If you’ve ever entered command prompts on Windows, as I’ve done, you’ll know that for years it seems Windows has tried its darn best to make the experience a brutal one. Windows does not have the easy curl commands of Linux nor the elegance of Mac. What you’re left with is a default Windows terminal that doesn’t do much to brighten the command line experience. Of course, there are a bevy of other terminals you can download and use. I’ve even listed them here.
But it’s hard to not look over at a Mac and watch a programmer use the clean-looking iTerm and not wonder why Windows didn’t bother packaging a good looking terminal with their OS. It’s always smacked of a disregard for the needs of developers. As if the only Windows customers were office jockeys, data entry clerks, and the like. In that regard, I always felt penalized for using Windows when most others used Linux and Macs to write code. Mac’s Homebrew and Linux’s curl made Windows look like a fossil whenever I had to download something like PostgreSQL. You often have to go into the environment variables and manually set the path of new downloads. In rare cases, I’ve had to actually go into files and change settings there to get Windows compatibility.
Since Nadella took over, however, there seems to be a renaissance taking place that has now brought Microsoft to the forefront of the technological world. Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub, though it may have caused some to panic, was an indication that Microsoft would finally include the developer as a core customer. This meant that they would be more involved in creating tools for developers and contribute to open source. For a long time, this ethos butted against Microsoft’s previous ethos of closing the doors to open source.
Nadella swept away Microsoft’s old closed door policy by working with the antithesis of Windows: Linux. Not only did Nadella pivot Microsoft towards cloud tech, he took advantage of the burgeoning market to add support for Linux. According to an article written in RCP Mag,”Microsoft has added tooling support, such as the ability to use Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) and Secure Shell (SSH) to access a Linux virtual machine. It made PowerShell, SQL Server and .NET Core all run on Linux.”
With Microsoft’s change in focus since Nadella’s arrival, it’s only natural then that Microsoft is willing to create another tool for developers who’ve stuck with the OS.
So, in steps Windows Terminal, Windows version of the iTerm(it still amazes me that it took this long for Windows to produce an equivalent tool). The announcement was made on May 6, alongside the Visual Studio Online announcement.
The “GPU accelerated DirectWrite/DirectX-based text rendering engine” will allow you to display emojis and display awesome fonts.
You can even tab consoles!
Microsoft, rightfully proud of their recent foray into open source, have added more goodwill by making Windows Terminal open source. You can clone, build, test, and run the terminal from your computer.
Here are some things to takeaway from Michael, a spokesperson for Microsoft who posted in a Reddit thread. The following is a direct quote:
- “Actual packaged release previews will come by summer. We plan to distribute via the Windows Store. Maybe also packages on our GitHub as well for those who have set Developer Mode on their Windows machine to sideload apps.
- We’re still working on this part[packages sideloaded apps]. There were a lot of moving pieces to get this far by TODAY and this is one of those that we’re going to get back to tackling starting after the Build conference ends later this week!
- Right now, you can get it by building it yourself from our GitHub at https://github.com/microsoft/terminal.”
Here are some extra things to note from Michael’s conversation in the Reddit thread:
- There will be font ligature support
- There will be tiling support
- There will be custom shell support
Overall, the news of the new Windows Terminal received a very positive reaction. Michael himself wrote that he was surprised about the reaction that the news received. I think the positive sentiments stem from one word: Finally!!!
Image credit: Microsoft