Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

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FamCompKid
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Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by FamCompKid » Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:55 am

Hi,

I may be using a VM for that inevitable, hopefully rare, and serious need to use MS Word for client work (the only one important purpose I see, so far). Seems it’s the second best option, after MS Online. (Side note: I found a software that “brings” MS Online to the Linux desktop. Anyone else using it?)

Just to be clear, I am embracing Linux Mint with arms quite wide open, including the beautiful LibreOffice that came with it.

Another, although unimportant, purpose is file transfers with my iPhone. On MS Windows 8.1 I used to use a nice app called CopyTrans (never used iTunes).

That’s it!

I have 2 similar PCs both running Mint Cinnamon 19.1:
1. Intel Core i3, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD
2. Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB HDD

I’m not sure but I think those specs are modest for VM use...I may need a lightweight setup (please keep that in mind).

1. What’s the best VM software?

2. I’ll have Windows 10 if it’s guaranteed that my Linux systems are safe to run it. Otherwise, older OSes should do as long as they can run the latest suites, e.g., MS Office 2016 maybe. Thoughts? What would be the best OS?

3. Does the OS have to be supported? For example, Windows 7 stops support next year. Windows 8.1 in 2023.

4. What about lightweight OSes like tiny7? (I just discovered this.)

5. What are basic tweaks for better/faster and safer VM performance? (Memory “swap/swappiness” comes to mind.)

Thank you.
Two PC's on Linux Mint 19.2 Cinnamon. I don't like using the terminal and it doesn't even matter.

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WharfRat
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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by WharfRat » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:19 am

I ran Win7 in an Oracle VM on an Intel Core i3 laptop with 6GB ram and 500GB HDD

Everything you need is in the Mint repo:

Code: Select all

[bill@XPS] ~ $ apt search virtualbox|grep ^i
i   virtualbox                                                                                      - x86 virtualization solution - base binaries                                                               
i   virtualbox-dkms                                                                                 - x86 virtualization solution - kernel module sources for dkms                                              
i   virtualbox-ext-pack                                                                             - extra capabilities for VirtualBox, downloader.                                                            
i   virtualbox-guest-additions-iso                                                                  - guest additions iso image for VirtualBox                                                                  
i   virtualbox-qt                                                                                   - x86 virtualization solution - Qt based user interface                                                     
[bill@XPS] ~ $ 
The host will be safe, but the virtual machine can get infected the same as running win natively.
ImageImage

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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by AndyMH » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:52 am

Win7 maybe nearing EOF, but if you have a valid licence key... (and never use it to access the internet).

As previous, recommend virtualbox, but don't use the version in the repos, instead goto Oracle and install the latest version:
https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Linux_Downloads
You can either download the debs or follow the instructions in the link to install (which is preferable as it will give you updates as they appear).

Run either win10 or win7 inside VB as a VM. If you go down this route there are things you need to do to get full functionality:
  • download and install the extension pack
  • install guest additions in win - as the name implies it is installed in the guest OS, not mint.
  • check that you are a member of the vboxusers group - needed for access to usb ports in win.
Other options to get at word are:
  • Native to linux - WPS office - a chinese clone of office, has a very similar look and feel, saves files in docx format. I quite like it. The only significant downside I've found with it is that the excel look-a-like does not support VBA (excel was my 'must have' app when I was working).
  • Wine - an emulator for running some win software. I last used it with office 97, I believe the latest version will now run later versions of office. I now use the commercial version (crossover - £40).
I use all of the above, I've got win7 running in a VM with office 2016, run crossover with office 2013 and also have WPS office.
Homebrew i5-8400+GTX1080 Cinnamon 19.0, 3 x Thinkpad T430 Cinnamon 19.0, i7-3632 , i5-3320, i5-3210, Thinkpad T60 19.0 Mate

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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by gm10 » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:55 am

FamCompKid wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:55 am
3. Does the OS have to be supported? For example, Windows 7 stops support next year. Windows 8.1 in 2023.
If you go with a virtual machine I suggest you disable Internet connectivity in it, then you're safe except for viruses in the Word documents themselves, and unless you need macro/VBA functionality, which you can disable in Word, they shouldn't be a problem, either.

You can set up a shared folder between your host system and your virtual machine to transfer documents.
Last edited by gm10 on Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by FamCompKid » Sun Jun 02, 2019 1:54 pm

Thanks, everyone.
AndyMH wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:52 am
but don't use the version in the repos, instead goto Oracle and install the latest version:
https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Linux_Downloads
You can either download the debs or follow the instructions in the link to install (which is preferable as it will give you updates as they appear).
Thanks for the tip, although I seriously thought the Software Manager should be a "first" go-to when installing things (especially that I'm CLI-averse). I just googled a bit about how a PPA vs a .deb install detects future updates. But anyway, will VirtualBox's .deb install detect future updates?
AndyMH wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:52 am
additions in win
What "additions" are these in particular? Mind giving a couple of examples?
AndyMH wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:52 am
WPS office
Based on my reading around, OnlyOffice (open source) seems the best in terms of compatibility with MS Office. Have you tried that? There's also FreeOffice. Anyway, yeah, that's also part of the contingency plan.

... actually in this order:
1. MS Online (but may only work for short articles)
2. Virtual Machine (arguably the best solution?)
3. Other "Office" software, e.g. OnlyOffice, WPS Office, etc.
4. WINE/Crossover - These seem a matter of luck each time? There are mixed outcomes/experiences with these two. Glad they're working out for you. Isn't using WINE discouraged by lot of people, though?
5. Fire the client. Hehe.
AndyMH wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:52 am
(and never use it to access the internet)
Wait, let me see if I'm getting this: So install an OS that will never be updated (security updates, software, whatsoever)?

Is this workflow for client work okay, then?
- Transfer Word documents between Linux and MS (VM)--via a shared folder.
- Before sending in final docs to client, run them through an online anti-virus app/website. (Heard about a "virustotal" but haven't checked that yet.)

I'm considering Win 10.
gm10 wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:55 am
unless you need macro/VBA functionality, which you can disable in Word, they shouldn't be a problem, either.
I'm not familiar with macro/VBA on MS Word. How would this be a problem?

Thanks again, and for my additional questions :)
Two PC's on Linux Mint 19.2 Cinnamon. I don't like using the terminal and it doesn't even matter.

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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by gm10 » Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:05 pm

FamCompKid wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 1:54 pm
I'm not familiar with macro/VBA on MS Word. How would this be a problem?
It's basically a full featured programming language built into MS Office. As such it can be and is being misused for malware.
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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by gm10 » Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:08 pm

FamCompKid wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 1:54 pm
Wait, let me see if I'm getting this: So install an OS that will never be updated (security updates, software, whatsoever)?
It's an option for a no longer supported OS. Unfixed security holes don't matter if nobody can get to them, right? If you go with a still supported OS like Win 10 then you don't need to keep it offline, of course.
FamCompKid wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 1:54 pm
- Before sending in final docs to client, run them through an online anti-virus app/website. (Heard about a "virustotal" but haven't checked that yet.)
Sure, if you want to. Not critical in any way though, you're extremely unlikely to "catch" something in an offline environment, with active content (VBA) disabled.
FamCompKid wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 1:54 pm
I'm not familiar with macro/VBA on MS Word. How would this be a problem?
It's basically a full featured programming language built into MS Office. As such it can be and is being misused for malware. Not so likely in business communication but those funny chain letters and/or powerpoint slides are a prime target.
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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by AndyMH » Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:21 pm

The general recommendation is install software from the software manager, but there are a few packages where the recommendation is get it from the source, virtualbox is one of them.

software installed from a deb file does not get updated, but as a beginner this is the easiest route - download the virtualbox deb, you want the ubuntu 18.04 version if you are going to run mint 19.0. Once downloaded double click on it in the file manager to install. You also want the extension pack, link to the deb for the extension pack is on the link I posted previously. Again double click on it to install.

When you have win up and running in virtualbox, then you need to install 'guest additions' in win. Better to ask how when you get that far. The combination of the extension pack (in mint) and guest additions (in win) give you cut/paste between the two OSs, shared folders and usb access in win.

Don't know of onlyoffice, there is an openoffice. Don't know the detail of MS office compatibility with the other office suites.

If you are using win10, suggest you get the pro edition so that you can easily turn off automatic updates so you can update when you want and not when MS want. Don't have any experience running win10 in a VM (where I have it, it is dual boot). You can get a 'free' version of win10 to run in a VM, has to be renewed every 90 days. Don't have the link, but others here will.

If you are not familiar with VBA, then it won't be a problem.
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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by gm10 » Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:46 pm

AndyMH wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:21 pm
software installed from a deb file does not get updated, but as a beginner this is the easiest route - download the virtualbox deb, you want the ubuntu 18.04 version if you are going to run mint 19.0. Once downloaded double click on it in the file manager to install. You also want the extension pack, link to the deb for the extension pack is on the link I posted previously. Again double click on it to install.
Oracle is also offering a repository to keep you updated, installation instructions are on the same page as the download (and if you add the repository you do not need to separately download any deb, you can just install virtualbox-6.0 regularly then, e.g. via Software Manager).
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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by FamCompKid » Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:09 am

gm10 wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:08 pm
If you go with a still supported OS like Win 10 then you don't need to keep it offline, of course.
Haha I'm so sorry about that, thanks.
gm10 wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:08 pm
Not critical in any way though, you're extremely unlikely to "catch" something in an offline environment,
I'm not worried about my Linux systems getting "infected" by files and the like. I'm more worried about how viruses/malware might tarnish my reputation as a contractor (I just learned about this, great idea). For example a client hands me some files given to him by his colleague, without knowing those files are infected, and then I work on them and return them revised or so, they later find out they're infected and now I'm the one responsible...I'd rather avoid that kind of drama from the get-go.
AndyMH wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 2:21 pm
software installed from a deb file does not get updated,
Thanks. I thought some deb files install their packages (for future updates).

Looks like it's Win 10, then. Will be downloading/installing it tonight or tomorrow morning.

Sorry if I'm being repetitive, but do you think this setup makes it to "lightweight"?

Thanks again for your replies. I'm learning every time.
Two PC's on Linux Mint 19.2 Cinnamon. I don't like using the terminal and it doesn't even matter.

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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by AndyMH » Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:35 am

Lightweight - with win10, no :) Spec wise - your i5 should be okay with mint cinnamon and win10 in a VM (I run win7 in a VM on mint cinnamon 19.0 with an i5-3320, the i3 might be a big sluggish. Only way to find out is try it.
Free win10 - download the virtualbox version, not used it myself:
https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/w ... l-machines
And if you want to buy it, this is what I bought (and it was a retail version and it worked!):
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07 ... UTF8&psc=1
Installing win10 as a VM doesn't stop you trying the other options - other office suites, e.g. wps office and wine/crossover.

Note - if you want to run cinnamon and you want to run win10 in seamless mode in virtualbox, then then you need mint 19.0. Won't work with 19.1 unless it's been fixed.

What is seamless mode - instead of a full screen window that is either mint or windows, seamless places the windows taskbar above the mint panel, rest of the screen is mint. Open up a windows app, it appears in its own window just like any other linux app - so it looks better integrated with mint.
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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by gm10 » Mon Jun 03, 2019 3:24 am

AndyMH wrote:
Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:35 am
Won't work with 19.1 unless it's been fixed.
Clem only backports fixes for bugs that he considers super critical. So nah, no chance, it'll only be fixed for 19.2 (and IIRC it has been).
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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by AndyMH » Mon Jun 03, 2019 3:26 am

Thanks, looks like I'll be jumping from 19.0 straight to 19.2 when it comes out (but assume I'll have to go 19.0 > 19.1 > 19.2). :)
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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by gm10 » Mon Jun 03, 2019 3:49 am

AndyMH wrote:
Mon Jun 03, 2019 3:26 am
(but assume I'll have to go 19.0 > 19.1 > 19.2). :)
Shouldn't be necessary, no, the upgrade should be offered for 19.2 directly.
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Re: Noob Questions about Lightweight Virtual Machine Setup for Microsoft Word

Post by cjoliprsf » Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:50 pm

FamCompKid wrote:
Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:55 am
I’m not sure but I think those specs are modest for VM use...I may need a lightweight setup (please keep that in mind).
1. What’s the best VM software?
2. I’ll have Windows 10 if it’s guaranteed that my Linux systems are safe to run it. Otherwise, older OSes should do as long as they can run the latest suites, e.g., MS Office 2016 maybe. Thoughts? What would be the best OS?
3. Does the OS have to be supported? For example, Windows 7 stops support next year. Windows 8.1 in 2023.
4. What about lightweight OSes like tiny7? (I just discovered this.)
5. What are basic tweaks for better/faster and safer VM performance? (Memory “swap/swappiness” comes to mind.)
I realize this is a bit old thread, but I just saw it, and thought I could add my experience on the topic. Hopefully could be useful to some.
First, in my opinion, the OP has requirements that are quite contradictory. He wants a lightweight VM, but wishes to install Windows 10 with MS Office 2016... No way this is going to be a light setup.

My own setup goes as follows: Windows 2000 with MS Office 2003. I use VirtualBox, such a VM makes a virtual disk file of about 1.5 Gig, and it runs comfortably with less than 500 M of RAM. This is what I consider lightweight. It is blazing fast, and doesn't use much of the host computer's resources.
Yes, I can see some people say Ah Ah! - almost 20 years old software... But, consider I am a book author, I have published 2 books with 2 different publishers and no small books, over 300 pages. The manuscript files for those books went back and forth between myself and different editors and readers who all had some corrections to suggest and posted comments in the text. I never had any compatibility issues even if the other people interacting with the manuscript all had the latest version of Office. Naturally the compatibility module provided by MS is required with Word 2003 for .docx files, and with this, all is fine.
And as a side note, Libre Office could not do it. Corrections and comments from other readers simply didn't show properly.

Anyway, this is my own experience - maybe this setup wouldn't work for the OP, I don't know. However it might be worth giving it a try...

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