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Crossing Over: Wineskin Review & Discussion
August 13, 2013 | Justin Ancheta

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Wineskin Installer: Click on "Install Software" to get to Wineskin's software installer.
4. Installing Your Game - navigate to your new wrapper. The Winery will ask to do it for you, but otherwise they live, by default, in ~/Applications/Wineskin. Double clicking it will initially launch an app, confusingly called Wineskin. This app lives inside of your wrapper and is effectively your portal into the WINE engine that runs under its hood. The registry editor, winetricks, wincfg, and many, many other configuration and troubleshooting tools for WINE and its Windows compatibility environment all lie here.

Click on the Advanced button on the startup screen that the Wineskin wrapper app gives you to get right into the internals of WINE. You'll first be brought to the Configuration tab, where you can configure the more superficial details of your Wineskin-wrapped game: the game's menubar name, the version number displayed in the Finder, and the actual .exe you want to be launched by default when you launch the wrapper are all here. You can even specify a custom icon for the game wrapper (which must be in .icns format).

Going to the Tools tab is where you get down and dirty into the nitty-gritty of WINE. Config Utility (winecfg) is where you access WINE's control panel, which works just like it does in CrossOver's Bottle Manager. The Registry Editor is an extremely handy way of diving into the registry to fiddle with settings, though since Winetricks also has the ability to change registry options you won't likely be using it a lot. Speaking of Winetricks, it's also here on this tab too, and just like on Linux, it gives you a very detailed list of possibilities for additional dependencies that you can install for your game. In other words, like the CrossOver Application Installer, you can use this to install any necessary Windows DLLs or Shared Libraries or programming runtimes needed by your game, such as DirectX 9. There are also a set of application presets for installing certain titles, and you can also use it to change settings like MouseWarpOverride (necessary if your game has mouse control issues). "Change Engine Used" is an important button to use, as it allows you to change the version of WINE used by your wrapper; thanks to this button, changing WINE engines for troubleshooting and compatibility testing is both easy and fast, saving you the tedium of quitting and relaunching the Wineskin wrapper itself. Finally, we have the Options tab, a sort of grab-bag of other miscellaneous options. Due to historical reasons surrounding WINE's origin, WINE actually relies upon X11 as its Window Manager (as opposed to natively using Quartz in OS X). Wineskin ships with an X11 environment derived from the XQuartz project, but some games may work better with the version of X11/XQuartz already installed on your system; in my experience I've gotten Divine Divinity and Fallout 2 to run at their best on my hardware using this feature.

Running below in each tab are three buttons. "Install Software" takes you a screen to run your Windows software installer. Next is "Set Screen Options", which allows you to change graphics, display and screen preferences for WINE (Handy if you need to do things like a set a virtual desktop for a game, or impose an artificial gamma level on a game). Finally, there is the "Test Run" button. Like "Change Engine Used", this is an extremely important button that is one of the key features of Wineskin. After you've finished your various tweakings to your game's WINE environment, this allows you to actually do a safe test-run of your game with your tweaks in place. It's safe because if things go belly up, you can do a quick Command-Q to get back into your Mac, without sinking Wineskin itself. This makes troubleshooting and compatibility testing not only an order of magnitude easier, but it also makes such testing go far faster.

"Once you know what it is you want to be true, instinct is a very useful device for enabling you to know that it is."

At the end of the day, Wineskin is a formidable solution for an aspiring Mac game hacker to get Windows games running on Mac OS X. Its maturation and advancement is a testament to the strength of the user community and developers that have rallied behind the WINE project, and the tenacity of the chief architect behind Wineskin itself. But how does it really compare to CrossOver? For starters, unlike CrossOver, Wineskin's developers don't enjoy the benefits of being backed by a commercial company providing full-time customer support. Additionally, despite the advancements made in its UI, its also not very "newbie-friendly"; Wineskin's learning curve is quite high and it can take some time before even a seasoned Mac user can be fully acquainted to using and understanding its power. These are ultimately niggling details, and fully surmountable by any dedicated Mac user with some free time to learn about WINE. However, what are the more significant pros and probable cons with using Wineskin over CrossOver?

Don't Panic

The first main strength of Wineskin is that it gives the user almost unfettered access to a wide variety of configuration and tweaking options available for WINE. These options can include running on a single core on multicore/multiprocessor systems (useful for the Thief series), use of the system installed X11 environment (as opposed to Wineskin's own built-in X11 server), and direct one-click access to the registry editor. More than a few games may need tweaking of registry keys to get around issues like mouse control problems (MouseWarpOverride=force), redrawing/graphical errors (DirectDrawRenderer=gdi), or laggy performance (UseGLSL=disable). In CrossOver, getting at these options can be a minor chore, having to use the "Run Command..." selection to launch regedit. In Wineskin, all it needs is a few mouse clicks. Disabling Window Manager Control/Decoration an important configuration option for some games like Sacrifice is as easy as ticking a checkbox within Wineskin's "Set Screen Options" button. In CrossOver, doing so requires diving into winecfg. The functionality handled by winetricks, the commonly relied-upon CLI system for installing Windows dependencies within WINE, is also within easy access. CrossOver's built-in software installer, which recieved a massive UI and useability overhaul in CrossOver 10, duplicates its functionality within a much friendlier and accessible interface that walks you through every step of a game's installation process. However, Wineskin's implementation of Winetricks also includes many commonly-used WINE settings as an alternative to using winecfg or regedit. Wineskin's implementation also has a wider variety of Windows DLLs and runtime libraries that may be necessary for some games to run, such as 3Dfx GLIDE wrappers or the Indeo Video codec.


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