Wine Launcher

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Wine Launcher
v1.4.46
v1.4.46
Original author(s)The Russians
Repositorygithub.com/hitman249/wine-launcher
Written inJavaScript/Node.JS
ToolsWine
Operating systemGNU/Linux
LicenseGNU GPL v3
Websitewine.hostronavt.ru
Exec wine.svg

Wine Launcher is a front-end for Wine and Wine variants like Proton. It supports sandboxes for individual games, installed games can be installed using squashfs to save space and it supports using different Wine variants for each game. System-installed Wine, Proton and other Wine variants are supported.

Wine Launcher gives each game or application its own unique WINEPREFIX= isolated from the rest of the system. This makes it possible to use different versions of libraries, and even different versions of Wine, depending on what works best with a given piece software.

Development

Wine Launcher eagerly developed by the Russians with some help from the Ukraine. They appear to have a bi-daily release-cycle for minor version releases with dozens of new minor versions each month.

Installation

Wine Launcher can be installed from source using a source code tarball or by downloading a binary blob named start. Mayor Linux distributions do not have it in their repositories, and there is no Flatpak for it, so you will have to either compile the source or trust the binary blob. The source, available as free software under the GNU GPL v3, is supposed to be compiled by running:

npm i
npm run build

This build process, indicated by README.md fails spectacularly. Wine-launcher-build.jpg
"vue-cli-service: command not found": Some "vue-cli-service" is apparently required. No idea what that is.

A working alternative to building Wine Launcher is to acquire a binary blob file called start from the projects GitHub Releases page. You're supposed to create a folder for it, run the start binary blob in that folder and then quit it and move the start binary to a bin/ sub-folder it creates for you. That process works.

clamscan did not reveal any virus or malware inside the binary start blob as of version 1.4.46.

Features And Usability

Wine-launcher-1.4.46.jpg
Wine Launcher v1.4.46

You will need to manually install and configure each game you want Wine Launcher to manage. There is a database with predefined settings for a number of commercial games. Using those presets is not required.

Wine-launcher-1.4.46-installing-application.jpg
Selecting a file to be installed in Wine Launcher.

Adding a game is done by selecting Tools ▸ Patches ▸ Create a new patch in the menu. This creates a new isolated Wine "prefix snapshot". You then have to select Action ▸ Operations ▸ Install application from the menu that appears on your new "prefix snapshot" to install something into your new WINEPREFIX= container. The game will likely default to installing your game in C:\cache, make sure you manually change that to C:\Games or Wine Launcher will be confused. You won't be able to add items to the menu later if they are installed in a folder such as Program Files.

You will have to save your changes with Action ▸ Operations ▸ Save Changes once your game or application is installed.

Wine-launcher-1.4.46-installing-warzone2100.jpg
Wine Launcher installing warzone2100 for Windows.

Installing a game is not enough to make it appear in the Wine Launcher menu. You will, additionally, have to go to Games ▸ Add new game and type in the folder and executable name. You can't use a file picker for some reason. You will probably have to use a file manager or ls to look in the data/ folder Wine Launcher creates to see what folder the .exe file is in and what it's named. This is cumbersome and not very user-friendly.

Launching a game is as easy as clicking Play in the Games area once a game is installed. That brings up a menu where you can choose to launch games with or without a FPS counter provided by MangoHud.

Wine-launcher-lauching-warzone2100.jpg
Warzine2100, launched from Wine Launcher, running in Wine.

Games can be compressed into squashfs images using Tools ▸ Packing. One major problem with this feature is that squashfs images are read-only. You will therefore have to make symbolic links using the RW directories option to allow games to store savegame files and those kinds of files. If you don't know where a game saves things then you're screwed and you'll have to figure that out. This could be solved way better by using some kind of overlay file system. There are several technologies that let you mount a squashfs image and write to the mount point and have changes to files and new files be stored in the overlay file system. This is something Wine Launcher could support but it does not. Perhaps the Russians are not aware of the technology, or perhaps they are and they have simply not had time to add support for it.

The Wine Launcher GitHub page does have animated screenshots with some additional features Wine Launcher supports but they are all in Привет россия so it's unclear what they do.

Verdict And Conclusion

Wine Launcher is a nice idea and it can be useful if you patiently figure out out it works. It has some big pitfalls. For example, if you don't ensure a program is installed into C:\Games and you install it into C:\Program Files then you're screwed and you can't install your program to the menu.

The features for packaging files into a squashfs to save space is, in theory, nice. It is, in practice, somewhat useless unless you know exactly what file(s) and folder(s) a given game or application would like to write to. That makes it difficult to use.

Wine Launcher may be worth a try if you have lots of Windows games you play regularly. Just don't expect it to be a very strait-forward thing to use, it's quite cumbersome to work with it.

Links

The homepage for it is at http://wine.hostronavt.ru/. That site does not support https://.

The source code is developed at GitHub at github.com/hitman249/wine-launcher. Source and binary releases are available at github.com/hitman249/wine-launcher/releases/.

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