If you’re a long-time Linux user, you know there are tons of software titles that enable you to get your work done. If you’re a Windows user, wishing you could make the leap to desktop Linux — but don’t, because the tools you need are Windows-only, you might be in for a surprise. Many Windows apps can be installed on Linux. In fact, this has been the case for some time, thanks to Wine. Wine is a compatibility layer capable of running Windows applications on Linux and other POSIX-compliant operating systems. However, to many users, Wine itself has been a bit of a hurdle as it isn’t always considered the most user-friendly tool. That is about to change. How? Have you ever heard of Flatpak? If not, Flatpak provides a sandbox environment in which users can run applications in isolation from the rest of the system. These applications are containerized, so you don’t have to worry about dependencies. You install the container and it runs. Simple as that.
To make this even more appealing, there’s a new technology in town called Winepak. Winepak makes it possible to create containerized Windows applications that are installable on Linux. Imagine, if you will, you could install a Windows app on Linux with a single command. I’m going to show you how to do just that. I’ll demonstrate on the Elementary OS platform and will install that tried-and-true text editor Notepad++.
Before we can do anything, we must first install Flatpak. Without Flatpak, we don’t have Winepak. To install this dependency, follow these steps:
- Open a terminal window.
- Add the necessary apt repository add tool (if it’s missing) with the command sudo apt install software-properties-common —no-install-recommends.
- Add the necessary repository with the command sudo add-apt-repository ppa:alexlarsson/flatpak.
- Update apt with the command sudo apt update.
- Install Flatpak with the command sudo apt install flatpak.
- Add the Flathub repository with the command sudo flatpak remote-add —if-not-exists flathub https://flathub.org/repo/flathub.flatpakrepo.
- Add the Winepak repository with the command sudo flatpak remote-add —if-not-exists winepak https://dl.winepak.org/repo/winepak.flatpakrepo.
- Reboot your machine.
Once the machine reboots, you’re ready to install the application.
Installing the Windows app
Before I show you how to install the Windows application (in this case Notepad++), you should know that the current list of available windows apps is pretty small. I would imagine this list will grow pretty quickly, as installing Windows apps on Linux using this means should become quite popular. You can check the current list of applications here.
Let’s install Notepad++. Now that we have Flatpak installed (and the necessary repos), we can install our app with a single command:
sudo flatpak install winepak org.notepad_plus_plus.Notepad-plus-plus
That command will download and install the containerized version of the Windows app. If you check your desktop menu, you’ll now find an entry for Notepad++ (Figure A).
You can go back to the application list page and install most of those included with Winepak. I did attempt to install InternetExplorer8, but found it is now unavailable to flatpak. Turns out, some applications are not quite ready for prime time (and require being built using a flatpak-builder tool). That of course, would completely defeat the purpose of having a system that makes installing Windows apps on Linux simple. Because of that, we’ll wait until those tools are available to be installed via the flatpak install command.
The future could be bright
Winepak is incredibly promising. If this technology is given the attention it deserves, it could demolish one of the last remaining hurdles preventing the masses from migrating to Linux. It’s not perfect yet, but if what they already have to offer is any indication, this could be a game changer for Linux.
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