CAN you run Adobe Photoshop on Linux?
Many Web designers, graphic artists and bloggers might consider the answer to this question crucial when considering a shift from Windows.
After all, while there are many excellent open-source alternatives to common office and multimedia applications, the defacto graphics program on Linux, the unfortunately-named Gimp, hobbles a generation or two behind the market-leading Photoshop, which is available only for Windows and Mac OS X.
Years of speculation and wishful thinking have not yielded a Linux version from Adobe, nor does one look likely to come anytime soon.
As they are often wont to do, users have taken matters into their own hands, using free and open-source software called Wine to run Windows programs – including Photoshop – in Linux.
A group of hackers began the Wine project in 1993 as a way to run Windows 3.1 programs on Linux. Over the years, Wine has been expanded to include programs running under later versions of Windows, including 95, 98, 2000 and XP.
Wine, short for "Wine Is Not an Emulator," is software that translates Windows commands into their equivalent in Linux or Unix.
While the project is more than a decade old, Wine is still under testing, with the latest beta version being 0.9.18.
"Wine is still under development, and it is not yet suitable for general use," the official Web site ( Http://www.winehq.com ) says. "Nevertheless, many people find it useful in running a growing number of Windows programs."
Intrigued by the possibilities, I did some research and found a 2003 article in eWeek about how Walt Disney's animation unit and two other competing studios jointly funded a project with CodeWeavers, the leading corporate backer of Wine, to develop a solution that would allow them to run Photoshop on Linux.
The project cost Disney less than $ 15,000, but saved it more than $ 50,000 a year in Windows licenses, eWeek reported. At the same time, CodeWeavers was able to incorporate the technology into Wine and its commercial version, CrossOver Office.
A quick check with the Wine Web site showed that Photoshop was indeed among the 4,398 Windows applications that would run under Wine.
Setting up Wine and using it is not rocket science, but it's probably complicated enough to intimidate the typical Windows user.
I downloaded Wine (using the Synaptic Package Manager in Ubuntu Linux) then configured it by using the winecfg utility (type "winecfg" in the Terminal command line). Doing this the first time creates a fake "Drive C" in the hidden .wine directory of your home folder. This is where Wine installs all Windows programs.
To install a Windows program, pop in the install CD and type this into the command line:
The Windows installer will come up and install the program.
Theoretically, to run the program, you'd type the following:
wine "C: Program FilesAdobePhotoshop 7.0Photoshop.exe"
Sadly, this did not work. Further research showed I needed to tell Wine which dynamic link library or file DLL to use. This line from an Ubuntu forum does the job:
WINEDLLOVERRIDES = wintab32 = n wine "C: Program FilesAdobePhotoshop 7.0Photoshop.exe"
To save myself some typing, I created a script that executes the command when I click on an icon.
So how does running Photoshop in Linux measure up?
In general, I was pleasantly surprised by the program's responsiveness. There was none of the sluggishness that I expected and most of the features I use heavily work.
There are some major caveats, however.
1) Right-click menus do not work. In fact, they can lock up the program. This is a pain, because I'm used to right-clicking on items in the Layers palette to manipulate them. Fortunately, there is a work-around for this, using the menu bar at the top of the window.
2) Resizing the Layers palette will also crash the program.
3) Alt-clicking on an area does not work for the Clone tool. Instead, you must hold down the Shift key while doing the Alt-click.
4) The Tools and other palettes will remain on screen even when you minimize Photoshop.
These are pretty serious problems because you could lose a lot of work. On the other hand, if you're careful to avoid these pitfalls and save your work periodically, you ought to be able to run Photoshop productively under Linux.