How To: Run Microsoft Outlook “Natively” On Linux Using VirtualBox

There are hundreds of reasons why someone would want to run Microsoft Outlook in Linux, and this guide will show you how from beginning to end.

When I use the term “natively,” I mean fully integrated into the desktop enviroment, NOT an actual native binary Outlook client. Outlook itself runs in a Virtual Machine, but it acts like a pseudo-native application.

oneboxtorulethemall.png

Unlike most emulators, VirtualBox allows you move freely between applications, without the constraints of a border around the VM which degrades the user experience. Here’s a picture for a good idea of what I’m talking about.

In the screenshot, there is Outlook 2007, Internet Explorer 7 (browsing Digg of course), and Windows Media Player 11 playing an internet stream, and the start menu sits at the bottom of the screen, while I have the Gnome Desktop menu up at the top.

I personally need Outlook for corporate email, and VirtualBox lets me utilize all of the other tools like IE (and toys, like iTunes) that can’t be experienced without emulation in Linux.

Using VirtualBox, I can seamlessly copy and paste a URL from Firefox in Linux to IE7 to test compatibility with IE. It’s pretty damn slick, and until we see a version of Linux coming straight from Redmond, it’s about as “native” as these proprietary applications will ever be.

Impressed? I certainly was, and to be honest, I’m very jaded when it comes to new technology. Let’s get down to it, shall we? These instructions are written with Ubuntu or Debian in mind, but may vary if using a distro that doesn’t utilize apt-get.

1. Download the VirtualBox binary for your distribution from their website and install it. Usually all you need to do is double click on it after downloading.

Note: Some distributions have VirtualBox within their repositories, but these can sometimes be out of date, and we want to be absolutely certain that we get version 1.5.2 or higher so that we can utilize ‘Seamless Mode’ which makes it so applications we run in the virtual machine show up just like normal windows in Gnome or KDE, instead of bound within a virtual machine window.

2. Add yourself to the vboxusers group.

As always, there are methods to accomplish these by using a GUI, but ultimately it’ll be faster and easier to work in the terminal. We’ll add ourselves to the vboxusers group to use the program, and we must logout and back in again for the group addition to take effect. Change wayne to your own username.

sudo adduser wayne vboxusers

3. Then we download utilities to setup a network bridge from the Linux system to the virtual machine.

sudo apt-get install bridge-utils

4. Now we have to edit the interfaces file to add the bridge interface.
sudo gedit /etc/network/interfaces/
I appended the last three lines (in bold) to this file to make it look like this:

auto lo
iface lo inet loopback
auto br0
iface br0 inet dhcp
bridge_ports eth0

5. Restart networking services to recognize the bridge we just added.

sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart

5a. These commands may be helpful needed if you get errors with the above steps.

sudo rmmod vboxdrv
sudo modprobe -k vboxdrv
sudo chmod 666 /dev/vboxdrv

6. Now we need to create a permanent host interface, so that if we reboot, networking will still be available to the virtual machine. Obviously change “wayne” to your own username:

sudo VBoxAddIF vbox0 wayne br0

7. I tried this twice, and both times at this point my internet connection was hosed. A quick reboot fixed the problem, and I’m not quite sure where to start as far as trying to find the culprit, so we’ll reboot here. If you can find a workaround for rebooting, please leave a comment and I’ll give credit where it’s due.

Barry comments:

The reboot thing seems to be related to setting group membership. I got away with logging out and back in.

8. Open up the VirtualBox program (Found in Applications | System Tools in Gnome), accept the EULA, and register to receive newletters. Click New, and follow the wizard.

wizard1.pngwizard2.pngwizard3.png

wizard4.pngwizard5.pngwizard6.png

wizard7.pngwizard8.pngwizard9.png

Once finished with the wizard, you should have a screen that looks like this:

innotek-virtualbox-main-screen.png

9. Configuring the Virtual Machine.

Click the settings button in the menu and we’ll go through and change a few settings to gain better performance and get everything set just right. general-advanced.pngIf you have a newer processor that supports virtualization, you will see a performance boost by enabling it in both the BIOS and in the Advanced tab, put a check next to “Enable VT-x/AMD-v”.

virtualbox-cddvdrom.pngTo get install Windows on the virtual machine, we will either need to insert the bootable disc into the CD/DVD-ROM drive, or make an ISO image of the media and point the VM at the image. This setting is found under CD/DVD-ROM on the left. Put a checkmark next to “Mount CD/DVD Drive” and configure this page according to what you need. I found that using an ISO image was easier to use.

If you want to hear the audio notification when email arrives or are using this guide for another purpose (like iTunes) click Audio on the left and put a checkmark in “Enable Audio,” then hit the dropdown and select OSS or ALSA.

The virtual machine isn’t hooked up to the network yet, and to accomplish that, we will use something called “Host Interface” which we setup earlier.

virtualbox-network.pngClick Network on the left, then make sure “Enable Network Adapter” is checked, then where it says “Attached to” select “Host Interface” from the dropdown menu. Type in vbox0 into the Interface Name box.

Press OK and we’re done configuring VirtualBox, and can startup our newly created system and start installing Windows.

Important Note: By default the keyboard and mouse get trapped when you click inside a running VM. Use the right CTRL key (other right) to escape from it. After the next step, this wont be needed.

install-guest-additions.png10. Once finished installing Windows, we’ll need to install drivers for the emulated graphics and networking cards in Windows. Click Devices, Install Guest Additions.

You’ll get a popup in the VM just as if you had put in a new CD. Run the setup and reboot when prompted, that takes care of the graphics drivers and tools to allow us to take advantage of Seamless Mode.

For Vista, there was an additional step needed – updating the device drivers for the emulated AMD PCNET ethernet device. I went into the Device Manager in Windows, right clicked on the Ethernet Controller, chose Update Driver Software and followed the prompts, when asks, I chose to install from a specific location and chose the D:\ drive, and everything worked like a charm.

wow-factor.png

11. Now that everything with our VM is up and running, prepare to be absolutely amazed at how well VirtualBox integrates the experience of running Windows applications in Linux.

To enable Seamless Mode, press CTRL+L. You’ll end up with something like this:

Now we’re all done. Install Outlook, iTunes, and all your other proprietary applications that do not run well under WINE. That’s not all folks. Did you think all I was going to say was super awesome enthusiastic positive remarks?

Nah. There are problems. Not the type of problems that make innotek’s VirtualBox unusable… No.. there are just some small issues that are minor annoyances.

First, the audio coming from the VM sometimes will take control of all audio coming from the sound server. I know this is how audio works in Linux, and there are workarounds. But do I really want to spend a couple of hours installing Pulseaudio or Jack to gain multiple streams of audio playing at once? Not really. Itwould be nice if VirtualBox would release the sound server when it is done playing something.

Secondly, sometimes there are some pretty massive and frankly, quite ugly video transitions that take place when the VM is using lots of CPU and you try to manipulate windows. Did you think the jarring blackout effect of Windows User Account Control in Vista was bad? This is worse. Far worse. The best fix for this I can find is using the same wallpaper for both machines. Fortunately this quick fix seems to minimize the effect. Also, disabling Compiz Fusion or Beryl will help cut down on the frequency and duration of these episodes, although they still exist. It’s hard to describe, but imagine Windows UAC and multiply it by 10.

Other than those two issues, there is only one more issue to discuss: video performance, or rather, lack thereof. Playing a video on YouTube or any other flash video site and trying to do anything else at the same time results in audio skipping. I realize the video and audio go through multiple layers of two different operating systems and emulation, but you would think it could be fixed. I’m sure it will be fixed eventually, but until that time comes it’s annoying.

These three problems (other documented problems exist, but I have yet to run into them) are probably why VirtualBox doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

If you are still running a dual-booting system, I highly recommend you give VirtualBox a try – who knows… maybe you’ll be able to give up Windows. In the end, innotek’s VirtualBox is an innovative product that provides people who need proprietary applications to get work done the ability to run them without requiring a dual-boot setup.

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  • http://Ubuntology.com Ubuntologist

    Great howto Wayne. I haven’t tried on Ubuntu, but had big problems with setting up bridged networking in Fedora 7. It was like the machine roles were reversed. I could ping the VM from the host, but had no internet access. The VM could do everything on both sides of the bridge that it wanted.

  • http://www.commmanddotcom.com Adam

    Virtualbox is nice, but it still lacks support for DirectX which means my radar application for storm spotting won’t run.

    -Adam

  • http://mckooiker.byethost5.com/blog/ Maarten Kooiker

    Great tutorial, I love Virtualbox and certainly will try out this one!
    Keep up the good work!!
    Cheers,
    Maarten
    P.S.: of course I digged you!

  • http://mckooiker.byethost5.com/blog/ Maarten Kooiker

    Great tutorial, I love Virtualbox and certainly will try out this one!
    Keep up the good work!!
    Cheers,
    Maarten
    P.S.: of course I dug you!

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    Ubuntologist: I’m sure you followed the manual to configure the bridge? By the way, I love your site and visit it reguarly. :)

    Adam: Yeah, I noticed that after finishing the article. It’s certainly not for everyone. Which app for storm monitoring do you use? Sounds like an interesting peice of software… does it run using WINE?

    Maarten: I appreciate it!

  • http://www.commmanddotcom.com Adam

    GRLevel3. It’s not free, but there is a free demo.

    -Adam

  • lsutiger

    Great tutorial! I installed VB before this post. I didn’t have to bridge the network interface for internet. It used the NAT.
    But I do have a couple of problems.
    1) No usb access. I get an error when I go to the Machine–>Settings menu for it.
    2) I can’t seem to get access to anything in my home folder even though I set it up in the shared folder area.
    3) CTRL+L doesn’t work for me.

    If anybody could help, any insight would be appreciated!
    And thanx for the blog!

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    CTRL+L needs to be right CTRL.

  • lsutiger

    thanx wayne, but it just doesn’t work…I will fiddle with it some more later.

  • lsutiger

    Update..I reran the Vbox additions and got everything working except the usb drive. I will work more on this tomorrow and report if I am successful!

  • http://www.vinodlive.com Vinod

    Could you get your iPhone to sync with Outlook over the VirtualBox ?
    If this works, I am planning to move completely over to Ubuntu – instead of dual boot.
    Please let me know.

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    lsutiger: Ahh, good news.

    Vinod: That’s one thing I think doesn’t quite work. :(

  • Clyde

    Wayne, how does it compares to the commercial product Crossover?

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    I haven’t tried Crossover.

  • lsutiger

    Well, I have tried every ‘tut’ out there and can not get the USB to ‘see’ my usb drive.
    If you come across something Wayne ( or anybody else for that matter), PALEASE post it!

  • Barry

    The reboot thing seems to be related to setting group membership. I got away with logging out and back in.

  • Joey

    Great guide.

    I always have the same issue though. I have lost my product key number for XP so cannot use it past 20 days. I have a dual boot so is there anyway I can “find” the number on my windows partition?

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    Thanks Barry!

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    Joey, this should do the trick.

  • lsutiger

    Ok got my USB drives working. It took a little work and is a bit legnthy.
    Wayne, email me directly and I’ll send you what I figured out so you can post it.
    Thanx!

  • teguh

    great How to but i have some eror this is the error :
    VirtualBox host networking interface creation utility, version 1.5.2
    (C) 2005-2007 innotek GmbH
    All rights reserved.

    Creating the permanent host networking interface “vbox0″ for user me.

    Failed to add the interface “vbox0″ to the bridge “br0″.
    Make sure that the bridge exists and that you currently have sufficient
    permissions to do this.

    can u help me???

  • Nick Foster

    Wayne,

    great tutorial but as a newbie got stuck at

    4. Now we have to edit the interfaces file to add the bridge interface.
    sudo gedit /etc/network/interfaces/

    /etc/network/interfaces/ does not exist. I don’t even have /etc/network/??

    I am running Mandriva 2008 Powerpack and had already installed Virtualbox when I found your page. Cannot access seamless and cannot get a network connection?

    Any ideas

  • sostenible

    I followed your tutorial and run every single command that your propose into the command line (even those 3 that you say may help: I run them all just in case).

    Before that Ubuntu 7.10 was running fine and Vista on Virtualbox was also running fine (except for network connection and file sharing).

    After your tutorial I have lost internet connection on Ubuntu, although network parameters (IP, Gateway, DNS, ..) seem not to have changed.

    Any idea as of how can I reverse changes introduced through this tutorial?

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    Nick: I assume Mandriva uses a different enumeration for network devices… I haven’t tried this tutorial in Mandriva, but perhaps this forum post on the Mandriva Forums will help:

    http://forum.mandriva.com/viewtopic.php?t=67779

    sostenible, did you try a reboot?

  • sostenible

    Yes, I made 2 reboots and the problema is still there.

  • jeremy

    Thanks for your post!
    I am planning to give it a try just to run Outlook 2003 in ubuntu 7.10.
    Do you have all the outlook features working? (mostly calendar and contacts, as Evolution or Thunderbird don’t support that with an exchange server)
    Stupid question, is there a way to run the binary already installed on a windows partition? with wine? have you tried outlook in wine by any chance?

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    You can actually boot off an installed Windows partition without any problems.

  • Alfred

    I installed vbox using your tutorial on my laptop. My laptop runs Gutsy 7.10 and uses a wireless connection for the internet. I installed WinXP as the guest OS. However I still don’t have a working network connection within the WinXP. Is there something different I have to do given that I am using wireless in the host OS? I changed “eth0″ to “eth1″ in /etc/network/interfaces but that prevented my host’s ability to connect to my access point.

  • Alfred

    …five minutes later, I shutdown WinXP, went into vbox Settings and changed networking to NAT. I now have network access within the guest OS!

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    Depending on your networking setup, you might need to fiddle around a little bit, glad you got it working.

  • woz

    Thanks!

    This worked a charm, except:

    When entering “sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart”

    I get:

    SIOCSIFADDR: No such device
    br0: ERROR while getting interface flags: No such device
    br0: ERROR while getting interface flags: No such device
    Bind socket to interface: No such device
    Failed to bring up br0.

    I ran the three suggested commands if errors arise to no avail.

    This computer is connected to an ipcop box and my Ubuntu eth0 is set as a static IP. Is there something I should put in place of “iface br0 inet dhcp” – or any other suggestions?

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    woz: I’d check out the manual.
    http://www.virtualbox.org/download/UserManual.pdf

  • Bruce

    Worked a treat. Thanks mate.

  • Bruce

    After a reboot I am now having the same issues as sostenible. Any ideas on what is going on?

  • Bruce

    Back again. Seems the issue (lack of internet connectivity from the host Ubuntu system) only happens for me when on a different network (my work (windows) network). At home it still runs fine. Usually at work I get asked for the network username & password before being able to access a web site. After installing virtualbox as above I am no longer asked for these details and I can no longer access any sites. As a (relatively) new linux user I have no idea how to fix this.

  • Giancarlo

    Hi Wayne!
    It’s a great how-to!
    What do you think about using your procedure on a external USB HDD installation of Ubuntu 7.10?
    That’s the way I’m currently using Linux, as my company laptop is “locked” to WinXP :-/
    Any hint appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.
    Giancarlo

  • http://www.fsckin.com/ Wayne

    giancarlo
    Shouldnt be a problem, just tell vbox to use that volume instead.

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  • Mike

    Gave it a go, just for the hell of it. Very impressive. Good work Wayne

  • Happy linux user

    Great howto, you saved my life, I can now actually work this exchange shop….

  • Kyle

    I have had to disable the firewall in order to get the bridging network to work on the guest machine. Does anyone know how to secure your linux machine and still have the briding work?

  • Zach

    Ran this for a whole 2 days last week and it worked great. As soon as I rebooted however, I lost my network connection. I have tried setting up the Vbox system to use NAT. Still nothing. What actually happened was that the Windows system took over the IP rights. I can access the network through the Vbox, but not the host. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. Great how-to.

  • Cam

    Nice HOW-TO. My problem was like yours. In step 7 I lost my internet connection.

    Well, almost. I can’t get outside my subnet. Before performing step #6, everything was working just fine. As soon as I ran the command in step 6, I lost my ability to cross the first router in my network. I can ping all the local subnet machines, and the network interface does DNS lookups properly (from the router that acts as the first gateway). I just can’t reach anything after that first gateway either by name OR by IP. Other machines on the subnet still can.

    I’m a complete Linux newbie, so I’m stuck here.

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  • shtaffa

    I just ran across this how to and thought I would give it a try. I have always hoped that there would be a way yo do this very thing. However, much like a lot of you, after running step 6, I have no internet from the host system.

    Has anyone found a fix for this?

  • Marc-Linux (Brazil)

    Cam, Shtaffa, and others,
    I had the same problem as you, and I found a solution, by this steps:

    1-Edit, deleting the last tree lines, and save.
    before, like this:

    auto lo
    iface lo inet loopback
    auto br0
    iface br0 inet dhcp
    bridge_ports eth0

    Now, like this (again):

    auto lo
    iface lo inet loopback

    2-Restart networking services:

    sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart

    3-At this point, I restarted the computer.

    And my network star connecting again!!! Ufa!!!!

  • Chandan

    On the install bridge-utils step, I get this error. I am using Ubuntu 8.04 on an Intel based laptop. Please help. Thank you.

    $ sudo apt-get install bridge-utils
    Reading package lists… Done
    Building dependency tree
    Reading state information… Done
    Package bridge-utils is not available, but is referred to by another package.
    This may mean that the package is missing, has been obsoleted, or
    is only available from another source
    E: Package bridge-utils has no installation candidate

  • fedoralover

    This is not considered as native execution of outlook. You are just emulating windows environment on linux and run outlook natively in windows not linux. Native execution would be running outlook with wine or crossover. Better is to say how to run windows under linux and then install windows apps in windows environment.

  • http://sikanrong.com sikanrong

    yeah – I’d be re-checking that whole “natively” thing – there’s a pretty big gap there as a techie. Just saying..

  • David Dreggors

    “How To: Run Microsoft Outlook “Natively” On Linux Using VirtualBox”

    Native (natively – adv.):
    Being a member of the original inhabitants of a particular place.

    Virtualize (virtualization – n.):
    Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as an operating system, a server, a storage device or network resources.

    What I would take from that statement is that this will run as a linux executable WITHOUT the need of a virtualization (emulated) lair.

    I would agree with sikanrong, this is NOT native, it is emulated.