It’s been a while since we’ve touched on CrossOver. It’s a commercial product from CodeWeavers, the developers behind Wine and Proton, which allows Windows applications and games to run natively on Linux and macOS. Thankfully the janky old days of CrossOver running on Chromebooks through limited Android integration is now behind us. They have moved to having it instead run in the Linux (Crostini) environment which provides an enhanced experience. A lot of changes have been made under-the-hood since we last had a look at CrossOver just 4 years ago. Installation is easier, compatibility has gotten a lot better, and even the user interface has received some more polish. Check out all the new updates in CrossOver 21 over on the CodeWeavers blog.
Where Proton shines at making games work, CrossOver shines at making productivity tools work. A big focus for them is making sure software that businesses need on a daily basis, such as the Microsoft Office suite, work on Linux. They’ve also done an amazing job in the Apple ecosystem by making their product run on 64-bit only macOS systems and also run on the new M1 processor. Very impressive to say the least!
Why should you consider CrossOver? You get support, it’s cheaper than Parallels for Chrome OS and doesn’t require the hassle of enterprise licenses for Chrome OS, and it provides great integration with Chrome OS. Although it is a paid product, you can get it for free by signing up to be a beta tester. The catch is that you have to occasionally provide feedback on upcoming releases. That sounds like a win-win to me! Get a free high-quality product, try the latest features first, and feel good about yourself contributing back to the product. You’d be making a positive impact on both the product and upstream Wine project! Otherwise, they offer a no-strings-attached 14-day trial or you can help support the Wine developers directly by purchasing a yearly subscription.
CodeWeavers recently posted a video on their YouTube channel describing how to install CrossOver for Chrome OS. That basically involves heading over to their download page, downloading it, and double-clicking the Linux package. Oh, yeah, you’ll need the Linux feature installed on your Chromebook first. Their installation tutorial video is less than 2 minutes long. That’s right, you can have a Windows alternative installed in literally a couple of minutes. Talk about quick and easy!
When installing Windows software, CrossOver will create a “bottle” (think of it as an isolated installation of Windows), also known as a “Wine prefix”, installs third-party software such as fonts (similar to what the winetricks project does), installs other Linux dependencies, and finally installs the your chosen application. After the installation is complete, a shortcut for the application will be available both in the CrossOver application itself and also the app launcher in Chrome OS.
Now that we’ve gotten some history and details out of the way, let’s move onto the fun part: actually installing Windows applications! As an example, let’s walk through installing Steam since I do not own any Windows productivity software (LibreOffice is my open source suite of choice!). Most software requires you to have a digital copy or an external CD/DVD drive with the disc inserted. The Steam installer will actually go out and download it for us automatically.
There are actually a few advantages of installing Steam with CrossOver versus using the native Linux client. You can keep all of your Steam games installed into a single bottle to save space. Also, certain games using the Valve Anti-Cheat (VAC) program, such as a few Call of Duty games, within Wine will actually work online.
Open the new CrossOver app and select “Install Windows Software…” That will open a new window where it will download the latest information on how to optimally install specific software.
There are two different methods for installing a Windows program. It’s recommended to use “Select Application” and find an existing installer. This will provide all of the tweaks needed for it to work. If the application is not listed, then use “Select Installer” and use a local executable installer file on your Chromebook.
Confirm that you want to let CrossOver install additional operating system packages in the Linux environment. If you select “No” then there’s a high likelihood of Steam not even launching.
Wait for everything to download and install. Perhaps go grab a drink of your or your favorite captain’s choice. Tea. Earl grey. Hot.
Voila! You can now sign into Steam!
After being installed, it will have a shortcut created called “Steam (CrossOver)”. Honestly, I’ve tried a handful of games through Steam that either didn’t work or I didn’t have enough space for on my Chromebook. The state of gaming on Chromebooks is still a heavy work-in-progress. CrossOver 21 heavily relies on Vulkan for the best gaming experience so hopefully that’ll be officially supported in the Linux environment soon. I must also re-iterate that, even though I’ve installed Steam as an example, you’ll have a better experience if you specifically find and install a game or program you want through CrossOver itself. It’ll automatically install all the specific dependencies you need to make your application work. For gaming in general, the native Linux client for Steam with Proton enabled is still the best experience.
Does CrossOver interest you? Do you prefer Parallels for Chrome OS, upstream Wine, or simply using native Linux applications? No matter what, it is great to have options!