Microsoft introduces support for Linux GUI apps on Windows 10

Microsoft released a new build to the Insider channel a few hours ago that introduces support for running Linux graphical user interface applications on the Windows 10 machine.

The company announced plans to support Linux GUI applications, opposed to supporting command line tools only, a year ago at the Build 2020 conference.

That feature just landed in the latest Insider build of Windows 10, Windows 10 build 21364, and is ready for testing.

windows 10 linux gui apps

Windows Subsystem for Linux is an optional feature of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system that introduces support for Linux tools and features on Windows 10 devices when enabled. Up until now, support was limited to running tools from the command line.

The feature enables Windows 10 users to run Linux applications with graphical interfaces on their devices. Besides testing Linux apps on Windows 10, it is also a great option to bring some of Linux best apps, e.g. the podcast app Vocal, the photo manager Shotwell, or the audio workstation LMMS.

Linux GUI applications on WSL support audio and microphone out of the box, and also GPU accelerated 3D graphics. The latter improves the performance of heavy applications. Preview drivers for AMD, Intel and NVIDIA gpus are available and need to be installed to benefit from it; the drivers will be included in the next version of Windows 10 by default.

Mesa 21.0 is required as well for this, and the new Ubuntu on Windows Community Preview for WSL 2 is one of the first to support it.

Microsoft explains how the feature works in a new post on its developer blog:

[..] we are automatically starting a companion system distro, containing a Wayland, X server, pulse audio server, and everything else needed to make Linux GUI apps communicate with Windows. After you’re finished using GUI applications and terminate your WSL distribution the system distro will automatically end its session as well.

Windows 10 Insiders who want to get started using the new feature need to be on preview build 21364 or higher. With WSL installed, run wsl –update to update and enable support for using GUI apps. If WSL is not installed yet, run wsl –install to install and this will include WSLg (the GUI support) automatically.

Here is a short video that Microsoft published on YouTube that demos the feature:

The feature makes it easier to run Linux GUI applications on Windows 10 devices. Previously, one option was to use a remote desktop connection for that.

Now You: which Linux apps would you run under Windows? Is this a game changer?

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