In this article let’s look at some Linux Distros that come with WINE preinstalled, let’s also compare and analyze them to find out which one shines in what criteria.
The Short Version of the Answer
For Beginners: Zorin OS
For Gamers: Ubuntu GamePack
For Home entertainment: SteamOS
For Advanced users: Debian/OpenSUSE
That is just the short version of the answer, let’s go ahead and look at the longer and more informative version and learn what were the factors considered, what other choices you have and see why the above distros are chosen as the best distro that ships with WINE in each given criteria. Let’s also have a look at the need behind WINE and how WINE actually works.
If you are interested in a specific section you can jump to it using the Table of Contents below.
Need for WINE
If you are a windows user, moving to Linux can be hard since you will not be able to use your favorite Windows apps any longer. Even though there are equivalent apps in the Linux world, users tend to get back to Windows. This is usually due to one of the following 2 reasons
- Coming to the Linux ecosystem for the first time and changing their entire workday around the Linux OS was already a lot for the beginner level user to handle and learning to work with new apps that they aren’t familiar with can make the entire process too much for them to handle.
- They could not find any worthy alternatives for the important applications that the users have used in Windows. Let’s face it, Linux does not come with support for productivity apps like MS Office, Adobe Suite of tools, and a bunch of other tools!
The Linux developers noticed this trend of users jumping back to their old OSes and not giving Linux more time to get used to and wanted to do something about it. Hence they came up with something called WINE which will help you run your favorite Windows apps on Linux.
How WINE works: An Analogy!
WINE stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator. WINE creates a virtual environment for the windows app to run in so that these windows apps actually think they are running on a Windows machine. In the background WINE is translating all of their Operating System communication from the language understood by the Windows Operating System to the language that is understood by the Linux Operating System. By “language” here I don’t mean computer languages like C or Java, but rather the API specifications and system calls.
For example consider this simple analogy. Say an app wants to use the WiFi hardware functionality. To use WiFi in the Windows scenario let’s assume that the apps need to say
“Windows, please give me permission to use WiFi”
and on Linux, the apps should use the phrase below instead.
“Linux, Can I use WiFi please!”
I hope you can see that the 2 phrases have the same meaning even though they use a slightly different language!
So WINE is basically a compatibility layer that sits between the Windows app and the Linux Operating System and translates all the communication meant for the Windows OS to the ones that can be understood by Linux OS. (This analogy is only designed to give the users an introduction to the idea behind how WINE works as the actual API calls won’t look anything like the sentences I have used!)
Need for Distros with WINE ready to go
People usually need a distro with WINE for the below 2 reasons.
- A typical activity done after installing any distro is to install a list of apps before the user can start working on the freshly installed operating system. WINE is usually in their list of must-have software since they need it before they can run their favorite Windows apps on Linux. Hence shipping a distro with WINE just makes their list a bit short and their lives a bit easier!
- As we saw in the section above, one of the reasons that make people who try Linux to bounce back to windows is the steep learning curve. Installing WINE needs a little bit of courage and determination for a first time Linux user, as you need to google a bunch of times and enter a bunch of commands they might not fully understand before they can actually get everything set up properly. By shipping a distro with WINE makes the first time Linux users stay just a bit longer and enjoy some Linux goodness before they can make up their minds about whether to stick to Linux or get back to Windows!
Distros That Ships With WINE
Okay, now that we have seen the need for WINE and the idea behind how it works, let’s go ahead and have a look at some distros that ship with WINE preinstalled!
3 most popular distros that come with WINE preinstalled are
- Zorin OS
- Ubuntu Gamepack and
This Linux Distro is a derivate of Ubuntu that aims to be a direct replacement for Windows with a desktop and menus very similar in terms of look and feel to Windows. If the term “derivate” does not make sense to you I suggest reading my other article given in the link below where I have explained the concept in detail.
To help those users migrating from Windows, Zorin OS comes with WINE software preinstalled and ready to go. In addition to WINE it also comes preinstalled with other related apps like PlayonLinux and wine-tricks, which are apps built on top of WINE. These software provide you with a curated collection of windows apps that are tested, ready to be downloaded and installed! Thus Wine-tricks, PlayOnLinux, etc. can be thought of as app-stores with Windows apps tested to be WINE compatible!
You can try out ZorinOS from this link
This is from a company named UALinux from Ukraine. Ubuntu GamePack is basically a Ubuntu LTS release with all the software necessary for Gaming preinstalled.
Ubuntu GamePack and ZorinOS are both based on Ubuntu, the difference being the fact that the desktop environment for Ubuntu GamePack is the same as that of Ubuntu and no rebranding is done anywhere inside the desktop. If the term “desktop environment” feels new to you I suggest reading this article in the link below.
If you are familiar with Ubuntu, you will feel right at home with Ubuntu GamePack. Other than that the focus of Ubuntu GamePack is on playing games and that of Zorin OS is to give users a smooth transition from Windows to Linux. To play games on Linux, WINE is a prerequisite, so it comes preinstalled and ready to go, hence satisfying our requirements. The list of software included with Ubuntu GamePack other than WINE are
- Play on Linux, etc
All these apps are aimed at making gaming on Linux easier! Next let’s have a look at another Linux distro which is way different than the ones seen till now.
SteamOS is a derivative of Debian, and it is not meant to be installed on a work computer, but rather on a spare one which you can connect to your TV and make your spare computer fill the role of say of a Home Entertainment Center, similar to an Xbox or a PlayStation!
SteamOS is basically made to help the users of Steam, a software used to buy and play games on Windows, Linux, and MacOSX. With the help of a software named Proton, Steam users can play even Windows-only games on their Linux machines, which is considered to be a huge step forward by the Linux Gaming community!
You can learn more about Steam, Proton, WINE and their relationships from the article in the link below.
Other options of getting WINE as part of your installation is to download the full iso of the Linux distros like OpenSUSE or Debian which comes with all the latest packages in their repository. During the installation process you can just select WINE to be installed, which seems to be the next best thing for not having WINE preinstalled.
Of course if you are not happy with the available options you can always install your favorite distro and install WINE after installation!
And with that, I will conclude this article!
I hope you guys enjoyed this article and learned something useful.
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Here are some of my other articles that might interest you!