As much as I love using Mac OS X, there have been numerous times since I started using a Mac back in 2006 when that I’ve wanted to run a Windows application. While the option of using Boot Camp or another program such as Parallels Desktop has always been there, they both required me to have a licensed copy of Windows (as do many of the other options out there). Being a student, buying a copy of Windows was out of the question and I had to make do without.
WinOnX however, is a nice little program that allows certain Windows applications to be run on OS X (only 10.6 and 10.7 however) without the need to purchase and run a copy of the Windows operating system. In this article I’ll be taking a look at WinOnX, read on for my thoughts.
WinOnX can be downloaded from the Mac App Store here and as with all downloads from the Mac App Store the installation process is automatic and pain free.
On opening the application, my first thought was that the user interface was pretty plain and boring and while this may not be particularly important for some users I’m the kind of guy who likes software to be pleasing to the eye.
However, as this software is more of a work around for those of us who won’t or can’t use another option that requires a licensed copy of Windows, perhaps the no frills interface that WinOnX offers will simply have to be accepted.
I think it’s important to note before continuing with the review that because WinOnX is based on the open source Wine project, it is not a complete solution for all types of software. For example some games and other full screen programs aren’t fully supported.
Where WinOnX really shines is the speed at which you can be running Windows programs. Within 2 minutes of downloading I was already surfing the net with a Windows version of Firefox (It just so happened to be the first program I thought of downloading to test out WinOnX).
The ease with which you can load up your programs is also pretty impressive. You simply drag and drop your .exe file into WinOnX and the software will take care of the rest.
The next time you want to run a particular program it will be there waiting within WinOnX for you to select so you don’t have to keep opening the .exe files each time you want to open a that piece of software.
WinOnX also has the advantage of being pretty cheap (it is currently available for $4.99) and so, despite its limitations, it offers those unable to run a full version of Windows the opportunity to run certain programs that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
As mentioned above, the user interface could definitely benefit from an update. I feel as though I would much prefer using WinOnX if it was more slick in its appearance. The introduction of multiple skins for the user to choose would certainly be an easy solution to implement.
The actual stability of WinOnX also failed to impress me. On many occasions it simply crashed without warning closing both WinOnX itself and the Windows software that I was using at the time. After numerous crashes, this began to really irritate me and I was close to giving up and concluding that the only proper way to run Windows software on a Mac is through Boot Camp or Parallels.
The lack of full support for a number of types of software is also a large downside to WinOnX. When I tried to run Internet Explorer (just for testing might I add) I was greeted firstly with an error message telling me that WinOnX had crashed and when I finally managed to keep WinOnX open long enough to load IE, I was told that it only worked on Windows Vista and 7.
It really seems to be hit and miss whether or not your desired program will run in WinOnX and the only way to find out is to try it and see. This might not be a problem for most people but I found it extremely annoying and inconsistent especially when I managed to run a Windows version of Virtual DJ but not the latest version of Internet Explorer.
While WinOnX is a great piece of software in theory, I feel that the execution of the idea is some way off the mark. The frequent crashes are so irritating that eventually you’ll want to bite the bullet, buy a copy of Windows and start using Boot Camp.
The hit and miss approach when you try loading a program is also a huge issue and may leave some purchasers feeling short changed, especially if they downloaded WinOnX to run a specific program that they then find to be incompatible. While there is a compatibility checker here on the developer’s website, it is by no means complete.
WinOnX does redeem itself however in doing exactly what it says on the tin (when it doesn’t crash) and in many cases Windows software will run adequately on your Mac computer. After all, it isn’t a final solution but more of a work around if you desperately need to run a piece of Windows only software and can’t use a Windows machine.
I think that with a few tweaks to the interface, wider range of compatible programs and improved stability, WinOnX will be a program that most Mac users won’t want to be without. Let me know what you think about WinOnX in the comments below.