Windows Program Support

Evan eapache at
Fri Nov 9 01:15:49 UTC 2007

While this is not yet a major issue since the majority of users still choose
Ubuntu expressly over Windows or Mac (and realize what they're getting
into), there are several problems inherent with Ubuntu's growing popularity.
One of these is that less technical users may purchase off-the-shelf
software written for Win/Mac and expect it to run. While this is essentially
their fault for not researching the system requirements of the software,
Ubuntu could handle it far better than it currently does. At the moment it
essentially ignores all Win/Mac binaries with an error that it could not
open the file. This email is mainly to open up this topic for discussion,
but the following is what I personally would like to see implemented for
8.10 (most of these changes are too large for LTS).

When a binary is run, instead of giving the current error, provide a
dialogue that notifies the user of the fact that it is a Windows program
that cannot be run normally under Ubuntu. Then give the user two options:

   - list / install equivalent software for linux, the recommended option
   (via partnership with an organization like or
   - attempt to run it under wine (with caveat that it may not work)

While I realize that wine is still highly unstable and incomplete, it is
making progress, and it will now run the majority of programs which support
win2k and earlier. Theoretically it should be starting to get better support
for XP (which most new programs still support) by the 8.10 release, which
will make it moderately useful. It won't run everything, but it will be
considerably more useful than it has been in the past (largely in thanks to
the slow Windows release cycle).

In addition, Ubuntu should also add support for CD/DVD autorun. The majority
of non-techy users will pop a CD in the drive and expect the installer to
come up automatically. While most of them will be knowledgeable enough to
browse the disk and find 'installer.exe' or 'setup.exe', this would be a
nice feature to make Ubuntu even more user-friendly.

Ideally, Ubuntu would be able to identify the program (using a file hash?
out of my depth here), and automatically list equivilant programs, as well
as that program's rating in the Wine AppDB, directly inside the dialogue. I
imagine that this would be difficult, but I'm not sure, and it would be
really great if possible.

Again, this is mainly to open the subject up for discussion, so discuss

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