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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Microsoft introduces support for Linux GUI apps on Windows 10
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Microsoft introduces support for Linux GUI apps on Windows 10
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Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system supports running Linux GUI applications now as part of its Windows Subsystem for Linux feature.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Dueling Evil said on April 22, 2021 at 9:04 am
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    Why is Microsoft most likely doing this?

    I’m guessing it’s a pre-emptive strike against Google to prevent that other Evil Empire from taking over the desktop.

    1. Anonymous said on April 22, 2021 at 3:19 pm
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      Probably more because of stuff like Docker.

    2. Anon said on April 23, 2021 at 2:35 pm
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      Taking over the desktop? Google can keep dreaming.

  2. Zelanium said on April 22, 2021 at 9:06 am
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    Already possible with third-party tools, one of them is available for free on the Store (also allows to launch the programs directly with shortcuts).

    Ten years ago I would have said that it’s a game changer. But most Linux software that you’d want on Windows is already available as a Windows version – or there are alternatives that do the job. In addition, if the Linux applications are run via the subsystem, they will not act like normal Windows programs. For example, you will have to browse your file system via the /mnt/ folder within the subsystem. Having to setup and manage a “hidden” Linux installation (the subsystem) is also not making Linux software more accessible to casual users.

    I think this change (which I appreciate) is mostly aimed at developers who want to test their software. It’s still a positive step that makes Windows more open and useful. Personally, I wonder if support for Mac applications would be possible, too.

  3. Ray Foulkes said on April 22, 2021 at 10:37 am
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    I already use WSL for some work under Windows. I have used the graphical editor Kate using an XServer on windows – it more or less functions already. Some things don’t work (on my system at least) e.g. “pip3 list” hangs – something to do with authentication and dbus. How much use I will make of full gui is determined by how much of Linux functionality works out of the box.

    My amateur Linux development is currently done using NoMachine to a remote Linux Mint box after abandoning Teamviewer. Some software I use only has Windows 10 version so I do not wish to abandon Windows. So, for me, WSL is more a matter of convenience and not having to walk to the linux box so often :-))

    1. Peterc said on April 22, 2021 at 8:15 pm
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      @Ray Foulkes: Why did you switch from TeamViewer to NoMachine? I use TeamViewer to remotely maintain a relative’s Windows machine from time to time, but I’d never heard of NoMachine, and I’m curious.

  4. allen said on April 22, 2021 at 11:50 am
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    People generally run Windows for one of two reasons: the PC they bought came with Windows and/or they have one or more Windows programs they want to run. People generally run Linux not because they want a specific Linux application but because they don’t want to run Windows and do want the Linux environment. There’s not a lot of cross-pollination between these two groups… except in the enterprise and other large organizations, where any and all cases can be found. So, it’ll be interesting. If it weren’t for all of the anti-consumer things that Microsoft does, they’d be more than welcome to join the Linux party. As it is, if I buy a PC with Windows on it, I’ll still be installing Linux on it so I don’t have to run Windows, but, gee, this is nice, new computer, ain’t it!

    1. Anon said on April 23, 2021 at 2:39 pm
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      Microsoft is a big contributor to the Linux codebase now. I know many people are mentally stuck in the ’90s, but Nadella’s MS is not at all the same *nix hater as Gates’/Ballmer’s MS was.

      1. The Wizard of Mars said on April 24, 2021 at 7:46 am
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        @Anon

        I think most folks tend to think of companies as people, whereas if a person screws you over, then you will likely never trust that person again. But companies are not people, where they are often constantly evolving, as with changing their CEO.

        Related to that is branding, whereas the masses will identify with brands, which actually doesn’t tell us much about a given company.

        The same can be said about countries, with much old history that modern folks still hold grudges over.

        That said, the lesson here is, history is great to learn about various lessons and such, but to know what’s happening now, you still need to learn what’s happening now.

  5. Anonymous said on April 22, 2021 at 2:32 pm
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    Very polished article Martin. Thank you.

    No, I don’t think it is a game changer. It is only for some developers and hard core geeks.
    It isn’t for me since I run Windows 8.1. I also have a Ubuntu computer, which I will switch to when Windows 8.1 reaches EOL
    .
    If you want to run Windows applications on Linux, you can always use WINE. You don’t have to accept the Microsoft propaganda that you must run Linux on Windows.

    I fear that Microsoft will buy up or otherwise infiltrate Linux distros, with the resulting telemetry and monopoly problems.

    1. Anon said on April 25, 2021 at 12:14 am
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      “I fear that Microsoft will buy up or otherwise infiltrate Linux distros, with the resulting telemetry and monopoly problems.”

      Forget the fact that MS is actually not anti-Linux now at all (it contributes both code and money to it), or the fact that it has no need to buy a distro when it can roll its own for free, what’s more important is that clearly you have absolutely ZERO clue how open source works. I suggest you educate yourself regarding the basics at least if you plan to use any distro full-time in future.

  6. jake said on April 22, 2021 at 3:20 pm
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    Is it only me who feels like this is just a way for Microsoft to deter people from installing a Linux distro on their PCs or even trying it out? Like “Why install Linux kids?, when you can run all the Linux apps now within Windows! To me this is what Microsoft is really looking for.

    1. m3city said on April 22, 2021 at 3:47 pm
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      @jake
      I don’t think so. Why bother with a mere few % od desktop linux users? It’s for developers, professional users. Nothing evil in that. I won’t use it, no purpose at all. But I guess that at some moment in the future I’ll be using fruits coming from this tree.

    2. The Wizard of Mars said on April 24, 2021 at 7:59 am
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      @jake

      Are you informed enough to honesty think “To me this is what Microsoft is really looking for” ..?

      Or are you a know-it-all who simply can’t say “I don’t know” when need be?

  7. Tinfoil_Hat said on April 22, 2021 at 4:40 pm
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    As long as you run whatever software inside win10, you will get ALL win10 drawbacks (buggy updates, telemetry, key logging an so on) while M$ retain it’s revenues from selling user’s produced data even if you run your favorite *nix software. M$ wants you use their S.O. so badly even to the point of letting other OSes run inside Win10
    Stay away from windows 10

    1. Anon said on April 23, 2021 at 6:07 pm
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      My my, you really do need your tinfoil hat, don’t you?

  8. Anonymous said on April 22, 2021 at 6:56 pm
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    Another bad news for libre software.

    1. Anon said on April 23, 2021 at 6:08 pm
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      Why? How does this affect FOSS? Enough with the ridiculous comments and FUD.

  9. David said on April 22, 2021 at 11:24 pm
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    Long time ago I used cygwin on Windows for some Unix-y things I needed to do. It really wasn’t enough. When I switched to a Mac I discovered most of the Unix tools I needed were already built into the BDS Unix underneath the Finder. This tool will be a great help for developers who need a foot in two worlds. It’s not a feature that most users will be interested in, but it might keep some developers from jumping ship to full Linux.

  10. ULBoom said on April 23, 2021 at 3:05 pm
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    Whatever. If they could get remote desktop into linux to work reliably or at all, it would be nice. Not just MS’s doing there, though. Not sure what this is good for, server management is usually done by techs who understand it well; packages with gui’s that don’t have similar ones on windows are few and far between. Developers? For developing what?

    Nice that MS has enough resources to work on this; I’d bet their foray into linux continues to wander. MS sold laptops with linux for a while…

    1. Anon said on April 25, 2021 at 12:22 am
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      They sold their own version of UNIX too.

      “Developers? For developing what?”

      Software, what else? Many develop on Linux and cross-compile for Windows too (with a VM for testing), and some can now develop on Windows and cross-compile plus test for Linux directly. Or so MS hopes I guess.

  11. KeZa said on April 24, 2021 at 8:46 pm
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    Here is a good tester and glad I am still on W7 with 0patch https://www.dedoimedo.com/computers/windows-10-update-adventures.html

    1. BogonIP said on April 25, 2021 at 8:02 am
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      What’s the point of running Win 7 anymore, unless your systems is a POS System KeZa?

  12. Ivan said on April 26, 2021 at 9:57 am
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    This might turn into an easy way of running ML (tensorflow, keras) on the GPU on Win10.

  13. bad person said on May 5, 2021 at 2:51 pm
    Reply

    windows 10 bad bad microsoft bad bad bad full of blotware bad bda bad bad

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