Review of Will Fuqua’s book “Windows Terminal Tips, Tricks,
and Productivity Hacks”
I have had the pleasure of reading through this recently published book (Smile.Amazon.Com). This is a timely book, full of tips and tricks for using the new Windows Terminal.
Ever since Microsoft got into the OS
business, we’ve had a console or shell built into the OS. The earliest, command.com,
gave way to cmd.exe with NT 3.1. And later came Windows PowerShell, the
PowerShell ISE and of course PowerShell 7 with VS Code. And now we have Windows
As the book clarifies, there really are two
components at work when you use tools like PowerShell. The first is the shell,
with the second being the terminal. As the book makes clear, the
terminal is, essentially, “what you see” when you use a command-line tool. The
terminal renders any text, draws any UI, and accepts kb/mouse input. The
terminal sends input to the shell for the actual processing. The shell then processes
the input and returns the results back to the terminal to display.
When you use cmd.exe or PowerShell, conhost.exe
is the terminal with the command prompt or Windows Powershell/PowerShell 7 as
the shell. The actual shell does not
have a UI as such – it gets input from and sends output to the terminal. It is
important to separate the two.
Conhost.exe is really pretty primitive – it
works and does the job but could do so much more. Which is a thought that has
led to the development of a new, open-source, cross-platform terminal
supporting just about any shell, including the shells in Linux distributions
you can run under the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL2). The new windows terminal is not just a re-write
of conhost.exe, but is so much more!
As a PowerShell user, I traditionally used PowerShell
via either the command line (i.e. pwsh.exe, cmd.exe, powershell.exe) or most
often via VS Code (and some ISE). The
tool I chose at any given time reflected what I was about to do. I use a GUI to
develop and test scripts. And sometimes to run code. On the other hand, when I only
need to run code ( for example, my Get-TodayInHistory.ps1 script (https://github.com/doctordns/GDScripts/blob/main/Get-TodayInHistory.ps1)
that helps me pick music to play today), I chose the console as my terminal.
The book begins with a look at both what
the terminal is and how you install it, followed by a great chapter on the UI.
If you are going to be using the new terminal, Chapter 2 has several important
key sequences you need to work into your muscle memory.
In the second section, the book looks at
how you can configure Windows Terminal and the shells you use. The book
contains lots of great tips for using the terminal and PowerShell and WSL2 Ubuntu
via Windows Terminal.
For the hardcore developer, the final
section in the book looks at how you can use Windows Terminal in development.
The book looks at using GIT and GitHub and building web applications (with
React) and REST APIs. The book finishes
with a look at connecting to a remote host and managing hosts in the cloud by using
Azure Cloud Shell or Google Cloud shell in the Windows Terminal.
If you are a casual terminal user, Windows
Terminal does everything you used to use consoles for – and a lot more. Windows
Terminal is a great tool if you are a WSL2 user, perhaps creating APIs or web
apps. For both audiences (and everyone in between), this book provides great
guidance, tips/tricks, and best practices.