With Windows' help, Corel suite runs under Linux OS

With Windows' help, Corel suite runs under Linux OS

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

Yes, Virginia, leading PC applications can migrate from Microsoft Windows to Linux. But as with Santa Claus, the magic sometimes is not quite what it seems.

The WordPerfect Office 2000 suite for Linux looked outstanding the moment I installed the CD-ROM. Corel Corp. appeared to have thought the product out thoroughly. I was pleased to see the suite work so well.

Corel included all of its office applications: the WordPerfect word processor, the Quattro Pro spreadsheet, the Presentations slide show maker, the Paradox database manager, even CorelCentral's e-mail, contacts and calendar manager. Corel also included utilities such as a font manager.

What are Windows .dll and .exe files doing in a Linux app? Corel's WordPerfect Office 2000 for Linux uses the Windows code, not native Linux code.

The installation was especially easy; Corel took a wizard cue from Microsoft Windows.

I simply double-clicked to launch a wizard that installed the applications and incorporated them into the Linux graphical interface equivalent of the Windows Start menu.

Many Linux devotees will argue that common apps need not operate under the open-source OS the same way they do under Windows.

But I think a major and widely used app should work and act practically the same no matter the platform. Corel's suite of apps looked and acted exactly the same under Linux as it did under Windows or Mac OS, although a few minor glitches did surface.

For example, the Linux version lacked the strong font control of Windows or Mac OS. This became apparent when text was turned 90 degrees by tab options in the Presentations application. Vertical text appeared blocky and almost illegible.

Corel's own version of Linux might do a better job of font control. I installed WordPerfect Office 2000 under Red Hat Linux 6.1 from Red Hat Inc. of Durham, N.C., just to see whether the suite might have problems under a competing version of the OS. I noticed no major issues.

After marveling at how much alike the applications looked and behaved, I asked fellow GCN Lab reviewers to take a look at the suite. Carlos A. Soto recently examined Paradox 9 for Windows [GCN, April 24, Page 29], and John Breeden II had reviewed WordPerfect and Quattro Pro last year [GCN, Oct. 25, 1999, Page 19, and Nov. 8, 1999, Page 24].

Box Score '''''''''''''''''''''

WordPerfect Office 2000 Deluxe for Linux

Windows application suite emulated under Linux

Corel Corp.; Ottawa;

tel. 888-267-3548


Price: $159

+ Same apps as in Windows suite

' Same Windows code emulated under Linux

' Corel failed to explain emulation

Real-life requirements:
Linux Kernel Release 2.2, 200-MHz Pentium, 64M of RAM, 500M of free storage, CD-ROM drive

None of us noticed a significant'or even insignificant'difference between the Windows versions in WordPerfect Office and the Linux versions.

The apps did launch a little more slowly than their Windows counterparts, however. Also, they disliked running under the Linux root superuser identity, causing a warning message to pop up. Still, they worked fine.

The similarities were uncanny'almost too uncanny. So I took a look under the hood and ran across something unusual: Windows Dynamic Link Library files. What the heck were they doing in a Linux package?

I had discovered why the Linux version looked just like the Windows edition of WordPerfect Office 2000. It is the Windows version.

Corel included a Windows emulation (WINE) server as a part of the installation. Linux devotees might have noticed the WINE directory sooner than I did. Interestingly, when I visited the Windows Emulation Development Web site at www.winehq.com, I found that the WordPerfect Suite 2000 is listed as incompatible with the emulation. Perhaps Corel found a way around the problem.

The hunt is on

Next I visited the linux.corel.com Web site, where Corel stated: 'Designed specifically for the robust Linux operating system,' the suite 'delivers world-class applications.' But Corel did not design the applications specifically for anything but Windows. I searched through Corel's WordPerfect Office 2000 site and found no reference to the emulation.

I called Corel and asked communications manager Melanie Rushworth about the .dll files. She said that the WINE acronym in the Corel product stands for 'WINE is not an emulator.' She said WINE doesn't translate at the hardware or instruction level. Instead, it provides a 'porting layer that provides Windows application programming interfaces for the applications in such a fashion that the applications think they are running on Windows,' Rushworth said.

Where's Webster's?

I'm not a programmer or a linguist, but it sounds to me as if there's some debate about the definition of an emulator. Suffice it to say that the same code is used on both Windows and Linux platforms. Eventually, Rushworth said, Corel plans to develop native code in parallel.

As I was finishing my tests, a power glitch caused my Linux system to switch off suddenly. On reboot, none of the Corel applications would work. Even reinstalling the suite did not fix the problem. Corel should have gone a step further and included a way to uninstall the suite.

I had wanted with WordPerfect Office 2000 to test a true Linux application suite. Let's hope that as the OS matures, application developers will write native apps for the platform.


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