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Linux OS and Microsoft Office Functionality

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Posted: 23 Apr 2004

We saw an interesting thread in the Nterprise Linux Services support forum, and thought we'd capture it here and ask for more comments. This is a burning topic right now as people begin transitioning away from Windows and toward open source solutions. Please feel free to chime in.


Can I install Linux OS with Microsoft Office? Can I install Linux OS jointly with Microsoft XP or Microsoft 2000 in a Disk Partition? Are Linux Applications similar to or compatible with Microsoft Excel, Word, Outlook, Powerpoint?


Tim Wohlford

You can set up a dual-boot deal. In fact, most versions of linux run some sort of boot loader to help you do that. Most versions of Linux want their own partition (actually, usually want three of them). You'll want to have a big empty space on any shared hard drive, at least 10 gigs. After that you can usually set up Linux to see the Microsoft stuff. What I do is get one of those HD bays where you can swap out hard drives when you want to run a different O/S. That way I can play on Linux and then go back to Microsoft when I have to.

FreeOffice (or its $$$ counterpart, StarOffice) has Word, Excel, PPT replacements. Why in the heck would you want to replace Outlook? Almost all Linux loads have at least one email program and at least one Web Browser. And, you can download and install the GroupWise client for Linux as well. Real hardcore Linux people never ever use any Microsoft stuff unless they're forced to do so under pain of death.

By and large the Linux stuff crashes less than Microsoft stuff, certainly less than Win9x platforms.

I'd also seriously recommend that you get a "Linux for Dummies" type book, since all of the commands are in UNIX instead of DOS. Just a hint, "DIR" doesn't work (unless you set it up to do the same thing as LS -al), and UNIX commands are all case-sensitive.

G of Borg

Personally, if I'm a NetWare guy, I'd fork over the $80 and get SUSE 9 Professional. You can test out all kinds of stuff, familiarize yourself with Novell's upcoming product line. Heck you can even tweak it to act like a server if you like and test it in that capacity also.

As far as running Windows apps on Linux, I wouldn't bother since it is fairly problematic and you will not get the same product results as if running it on native Windows. However, if you want to play, check out:

That's pretty much the state of things. If I were you though I'd look at replacing Office apps with something of the OpenSource variety. You'll find the functionality is mostly there and they run much better than any emulated product. There are limitations though. You can pretty much kiss off any ODBC applications. Although it's being worked on I hear.

Thorsten H. Niebuhr

For a first look, I would recommend KNOPPIX, which is a Full-Blown-Linux booting from CDROM, without affecting any partitions.

Simon Shilton

Running Windows Apps in Linux...

  • Try Codeweaver CrossoverOffice as previously mentioned; the current version runs well with IE6, Office 2000, Quicktime, Quicken and a few others.

    The free version Wine from works well, but much more hands on required to get it up and running
  • VMware - create a Windows virtual machine inside Linux - works very well, but is costly.
  • Win4Lin requires full legit licensed Win 98SE and installs it as an application inside your Linux environment, so Windows 98 runs as a program in Linux, works very very well, isn't too costly, runs IE, Office, etc., and also runs the GroupWise Windows client and Messenger...which is cool.
  • Also as mentioned I would recommend buying SUSE Linux 9.0 Pro, plus SUSE Wine Rack, and a good startup book. Possibly also look at Ximian Desktop 2.

Greg Molyneux

One of my favorite Linux sites (and favorite bootable Linux distros) recently posted a message that is directly related to the subject of this article. Rather than sum up, I'll just include the quote and provide credit for their hard work.

Also check out their incredible bootable Linux-on CD distribution

Windows-to-Linux roadmap

Posted by yama on Monday, March 29 @ 09:08:59 EST

Peter Ambagtsheer

Last year I stood before the same question. I was to refurbish the entire company network. Essentially the missing link in my decision was the unclear relation between any MSOffice equivalent and Linux. E.g. OpenOffice and Staroffice lacked the GUI on a MySQL database; conversion of existing MS Access files to MySQL files being a relatively specialized task, and the packages not shipping together in a single installer file.

Take one step back: nobody WANTS to use MS office, but now try to find a functional replacement in your own non-English language. I tried SUSE and Knoppix: fine platforms, but not suitable Office applications. I tried Staroffice, some remainders of WordPerfect suite and Openoffice and some others; to me, they are perhaps comparable to a stripped down version of MS Office Small Business edition.

Today, I'm still trying and testing. To connect MySQL to a Dbase / MS Access like GUI or to Openoffice documents is not something easy or automatic, but requires painstakingly researching the zillions of options available. It's absolutely no good that installation of an office application requires understanding of C++ programming language. Good sport for technicians, but not an option for a small business.

Had there been a Linux Office package with the same functionality and the same ease of installing of MS office, but being reliable instead, we'd have switched to a Bill-free network at once. Currently our server is "Lean and Clean" but we are desperately waiting for the opportunity for the desktop/clients to come. A costly waiting line it is.

Don Meyer

I think that the question of using Microsoft (MS) apps on Linux defeats the purpose of migrating to Linux in the first place. The question should really be, how compatible are open source products? If my users have Open Source, can they share with other users with MS Office? If the answer to the later question is 'yes', then migration can truly occur.

Joyce Whiting

For all you CrossOver Office fans, licenses are included in the retail version of SUSE. You don't need to purchase licenses separately. You even get 90 days of support from CodeWeavers. Server apps are not included, but and other popular desktop apps are. Call CodeWeavers for details.

Michael Mills

People have come to rely on the MS Office for their work, not just interoperability with other users.

Many people have answered the "can I run MS Office on Linux" part, so I will not repeat, but as far as Similar and Compatible:

OpenOffice / Star Office reads and writes in Microsoft's .XLS, .DOC and .PPT formats as well XML files with different extensions (its native format). I use a Linux workstation with no Microsoft OS at all and share documents on a NetWare network with Windows MS Office users, and they don't know the difference.

Outlook is fine, but I use Ximian Evolution. If you have an MS Exchange Server, Ximian even provides the plugin to allow you to use it as though it were MS Outlook. I like the interface and some of the features better than Outlook, and since it provides SMTP, IMAP, POP3, iCAL, vCARD and a host of other standards support, I can't imagine trying to use anything else (yes it does meeting invitations).

I only miss Windows when I cannot run training CD's or other material (like Novell's Professional Resource Suite CD - hint, hint) specifically generated for Windows only.

I have had to use Wine for MS Visio for which there is no application that reads & writes in its formats and I must share those drawings, but short of that, I have needed nothing besides the tools that SUSE, and other distributions I have used previously, provides.

Anyone would be best served setting up their Linux box, tweaking, then doing it again. The second time it is much easier and you will have learned a lot of shortcuts. Once you have done it twice, you will be ready (and most likely willing) to install it for others.

If you have never used a Unix-like OS before, however, be sure to buy a distribution with good support. Novell has been supporting our/my clients and myself for years and I would trust their support infrustructure. Unlike some other OS manufacturers, they do get the problems resolved, or they don't stop working on it.


Well to answer the first two questions (Can I install Linux OS with Microsoft Office? Can I install Linux OS jointly with Microsoft XP or Microsoft 2000 in a Disk Partition?), yes. But just like another user suggested, people who use Linux only don't like to use any of the Microsoft products.

Star Office does have some cool features and is certainly compatible with Office XP files. I'd say if cost is one of the main issues I would certainly go with Linux and Star Office. However you also have to keep in mind that if you intend to use Linux you bring down the software cost but you can increase the training cost since not a whole lot of people are familiar with Linux.

Someone suggested Knoppix Linux. Yes, it runs from the CD, really cool, but I have noticed that the hardware database needs to be updated on that. On the other hand I find "Lindows" and "SUSE" that run from the CD really awesome. When people ask me, I give them pros and cons and tell them that out of all these the most important thing is your personal preference and what you feel comfortable with. However in the corporate environment that is not the case, end users have to use the software that is given to them.

Also there is "MS Virtual PC". I have personally tried it and it works great. I run five different versions of Linux without any problems using this cool software. Moreover if I want to switch back to Windows I can simply press the right key combination and switch back to Windows. Perfect thing to use if you would like to test or exchange files between Windows and Linux.

Tom Russell

I disagree that Linux should be better than Windows.

I was doing the Xerox and Sun desktop way before windows started cloning these superior implementations. They really havent yet reached the 1984 standard desktop yet, both in productivity and ease of use.

All they really have is an IBM business terminal model that plays games and music.

I think you should go back to this point and go on from there, bypassing the Windows anomoly completely. Looking at my old tapes of late 70s SIGGRAPH events, notably the ships database using berkley ingress certainly could give some pointers.

Secondly the AMD 64 and Linux 2.6 is a huge step up in both performance and more importantly the ability to use the 64 register space for some highly complex instructions which could see Linux in the forefront of a talking interface as well as writing recognition and 3D input devices.

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