Updated: November 14, 2008
One of the reasons why some people will never switch to Linux is their bank website. Or another website that simply refuses to work with any non-Internet Explorer browser. And thus, because of a single website - or rather, a single piece of software - the hope is dashed. But it does not have to be so. There are many ways Windows users can enjoy all they are used to in Linux, for fun or necessity.
It is possible to dual-boot two operating systems one alongside the other. I have written about this in my article Dual booting - Windows & Linux. Then, you might consider virtualization, a solution that allows you to encapsulate an entire operating system within another, in our case, Windows inside Linux. I have also written about this approach, please see VMware Player - A great friend and Installing VMware Server & Windows in Linux.
But there's also a third way, much simpler than either of the two mentioned. It's called IEs4Linux, a simple script that allows you to run different versions of the Internet Explorer inside your distribution, whatever it may be. For all practical purposes, the emulation required to do this is completely transparent to the user, and thus might be the perfect solution for new or intermediate users daunted by the prospect of dual booting or full system virtualization. IEs4Linux is listed in my A (cool) list of Linux tools, under Users' recommendations. Well, if you're interested, let's do it.
You will find a detailed explanation how to download and install IEs4Linux on the site's homepage. But let's go over the details. To install IEs4Linux, you will have to obtain cabextract for Windows .cab files and WINE first. WINE is an open-source implementation of the Windows API for X-based operating systems (like Linux or UNIX). You can install the required packages either via the command line or via the package manager. Here's how we do it in Ubuntu (Hardy Heron):
Or alternatively, use the command line:
After that, you'll need to download the IEs4Linux package. This requires that you use the command line a little, but nothing dramatic.
First, download the package using the wget command. After that, extract the archive. Then, switch into the directory where you've extracted the files and run the "installation" script.
This will start the installation. Now, please notice that you should not run this script as sudo, as you might be used to - or tempted to. Here's what happens when you run ies4linux script as sudo (ignore the old version warning):
So, run ies4linux without the root privileges. This will start a wizard.
You have the choice to install three versions of Internet Explorer (5.0, 5.5 and 6.0), in different languages. Additionally, you can choose whether to install Flash Player and place icons on the desktop.
Before we begin the installation, let's see what's under Advanced.
Here, you have the choice to specify the location for the installs, the binaries and downloads. Furthermore, you have the option to install Internet Explorer 7.0. However, after reading the advisory on the developer's site, I must admit it's too early to use this package, and it might cause you more pain than good. Lastly, if you're not comfortable with Linux, I suggest you do not tweak the Advanced options.
After you make all the choices you want, click OK to begin the installation. The script will begin downloading files from Microsoft.
After a while, the installation will be complete.
Here's what the Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron desktop looks like, adorned with three quasi-IE icons:
Here's another screenshot from Gutsy:
And here's IE 6.0, believe it or not, showing an olden version of my website:
IEs4Linux is an excellent choice for any Linux user who must sometimes open the Internet Explorer for the "special" websites. It requires minimal effort to setup and get running, compared to more complex solutions, like the full virtualization or dual boot, both of which take a lot of time and hard disk space. If you're a Windows user mulling moving over into the brave new world of Linux, here's yet another less obstacle keeping you back.