Compatibility layers

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While not strictly emulation per se (hence why Wine stands for "Wine Is Not an Emulator"), compatibility layers allow software written for one operating system to run on a different OS, often by translating API and system calls made by an application to their equivalent calls in the host operating system. In theory, this should allow for near-native performance since no processor emulation takes place, but in practice some software such as games will tend to run a bit slower due to other bottlenecks that occur as a result of replicating the correct behavior, such as accounting for graphics APIs like Direct3D that aren't supported on non-Microsoft platforms. Additionally, compatibility layers may also use emulation in order to run software built for a different architecture, see Emulation Accuracy page for more information about terms like "hypervisors", "simulators", "compatibility layers", "wrappers", "FPGA-based hardware cloning" and "software emulators".

Compatibility layers[edit]

Name Operating System(s) Latest Version FLOSS Active Recommended Runs the following software
x86,x86-64
Wine Linux macOS FreeBSD Haiku 9.0
(Dev: 9.6 )

Haiku
Windows applications and games
Proton
(included with Steam)
Linux 8.0-5
git
Windows games
TeknoParrot Windows TPBootstrapper
1.0.0.140
PC-based arcade games
Rosetta macOS N/A PowerPC OS X apps on x86-64 based Macs. Support ended with OS X 10.7
CrossOver Linux macOS Chrome OS 22.1 Windows applications and games
Minecraft Bedrock Launcher Linux macOS v0.10.0 ~ Minecraft: Bedrock Edition (Android version)
WayDroid Linux git
Extras script
~ Android software
libhoudini
libndk
Intel BT
Android 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 TBD ~ ARM apps
Anbox Linux git Android software
UEngine Linux git ~ Android software
Darling Linux git (WIP) macOS software
Linuxulator FreeBSD Wiki
Docs
? Linux software
xDroid Linux 11.1.51 Android software
WineVDM Windows git
Dev
16-bit Windows apps and games
Wineskin macOS 1.7 Windows applications and games
WineBottler macOS 4.0.1.1 Dev Windows applications and games
WoW Windows N/A Windows 9x apps and games
Win3mu Windows Source Windows 3.x apps and games
NTVDMx64 Windows git DOS applications and games
Ardi Executor Windows Linux MS-DOS 2.1.17 Classic Mac OS software up to System 6
DOSEmu Linux 1.4.0 DOS software
DOSEmu2 Linux git DOS software
Windows Subsystem for Linux 1 Windows Install guide ? ? Allows developers to run a Linux environment.
KMRE Linux 2.4.6.8
2.4.8.7-0k0.9[A 1]
? ~ Allows openKylin/Ubuntu Kylin to run Android applications.
ARM
Rosetta 2 macOS N/A x86-64 macOS applications on Apple Silicon Macs
CrossOver macOS 22.1 Windows applications and games
Game Porting Toolkit macOS Installation guide Windows games
Box86/Box64 Linux ARM Android Pandora git-86/git-64 ~ x86-64 Linux programs
FEX-Emu Linux ARM Android git ~ x86-64 Linux programs
Wine Linux ARM Android Android builds
ARM support
~ Windows applications and games
WayDroid Linux ARM git ~ Android software
Vita2hos Switch Alpha 0.3 runs PlayStation Vita applications natively
Hangover Linux ARM Android git Windows applications and games
Skyline Android git Nintendo Switch games and homebrew
Anbox Linux ARM git Android software
ExaGear-KunPeng Linux ARM 3.0.0.1 x86 Linux programs*
KMRE Linux ARM 2.4.8.7-0k0.9
2.5.0.2-0k0.1tablet3[A 2]
? ~ Allows openKylin/NeoKylin (with supported processors) to run Android applications.
Console
Nintendont Wii Wii U git GameCube games
Other
LATX Linux 1.4.3 Beta 2 TBD x86 Linux programs*
  1. 2.4.8.7 is untested-NeoKylin never announced nor shipped this with x86 releases
  2. 2.5.0.2 is only for some industrial tablets or similar devices with Phytium processors. Regular desktop devices should continue with 2.4.8.7 .

Comparisons[edit]

  • Wine is a free and open-source compatibility layer that aims to allow computer programs (application software and computer games) developed for Microsoft Windows to run on Unix-like operating systems, primarily Linux and macOS. Since late 2017 there is also an experimental build for Android. Wine is almost as old as the Linux project, starting in the summer of 1993. Today it's widely used, very popular and sponsored by companies such as CodeWeavers and Valve. The core Wine development aims at a correct implementation of the Windows API as a whole. In this regard it's similar to the MAME project in its focus on correctness over usability. There are a lot of versions/forks of Wine which focus of different goals, such as usability, compatibility, gaming, office applications, etc. A few are listed below, Wikipedia has a more complete list.
    • Proton (compatibility): is Valve's one-click solution to play Windows games on Linux. It's included in the Steam Linux client by default. Simply click on a whitelisted game and it will launch without any configuration, or enable it for all games in the settings. Proton is based on a fork of Wine in combination with other components such as DXVK (which is a wrapper explained below) and FAudio.
    • CrossOver is a commercialized, supported version of Wine from CodeWeavers. It uses additional patches on top of Wine to make it easy to use. They contribute all of their work on CrossOvers back to Wine and make up about two thirds of the commits made to Wine. CrossOver is available on macOS, Linux and Chrome OS.
    • Wineskin is an open-source compatibility layer which allows users to easily convert Windows software to macOS. The ports are in the form of Mac .app bundles with a self-contained Wine instance which are wrapped around the application to be converted.
  • TeknoParrot is a compatibility layer for Windows PCs to run games originally made for Windows-based arcade systems. Has since version 1.51 also support for some games running on Linux.
  • Rosetta was a compatibility layer for running PowerPC apps on x86-based Macs on OS X versions prior to 1.07. Rosetta 2 is a comptibility layer on Apple silicon Macs allowing x86-64 apps to run on ARM-based Macs. Note that Rosetta 2 is not strictly limited to MacOS apps as software such as Crossover is able to call it to emulate x86 code in Windows binaries.
  • Darling is a translation layer that allows you to run unmodified macOS binaries on Linux. In its nature, it is similar to the well-known Wine project. At this point, does not yet run macOS application with a GUI.
  • Minecraft Bedrock Launcher is a compatibility layer made specifically to run the Android version of Minecraft: Bedrock Edition on Linux and macOS. It is not compatible with any other Android apps.
  • Anbox is a project that aims to run Android applications on Ubuntu distributions. It is in alpha state and only known to work on Ubuntu 16.04. Anbox requires custom kernel modules to run because, unlike other emulators which emulate the whole Linux kernel, this one uses the host system's Linux kernel directly.
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux 1 is a compatibility layer and shouldn't be confused with WSL2. WSL2 introduced important changes such as a real Linux kernel, through a subset of Hyper-V features, so it's not a compatibility layer like WSL1.
  • KMRE is a compatibility layer and it's the official solution to run Android applications on computers with Chinese homegrown Phytium/KunPeng ARM processors and NeoKylin Linux operating system, though later also available on x86-64 on Ubuntu Kylin. KMRE is not designed with third-party applications outside its app store and in fact, force installing third-party apps breaks older versions of KMRE. It's the go-to solution if you are restricted to working with these kinds of computers due to national security reasons.
  • Vita2hos is an early compatibility layer for Nintendo Switch that runs PlayStation Vita applications natively. Only able to load simple test homebrews such as vita-8 as of December 2022. Appears to only be developed every once in a while.

Wrappers[edit]

Compatibility layers may also make use of wrappers, which translate a specific graphics API to another. How the user sets up the wrapper varies between each project but most involve a drop-in replacement of the original libraries.

Main article: Wrappers