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CrossOver 12.5 brings major under-the-hood advances for Windows apps in OS X

Windows apps now work with OS X Expose and Spaces and other OS X features, compatibility improved, Windows Outlook, Office, games work better -- still without using the Windows OS

By John Rizzo

CodeWeavers yesterday released CrossOver 12.5, a major update to software that runs Windows apps in OS X without the use of Windows. Version 12.5 adds substantial under-the-hood changes, including a new emulation engine that provides "thousands of improvements to application compatibility" -- including dozens for MS Office, Outlook, Quicken, and games -- and further integration with OS X. A Linux version was also released sporting a new user interface.

CrossOver makes OS X compatible with a set of Windows applications through the use of an emulator called Wine that runs in the background. CrossOver 12.5 uses the new Wine 1.6, which includes "innumerable fixes for various Windows applications," numbering in the thousands, according to CodeWeavers.

CrossOver 12.5's second under-the-hood revamp is the "Mac Driver" technology, which enables Windows applications to work directly with the OS X interface. Mac Driver previously was available a beta in version, but is rolled out in version 12.5. Previous versions used a Unix-based windowing system.

Like Wine, a user doesn't see Mac Driver. Users see a CrossOver application, which at first presents only two buttons: one to install a Windows application in OS X, and another to turn on the emulator.

CrossOver 12.5 Welcome screen

But for users, the effect of Mac Driver in CrossOver 12.5 is visual because Windows applications now look and act more like native Mac applications. Windows apps now have their Tray icons appear in the Mac menu bar. Windows apps now work like Mac applications in Expose and Spaces, and there is better integration with the OS X Dock. There is also support for the Mac standard Command-tab switching in full-screen mode.

CrossOver 12.5 also supports drag and drop between Windows apps and the Mac and improved cut and paste support. Windows apps now appear in more Mac-like windows that are shaped and use transparency.

Games work better with input devices, including the support of force-feedback and better mouse handling in games. For all Windows apps, there is support for mice with more than three buttons, better international keyboard support, and an improved input method support for non-Latin characters.

New Wine improves compatibility with business apps and games

The tradeoff to CrossOver's low cost-to-own has always been that not all Windows applications can run well. CodeWeavers points out which apps those are at its web site. CrossOver 12.5 (and the Wine 1.6 emulation engine) improves this compatibility.

CrossOver 12.5 is the first version that can report a version of Windows that the applications will see as "Windows 7." Some applications may chose to behave differently depending on the reported version of the Windows API that is supported. This may allow some applications that previously did not work, or behaved differently, to run, according to a CodeWeavers spokesperson.

In addition to including general improvements, CodeWeavers said that it paid particular attention to several Windows applications, and in particular, Outlook for Windows. The company listed a dozen fixes specifically for Outlook, eliminating problems that caused Outlook to fail to reconnect on laptops after sleep or network changes. CrossOver 12.5 fixes several different types of crashes, improves NTLM authentication, and made a number of usability improvements regarding features of Outlook.

CrossOver 12.5.0 also improves Explorer 7 improved support for Quicken, Internet Explorer 7 (more web sites will work), and improved compatibility with the Microsoft Office suite, including better macro support in Excel.

There are also specific fixes for Windows games, including World of Tanks, Starcraft II, Rift's Storm Legion expansion, and others.

The Linux version of CrossOver 12.5 has a new user interface that presents a list of launchers for all installed Windows applications. CodeWeavers said, "This should help situations in which CrossOver's desktop integration is difficult to use, which can be the case with some modern desktop environments."

CrossOver 12.5 is available for $60 for either the Mac or Linux versions. A support package is available for an extra $20.

If you've tried CrossOver 12.5 .