WinOnX: Easily Run Windows Applications on Your Mac

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.

First 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.

Dull UI image

The UI of WinOnX leaves something to be desired.

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.

What’s Good?

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).

screenshot

Simple software like Firefox works fine with 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.

What’s Bad?

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.

screenshot

Despite not running Internet Explorer WinOnX managed Virtual DJ fine.

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.

Conclusion

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.


Summary

Allows Windows programs to run on Mac OS X without a copy of Windows.

6
  • Jürgen

    WinOnX is good software, but far away from perfect. For its price the software is unbeatable. As a competitor there would be Crossover XI which is superior in this area. They solved so much problems with wine on Mac OS X and support really lots of programs. There is an own database where the users can look to if their software will run. They also implemented lots of third party libraries, to support even more applications whilst WinOnX is only a polished Wine installation. But don’t forget, Crossover will cost €51 and not €3,99.

  • Pete

    WinOnX 1.4 was released today. It has a really cool feature by managing multiple Windows instances.

  • Gee Deezy

    Crossover is been available for what… 5 years? It is still bug-filled and very restrictive about what software works well with it.

    Can’t expect the first iteration of a tool like WinOnX to be great the very first release, can ya?

    Glad to see alternative solutions coming out. Good luck to you guys!

    • Jürgen

      First I didn’t say that it has to be perfect in its first versions.

      But when you look at Crossover, they started in 2002 with Linux and brought it to the Mac in 2007. So they have 10 years experience in this and there is a really big community which always works, to get the newest software running. 80% of the releases are community driven, and also enable playing COD3 in a high quality. WinOnX may also be able to do this but actually it’s not more than a good looking interface around wine.

  • Sigilist

    Here we go again. There are so many Wine adaptations out there for free if you’ve got half a wit in how to use a search engine. No cost, no AppStore nonsense, so long as you are willing to give up the typical machead superficiality of “pretty” makes a better program.

    There’s nothing at all wrong with WinOnX, including it’s clean interface, other than you have to pay for it. It really offers nothing over the direct Wine, and since it is dependent on Wine, it’s likely always one step behind the development curve.

    http://www.winehq.org/

    • Sigilist

      For those who get easily lost at WineHQ in trying to find what is needed for a mac, try the following as well. Some links are not for the “please don’t make me think” crowd; others are.

      http://wineskin.doh123.com/
      https://code.google.com/p/osxwinebuilder/
      http://winebottler.kronenberg.org/

      • Sigilist

        NOTE: All implementations of Wine shells and frontends are only as good as what is behind them… the particular version of Wine (which is not the version of frontend software). If you get frustrated and prefer install a full Windows (or other OS), take the time to try our VirtualBox before you shell out for other VMware (Virtual Machine Software). It has limits on its integration features but not on actually running any installed OS… and it’s free, and again, without AppStore nonsense. It goes in quick and the only major time to try it out is the version of OS you are installing.

        https://www.virtualbox.org/
        http://download-virtualbox-vm.com/

  • http://fuh-q.com Serra

    If it can’t run everything, then it’s not any good. I’d only use something like this for gaming, and if I can’t run the games I want, then it’s useless.

    The only thing that I want to run right now is “The Secret World”, a new mmorpg coming out from Funcom that is Windows only. (or Bootcamp, yadda yadda) I’m in the closed beta, and so far it ran poorly under Parallels, but I may be able to tweak it.

    • Miro

      I’m also interested in finding a program that will allow me to run windows only games on a mac. If you find anything, other than boot camp and parallel programs, could you contact me?

      • http://dedalegame.com/ Sergey

        Hey guys, have you found a solution to this yet? If yes, please contact me about. The Secret World is the only MMO I ever wanted to play, but running it in BootCamp kinda defeats the purpose, so if it runs in Parallels somehow or Wineskin or whatever, please let me know about it. Please write to sergey.mohov[at]gmail[dot]com

  • Dan

    It gets absolutely terrible reviews on the App Store. Think I’ll pass on this one.

  • http://denbeke.be MathiasB

    It is indeed far from perfect. Some month ago I couldn’t even install Firefox with WinOnX.
    Maybe when they make a lot of updates an a good design, it can be a very nice app. But that’s not the case today.

  • Jenn

    Just my 2 cents but I just have a few points: 1) If software works as it should (and/or helps me do the task I set out to do), I really do not care what the design is. 2) As the post above mentions, there is more virtualization software than just parallels. 3) If you are going to use wine, it should be installed form the source

  • jm

    Hey…I think the idea is great….I don’t wanna bother with licenses and boot camp etc on my mac just want to open winonx and load up a couple of .exe programs which don’t seem to be compatible – running mountain lion.
    the thing that is annoying the hell outta me is that I am unable to contact the NES software people to discuss this!!??
    I click the buttons for support / feedback but no connection to their server!??
    Great!!

  • Ana

    does anyone know how to get a hold of the developer? I have questions

  • ahmad anwar

    it doesn’t run any thing -.- it just keep on crashing
    i spent 5 $ on nothing
    liars application
    just for getting some money –,

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