My last two posts have been on two solutions on running Windows software without Windows. Both technologies described use the WINE project as their base. WINE (Wine Is Not an Emulator) is a very old (but active) open-source interpreter to let Windows stuff run on other systems. More on that at WineHQ
Darwine : Free (libre) Mac binaries (application) to implement WINE. No interface, you simply run set WineHelper to handle the files and run them. Everything is ran through XQuartz. Uses one big hidden "virtual C drive" in your user folder, so be prepared to enable hidden files in finder alot. Not as bad as it sounds : when it works it works and when it doesn't WineHelper makes nice long log files to stare at confused :)
CrossOver: Proprietary WINE interface with lots of help files and GUI goodness. Easy menus to choose the version of Windows you need and supports many different bottles (virtual C drives) kept in the library. Uses XQuartz but doesn't make it obvious (no dock icon/menu bar etc messiness).
Obviously, Darwine is free and that's a good thing. If you've read my posts this is the WINE solution I am experimenting with, I do not plan to buy CrossOver. It is easier for me to just muck around with free software I can download and install infinitely on any computer at any time. I like to break things and just reinstall them over and over, its like a puzzle and I learn from each step.
Since the core technology is shared, anything Darwine can do CrossOver can do. Conversly, anything CrossOver can do Darwine can do. I would never recommend Darwine to a non-power user: its just not practical. I would direct them to CrossOver. Likewise I would not tll a power user to use CrossOver I would point them to Darwine. This are different solutions.
I love the open-source ideal and the community but I also understand the incentives of proprietary works. Apple is practically the polar opposite of open-source after all, with their very closed OS and hardware, but I love Leopard and iWork and use them over Linux and OpenOffice.org .
Lastly, as most people here know, I have a dual boot Windows/Mac system in place. I do not run a single critical program exclusively on WINE. I can break things and it doesn't matter the slightest cause the same program is on a perfectly good Windows install. Most importantly, I am familar with Windows, how things are stored and called and why things would and wouldn't work. I grew up on Windows and use it almost daily (sadly). A lot of mac users aren't. Obviously the transparency of Darwine is useless to someone who does not understand Windows.
So I just want to clarify my position on these two technologies. I am not doing this to promote CrossOver. I actually just wanted to write a feedback letter for the trial (a request of thiers of every person who tries the software; quite fair) and felt it would be easiest to post my thoughts here as well.
So my conclusion is:
CrossOver for the average Joe
Darwine for the power user who's Windows-literate.
Also, CodeWeavers has fantastic customer support (I emailed them about feedback and they even posted here) and a remarkable "Truth in Advertising Approach".