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Updated on April 24, 2013

As operating systems, Linux systems like ubuntu and its derivatives have a lot going for them. They are highly customizable, easy to work with, and have tons of free open source software available for use. Unfortunately, there are times when you may need to use Microsoft Office. This may be because of familiarity with MS Office, or because of compatibility issues. (I have noticed that slideshows created on PowerPoint don’t always display the same when viewed in LibreOffice.) However, there is no Linux version of MS Office… so what to do?

Enter the free Linux program called playonlinux (catchy name!). This is a frontend (or interface) for a utility known as WINE, which creates a windows environment for windows programs to run in. While I have used WINE in the past (I added Scrivener to my laptop with WINE), I found that it can be difficult to work with. Playonlinux, however, is a snap to use. Let me guide you through a quick tutorial, and you will see just how easy it is!

Before going any farther, I do want to point out that the only MS Office programs that can be installed are Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. So sorry, if you wanted to use Access or Outlook, this method will not work for you. In my case, my goal was to get MS Word on Ubuntu, as most other word processors seem to have trouble with the .docx format (although the new version of LibreOffice is reported to do much better with .docx; I still need to play around with it to see if that is the case).

If you are using ubuntu or one of its derivatives (lubuntu, xubuntu, kubuntu), playonlinux is available through the ubuntu software center. Simply click install, and wait for the program to download and install (You do need to have WINE installed as well, which is also available in the software center. Download and install WINE first, then playonlinux.) There may be other Linux distributions that have repositories for this program, but I have to confess I am not familiar enough with non-ubuntu Linux to say which ones. So if you have a different Linux OS (say, Arch), you can go to the playonlinux homepage and download directly from there.

Figure 1

Install Menu
Install Menu

Figure 2

Screenshot of MS Word running on Ubuntu
Screenshot of MS Word running on Ubuntu

Once you have installed playonlinux, put your MS Office installation disk in you cd/dvd burner, and then open playonlinux. Click on the install button, and you will be directed to a list of software that playonlinux has been configured for (see figure 1). Select the version of MS Office you will install (in my case, this was Office 2007), and then click “install”. Once the installation starts, you will see the same windows as you do when installing the software on a windows machine. Simply follow the instructions as you would in windows. Once the installation is complete, close playonlinux and you are ready to use MS Office. Simple as that!

So installing is one thing, but how well do the programs work? From what I have seen… flawlessly. There have been no glitches or hiccups. In fact, I am writing this hub on MS Word run through playonlinux (see figure 2 for a screenshot).

I would also like to point out there are a ton of programs and games that can be installed with playonlinux. So if you have the Windows version of Call of Duty, or would like to run Dreamweaver on Linux, this may be your ticket!

I hope you have enjoyed this hub! Have a comment or question? Please leave it below. Thanks for reading!


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