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Duck-taping the turtles: MS Office on Linux


I read sometimes ago on a forum listing a guy's chat log. He was writing about a great idea. To summarize (I don't remember exactly) it was something like:

" You all know that a turtle's only weakness is if you turn it on it's back. Now I've got an idea.. If you duck-tape two turtles back to back - they are unstoppable." :D

Well this is odd enough, but it can apply to some real cases without having to torture the turtles.

I love Linux. Anyone should. But on my daily office tasks, Open Office kills me with brief overdoses of pure stupidity - like basic formatting and stuff. Let's face it, Microsoft did a better job here (congrats to Apple's iWork too, but it's not applicable in our case).

Well if you duck-tape Linux and Microsoft Office in the same roof - it's unstoppable. So how do we do it?


First you need Wine. Wine rules. It let's you do something that probably drives Linus Torvalds mad. Run exe, load dynamic libraries and so on in a small simulated environment directly into Linux. Sure - virtualization does that too but with a cost on performance and overall system integration.


My example will be based on Ubuntu 10. More specific,

mihaidobos@mdobos-u:~$ cat /etc/*release*
DISTRIB_ID=Ubuntu
DISTRIB_RELEASE=10.04
DISTRIB_CODENAME=lucid
DISTRIB_DESCRIPTION="Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS"
mihaidobos@mdobos-u:~$ uname -a
Linux mdobos-u 2.6.32-25-generic #44-Ubuntu SMP Fri Sep 17 20:26:08 UTC 2010 i686 GNU/Linux


Now to get wine, simply log in as root and type
apt-get install wine
That should download and install wine, fonts and everything you need. For Fedora/CentOS it should be
yum install wine

First thing you need to learn about wine: Don't run it as root (sudo included). It will mess up everything. This applies also to winetricks, which is mentioned in this article.
However if you do it (and nothing will work anymore) change ownership in ~/.wine* and also in ~/.cache/wine* to your username and recheck all permissions.


Second thing you should know is Wine configuration is per-user. Than means that everything (including you simulated C: drive) is hold under ~/.wine directory.

This application is designed to be run in normal user environment.

Next go to Applications - Wine - Configure Wine. Select your emulated OS as Vista or 7, then go to Libraries. Look for rpcrt4.dll and msxml3.dll and add them to “Existing overrides”. If you use Gnome. If you use KDE my opinion is you should install Gnome first :).


Now get winetricks:
wget http://www.kegel.com/wine/winetricks

This is an unofficial but neat extension to wine that centralizes lots of Windows-based software so you don't need to find it, download it and install it manually.

Next install Office's prerequisites using winetricks:
sh winetricks msxml6 gdiplus gecko vcrun2005 ie6

You will have some dialogs to answer and some Next - Next to do. It's ok - think about running Windows everyday and it will suddenly look easy.

Next, get rpcrt4.dll by searching mighty Google and put it in your system32 directory (~/.wine/drive_c/windows/system32 by default). My installation worked without this step, but other people's didn't.

Now just put in an Office CD, go to Applications - Wine - Uninstall Wine Software - Install.. and select setup.exe.

That should do the trick, enjoy it.




Don't take this as a step by step tutorial - I wrote it from my memories. Take it as a hint and do some more research if it doesn't work for you.

If you are lazy, you can always buy CrossOver for Linux (great app) that does all these steps for you. It's 40$ or something like this.

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