Have you ever wanted to install a Windows application on your Mac? First of all, shame on you for wanting to do such a thing. However, as you know, countless Mac users do in fact run PC applications every single day, so we forgive you.
The problem with running Windows applications on your Mac is that it usually requires various complications such as hard drive partitioning, installing a full on Windows environment, and/or expensive software like Parallels. But what if you just need to run one application and don’t really want to mess with all that other stuff?
Enter WineBottler, a free and easy way to wrap a Windows application into something that will run natively in OS X. Too good to be true you say? Read on!
The obvious first step is to visit the WineBottler website to download the application.
Once you’ve downloaded the app, run the dmg file. This will mount the disk and pop open a window containing two applications: Wine and WineBottler. Throw both of these into your Applications folder.
X11 and Prefixes
Before we go any further, a little bit of explanation is necessary. This can all get pretty nerdy and technical so I’ll try to keep it as basic as possible.
As mentioned before, WineBottler doesn’t run Windows applications but instead wraps them in such a way that they’ll run on OS X. This is accomplished through the magic of a utility called X11.
Throughout the process of running and installing applications, you’ll probably see X11 pop up in your dock. If so, leave it alone. It needs to do its thing for all of this to work.
Now for some jargon. When using WineBottler, almost everything will revolve around “prefixes.” The easiest way to think of these is simply as Windows applications. So when you see something referring to default or custom prefixes, remember that’s just referring to applications that you can install.
Installing Default Prefixes
Now that you have a rudimentary knowledge of how it all works, open up WineBottler. You should see three different options on the left: Existing Prefixes, Install Predefined Prefixes and Create Custom Prefixes.
Click on the predefined prefix option to bring up a list of applications. This is essentially a bunch of free software that you can install quickly with barely any effort.
As a web developer, I often have the need to test the sites I build in multiple browsers. Being a Mac user, it’s easy for me to hit Safari, Chrome and Firefox, but let’s face it, those aren’t really the browsers that are going to give me trouble are they? The good old Internet Explorer family is where the real troubleshooting usually occurs. For this reason, I was quite happy to see these applications in the list!
To install one of these applications, simply click on it and hit “Install.” You might want to click the “Silent Install” option as well. This can save you a few clicks down the road.
In my experience, this process can either be surprisingly fast or astoundingly slow. If it seems like it’s taking a while, take a break and come back. And I don’t mean check your email for a minute, I mean go mow the lawn and take your kids to soccer practice because it’s going to be a while.
Once the installer is finished, the application should be sitting in your designated folder. It will appear just like any other application and requires only a double click to run.
Running the applications can be a little weird, but they’re functional for the most part. A few things I’ve noticed being strange are keyboard shortcuts like copy and paste being remapped and scrolling with momentum getting completely out of control in some apps. Otherwise everything seems to work just fine and it merely feels like your Mac got hit with the ugly stick.
Installing Custom Prefixes
It will often be the case that the application you want to install isn’t in the list of predefined prefixes. Fortunately, WineBottler has you covered. If you don’t see the app you want, click on the option to install custom prefixes.
Make sure you’ve got the windows app downloaded so that the .exe file is easy to find on your Mac. Now hit the “select File” button at the top of the window and navigate to that file.
Again you’ll be taken through a pretty basic installation process. The WineBottler screens and actual application installation menus will fill your screen so be ready to manually walk through them just as if you were installing the application on a Windows machine.
Unfortunately, not every application will work with WineBottler. Some apps simply aren’t compatible and others will require a bit of troubleshooting on your part.
Fortunately, the Wine application comes with a number of useful tools for helping you through this process. Among these is a DOS prompt and various “Winetricks” that you can install that are essentially support software like the Adobe AIR runtime.
To sum up, WineBottler makes it incredibly easy to install many (but not all) Windows applications on your Mac. The best part is that you won’t even have to deal with “Start” menus or recycle bins as the applications will run right in your OS X environment alongside your Mac applications.
The key to using WineBottler is patience. Sometimes the applications can take an inordinate amount of time to install, but if you wait it out, they usually pull through.
Leave a comment below and let us know what applications you miss out on from being a Mac user and whether or not you think WineBottler is a good solution for running them!