Most operating systems give users the ability to control the computer with commands that are entered. Linux and MacOS call it the terminal, although it is also known as a console or shell. Until recently, Windows had multiple consoles for different tasks.
This changed with the start of the Windows terminal. Let's examine the features and see if it's an improvement over the previous options.
What is Windows Terminal?
Windows Terminal is Microsoft's attempt to bring the functionality of third-party Linux, MacOS and terminal emulators to Windows 10.
Windows has always had built-in text terminals like Command Prompt and Powershell. You can also choose between shells for Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). However, a powerful all-in-one solution for developers and main users was missing.
The new terminal app is open source and free of charge from the Microsoft Store for Windows 10, version 18362.0 or higher.
Get Windows Terminal from the Windows Store
What makes Windows Terminal better?
The first clear upgrade when opening the Windows terminal is the use of tabs. Without tabs, it doesn't take long for your taskbar to fill up, and it's hardly any better to hover over an icon that looks for the right window.
However, the new tab system has even more persuasiveness:
You can open many tabs of different types at the same time. According to the Windows Terminal development blog
Any application with a command line interface can be run in the Windows terminal.
This is a massive upgrade and considerably simplifies the handling of almost all forms of development. Apart from that, Microsoft has integrated elements from common window managers.
Native Terminal Window Splitting
Split screens were the focus of many window managers for Linux and are standard for many operating systems. You have more than one option to split Windows Terminal into several shells of different types.
This image also shows one of the more practical visual improvements the Windows terminal has received.
Unique colors and font schemes help to recognize terminal types at a glance. You will like it if you already have a preferred terminal style and layout.
Any color you like
Microsoft has made customization a central pillar of the Windows Terminal development process. You can change everything about it through a JSON settings file, much like Visual Studio Code, Microsoft's open source code editor.
Most terminal elements can change in real time, with different opacity and blur levels in the background, and a variety of fonts, colors, and styles.
You can even use images or animated gifs as the background, as YouTuber ThioJoe shows in his comprehensive video about Windows Terminal:
Those who love ligatures in their code will also be pleased to hear that the Cascadia Mono font included in the preview versions of the terminal now has an alternate version called Cascadia Code. The only changes to the original font are the addition of ligatures.
The entire visual side of the terminal is rendered on the graphics processing unit (GPU), so that everything remains snappy and works smoothly.
If you use different layouts for Windows Terminal, you can use command line arguments to start custom windows.
The same commands used above can also be used as shortcuts for your taskbar, giving you an unlimited number of custom terminal options in close proximity. These features will be improved in future versions of Terminal, among others.
The adaptation does not stop here. The same JSON settings file for the terminal type and appearance also allows you to add custom shortcuts. These can create new split windows or tabs of certain types during operation. As the official documents show, you can't assign much to a custom key binding.
Note, however, that user key bindings overwrite the system keys. Think carefully before you decide Alt + F4 as your new shortcut!
What about third-party shells?
If you've already used a feature-rich third-party shell for Windows like Cmder or ZOC Terminal Emulator, you may not want to switch. Adding your preferred terminal emulator to the Windows Terminal is as easy as adding another custom terminal setup.
The steps to run Cmder as a Windows Terminal tab are on the GitHub page and apply to all third party emulators. The question is, with all the improvements and speed increases that the new Windows Terimnanl brings with it, is it time to switch to it as a daily driver.
What happens to the command prompt?
Displaying Powershell and Command Prompt in the new Terminal program could be seen as the first step in phasing out. However, this is not the case. Microsoft already tried to suppress this rumor in January 2017.
Microsoft has indicated that other command line programs will not change in Windows. This is great news for anyone working with Windows servers and using system commands as part of their development!
The development team behind the Windows terminal has made it clear that version 1.0 is only the beginning. Version 2.0 is under development. The roadmap for what to expect on the official GitHub account in the coming weeks and months.
There are far too many upcoming features to list. Infinite scrolling, advanced startup options, and many other visual options for changing UI elements still sound like great improvements. Quake mode is particularly exciting, with the terminal rolling down from the top of the screen.
New Windows terminal with old tricks
The Windows Terminal is a significant upgrade that is a long time coming. It's a great implementation, which means that all of the old command prompts will continue to work.
Hopefully this is the beginning of a revision for other elements of the Windows operating system. Until we get a usable file explorer, however, there are many great explorer alternatives
The 7 best alternatives and replacements for Windows File Explorer
You can think about it!
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