I just been to heck and back. You see I am applying for a job the requires MS Excel and Autocad. It has been a little while since I have used these products but I have used similar Linux applications.
First I used my Ubuntu laptop. I installed Wine which emulates just enough of MS Windows to run some Windows applications. I have Photoshop Lite (2001 vintage) works fine. I tried to install a 30 day trial version of Autocad 2010 and then Autocad LT 2010 to no avail. The real deal is two fold. If you don't have the actual XP or 7, good luck. Then if you don't have enough hardware beef, forget it. Oh, did I tell you it took a couple of hours before I found out Autocad would not install.
The final straw was I put a second hard drive into my desktop Ubuntu machine, installed XP and then Autocad LT 2010 on it. It took forever.............but I now can dual-boot into XP and Autocad LT 2010 does work. My best recommendation is if you are using serious MS platform software, you must have serious resources on hand (lots of disk space and main memory). I have 1gig of main memory and things are slow. My PC will take 2gig. That should speed things up a bit.
It really makes me mad as I love Linux so much. I could run XP as a virtual machine but not having enough memory and or a CPU that is faster, anything practical is a pain. I have PCs of various ages and I have been able to use Linux on them with good success. The economics has always been a pain at this time in my life. The cost of memory does not get cheaper with age. As the memory becomes harder to find for older machines the cost goes up. It is cheaper to get a new machine trimmed to the max, than beefing up an old one.
You'd think I am enraged about XP, Ubuntu 10.04 also gives me heck. I have an older laptop with a lower spec than my desktop. Ubuntu 9.10 runs just fine, 10.04 won't even boot past the logo screen, and this is the live-CD. So here is my unsolicited advice. If when buying a new PC and they try to dazzle you with a huge honking hard drive, pause, take a look at how much system ram comes with it. If your system takes 2 gig of ram, fill it up now or feel up-graders lament. Hard drive cost go up and down but mostly down, you can always get a good deal. System ram though is costly, buy it up front while you can still breath. With system ram to the max, you can run anything, no sweat.