Updated: January 31, 2024
Over the years, I spent a lot of time and effort in trying to get Windows programs to run in Linux. Lately, this has become my mission - I want to migrate away from the proprietary operating system, as its future looks glum and gimmicky and overly low-IQ for my taste. My primary asset in this journey has been WINE. Unfortunately, over these same many years, I've not had much success with it.
More often than not, the software simply wouldn't install or run. There would be too many errors. Game support was flaky, even with tools that use WINE as their backend, like PlayOnLinux. But in the past year or two, things have changed. Significantly improved. I was able to run a ton of stuff in Linux, quite successfully. And with the Steam Proton compatibility layer, which also uses WINE in the background, I got to run pretty much every single game I own, almost without any issues. Now, the latest version of WINE is out, and it promises even better results. Let's check.
Improved MSHTML compatibility
Talking about the technical details of what WINE 9.0 brings is difficult. Because the specifics are nerdy and hard to grasp. What matters is how they translate into practice. I have the WineHQ repository enabled on a few of my Linux systems, and I got the update automatically. So what gives then?
First, with WINE 8.0, I had managed to run a great deal of programs, including SketchUp Make, Kerkythea and Maxwell Render (even though this one has a native Linux version). We can add KompoZer, IrfanView, Foxit Reader, and Notepad++ to this list, too. I do not want to spam you with links to my own articles, just jump into the Linux category, browse and read as you see fit. All of these work really well in my Kubuntu 22.04, with minimal tweaks and wizardry.
But there were a few problems, as well. For instance, with Maxwell Render, the SketchUp plugin to be more precise, not everything worked. I would get an odd blank windows here and there, as the plugin's internals use the MSHTML engine, the old engine from Internet Explorer, to generate some of the menus, and the WINE Gecko browser couldn't properly generate and display these.
With WINE 9.0, those issues are gone! The Maxwell Render SketchUp plugin now works perfectly. I will write a full, complete, step-by-step tutorials on what I had to do to get this working. I had tried this before, and there were some snags. The point is, with the latest version of WINE, I was able to achieve the desired results. Phenomenal. Stay tuned.
Equally importantly, there are no regressions. Everything else also behaved. I didn't need to reconfigure any other program, nothing broke. The performance is reasonable, the stability solid. I was also able to make different software run with the Nvidia card on the Titan laptop (hybrid graphics). Jolly good.
This needs not be a long article. And I can finally be super-positive and praise WINE. I had posted half a dozen reviews of this amazing framework, and I've not always been happy. The results were average at best, I was critical of the supposed level of compatibility it provided, I was rather pessimistic, and it looked as though things would stay the same forever, without any real improvement.
But that has changed. Dramatically. Now, WINE is surging forward, and the latest version brings in a giant set of fixes and improvements. Most are transparent, which is good and how it should be, and some are really visible. And I mean that in the literal sense. You can now SEE windows and dialogs that were previously empty, blank, transparent, or just didn't render at all. Tons of Windows software, especially older releases, used the Trident engine (the same way, ironically, a lot of programs today use Chrome, Chromium or Electron) to create "Web" pages of their menus, and with the demise of the Internet Explorer, it looked as though we'd never get the right level of support for these. But it's happening.
Soon enough, I expect WINE do be able to replicate pretty much all of the "old" MSHTML and dotNET calls, and we'll be able to run everything Windows created till about 2014-2015 or so. Which is more or less when good for-Windows software and UIs stopped being developed, so there. Anyway, WINE 9.0 is great, I'm ultra-happy, and you should expect a barrage of articles that explain how to get some of the more stubborn Windows programs to run in Linux. Take care, penguins.