Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Will it run on a Mac?

I guess the most common question we get asked about the Wessex Pricing Programs is "Will it run on a Mac?"
The short answer is "No.".
The long answer is "Very probably.".

The problem is that the Mac operating system and the Windows operating system are very different from each other. They won't recognise each other's files or know how to execute them. Things have got a little easier now that Apple has moved to an Intel processor, but there is still a big gulf between the systems (and, for that matter, Linux, a third system, but see the footnote at the end for that.)

Now, before we go any further, I will nail my colours to the mast and say that I've never used a Mac, so all that follows is from a Windows perspective and I apologise now if I've got anything wrong.

It seems that there are three main ways of getting a Windows program to run on a Mac.
The first is "dual boot". This means that both Windows and the Mac operating systems are on the computer, and you have to choose one or the other when the computer starts. (I believe there is a utility on the Mac called "Boot Camp" that assists with this.) There are two obvious problems with this - a) you can't easily switch between systems, b) you have to buy both systems.

The second way is "Virtualisation". This means you can have Windows running within the Mac system and can switch quite easily between the two. However, you still need to have a full copy of Windows, and the "VM" (virtual machine) software is not the easiest thing in the world to use.

Now we come to the third way - software that will translate the Windows code into something the Mac will understand.
This is where a program like "Crossover Mac" comes in (http://www.codeweavers.com/products/cxmac/ ) Although I haven't used it myself, I have looked at the details and it seems to tick the right boxes. There's a free trial to check that it will actually work and it's reasonably priced if you do decide to buy.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned another operating system - Linux. This comes in lots of varieties, the most popular at the moment being "Ubuntu". The reason I mention it is that it's very secure (based on the Unix mainframe system) and it's free (together with most of its software). As long as you are just using standard office type tasks the system is easy to use. There are the same problems getting Windows programs to run as with a Mac, and the same solutions exist. There is a program called "Crossover Linux" and also a free solution "Wine" - I must get tinkering!