How to Use the Windows Terminal for Windows 10

The Terminal combines many command-line tools and shells such as Command Prompt, PowerShell and WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux). Thus, in one application, you can have Command Prompt, and Powershell for Windows, as well as something for Linux terminal power users in one app.

Who would expect that Microsoft would develop a new terminal app that combines a command-like tool, open source, and customizable.

The Terminal combines many command-line tools and shells such as a Command Prompt, PowerShell, and WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux). Thus, in one application, you can have all three plus other installed shell environments in one app.

This is for devices running Windows 10

Dilbert and Laptop
Copyright Scott Adams, Inc./Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

The key features of the Windows Terminal include multiple tabs, split panes, Unicode and UTF-8 character support, GPU-accelerated text rendering engine, and an easy way to change between themes and configuration options. Copy and Paste “just work” when you press Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V. There’s even a new font, named Cascadia Code.

Windows Terminal is an open-source project, which will continue to expand its features leveraging a growing community of contributors.

At Build 2020 on May 19, 2020, version “20H1”, Microsoft announced that the new Windows Terminal was stable and “ready for enterprise use”.

You can download the Windows Terminal from the Microsoft Store. You can even get the source code on GitHub.

Finally There Are Tabs

Windows finally has a command-line environment with built-in tabs. To open a new tab after launching the Terminal, just click the plus “+” button on the tab bar or press Ctrl+Shift+T.

You can use familiar keyboard shortcuts to move through the tabs, like Ctrl+Tab to switch to the tab on the right and Ctrl+Shift+Tab to switch to the tab on the left. Ctrl+Shift+W will close the current tab. You can drag and drop the tabs to reorder them on the tab bar, too. Refer to below image for two tabs:

Terminal 1
Multiple tabs

Multiple Environments

By default, the Terminal will open PowerShell tabs. But it supports many types of shell environments. You can now have multiple types of shell environment in the same window.

If you click the arrow to the right of the New Tab button, you will see a list of sessions you can open (if they are installed). See below image of the sessions:

Terminal 2
Listing of sessions to chose from

Split Panes

To create a new pane, press Alt+Shift+D. The Terminal will split the current pane into two and give you a second one. Click a pane to select it. You can click a pane and press Alt+Shift+D to keep splitting it.

These panes are linked to tabs, so you can easily have several multi-pane environments in the same Terminal window and switch between them from the tab bar.

Here are some other keyboard shortcuts for working with panes:

  • Create a new pane, splitting horizontally: Alt+Shift+- (Alt, Shift, and a minus sign)
  • Create a new pane, splitting vertically: Alt+Shift++ (Alt, Shift, and a plus sign)
  • Move pane focus: Alt+Left, Alt+Right, Alt+Down, Alt+Up
  • Resize the focused pane: Alt+Shift+Left, Alt+Shift+Right, Alt+Shift+Down, Alt+Shift+Up
  • Close a pane: Ctrl+Shift+W
  • Increase Windows translucent: Ctrl+Shift and scroll down with the mouse wheel

See following image where I have drive C:, D:, and E: in its own separate Command Prompt pane:

Terminal 3
Split panes of Command Prompt

See following image where PowerShell is split into three panes:

Terminal 3A
Split panes of PowerShell

Better Zooming

The new text-rendering system means smoother, better zooming. To zoom and enlarge or shrink the text in the Terminal, hold Ctrl and rotate the mouse wheel.

In the new Terminal, only the size of the text changes and leaves the window size alone. Refer to below image:

Terminal 4
Zooming feature

Settings

The Windows Terminal is packed with customization options you can change. To access them, click the down arrow to the right of the New Tab button and select Settings. See below image:

Terminal 5
Selecting the Settings option

You’ll see a text-based JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) file full of options. As a developer tool, Windows Terminal currently makes you configure these options by modifying the text file rather than with a graphical interface. Since it is a text file, you will need to open the file with a program like WordPad. If you reinstall Terminal, any changes you make may be lost.

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