word 2007 and Word 2010 work perfectly in CrossOver, the same may not be true of other Office programs of the same vintage.

Worse, Microsoft, in furtherance of its seemingly endless war on its own customers, has tied the installation of Office 2013 programs — including Word 2013 — to the existence of the Windows OS on the same machine. This means no Windows, no Office. Unless the Wine community can figure out how to break those handcuffs — and they’re not currently optimistic — CrossOver’s business utility going forward will be severely limited.

If, like us, you need only Word 2007 or 2010 running on your Mac but nothing else from the Windows world, CrossOver is a good way to go. However, if your needs are larger than those two programs, Parallels will be a better choice.

Bob Christensen is CEO of TheFormTool, LLC, where he devotes 30 years of experience developing artificial intelligence systems to improving document assembly and forms automation. TheFormTool is in use, after its first 18 months, by more than 7,000 firms in 30 countries to create intelligent documents, eliminate document errors, increase efficiency and dramatically reduce costs. Follow Bob @TheFormTool on Twitter.

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Categories: Daily Dispatch, Legal Tech Reviews, Legal Technology, Managing a Law Firm
Originally published September 5, 2013
Last updated June 17, 2018
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