For decades, the command line has been a cornerstone tool for programmers, IT professionals, and tech enthusiasts. But while immensely powerful, the traditional Windows command-line experience has always felt a bit dated and clunky.
Multiple disjointed prompts, limited customization options, and no tab support made workflow inefficient. But that‘s all changed with the arrival of Windows Terminal.
As an avid developer and systems administrator myself, I‘ve found Windows Terminal to be a total game-changer. Its tabbed interface, expansive customization capabilities, and tight integration with various dev tools has taken my productivity to the next level.
In this comprehensive, 4,000+ word guide, I‘ll explore everything Windows Terminal has to offer based on many hours of hands-on use. I‘ll share my insights as a command-line power user to help you get the most out of this transformative tool.
- How to install, launch, and navigate Windows Terminal
- Configuration tips to boost efficiency
- Ways to integrate your favorite dev tools
- Customization options to improve workflow
- Head-to-head performance comparisons
- Use cases for developers, admins, and everyday users
Let‘s dive in!
Why I Love Windows Terminal
Before we get into the specifics, I want to share why I‘m such a fan of Windows Terminal and how it‘s improved my everyday work:
No more tool switching – I can access PowerShell, Command Prompt, WSL, etc. within one organized application rather than constantly switching between separate tools.
Smooth navigation – The tabbed interface lets me work across multiple sessions without losing context. Keyboard shortcuts make navigating seamless too.
Sensible defaults – Built-in settings like copy on select and close tab warnings help avoid mistakes.
Relevant profiles – I can pre-configure tabs to start in the directories and environments I need.
Totally customizable – Windows Terminal lets me tweak everything from keyboard shortcuts to color schemes until it feels perfect.
Actively developed – Updates roll out frequently with exciting new features and optimizations.
As both a systems administrator and application developer, I work across a diverse set of tools on a daily basis – PowerShell, WSL2, Azure CLI, various databases and IDEs, etc.
Windows Terminal has become the centralized hub that brings everything together into one smooth workflow. I can customize profiles and tabs for my specific needs and seamlessly switch between them.
It‘s accelerated and optimized my daily work in so many ways. Once you adjust Windows Terminal to match your personal workflow, I think you‘ll wonder how you ever lived without it!
Now let‘s dive into the features…
Installing Windows Terminal
Windows 11 includes Windows Terminal installed by default. Just search for “Terminal” in the Start menu to launch the app.
If you‘re still on Windows 10, grab Terminal from the Microsoft Store:
- Open the Microsoft Store app.
- Search for "Windows Terminal".
- Select the "Windows Terminal" result.
- Click "Get" to download and install (it‘s free).
Minimum Requirements: Terminal requires Windows 10 build 18362 or later. I recommend updating to the latest Windows version if needed before installing Terminal.
The setup only takes a minute or two even on my 3-year-old laptop. Once installed, you‘ll find Windows Terminal in your Start menu and can launch it just like any app. Easy!
Now let‘s open Terminal up and get oriented…
Launching Windows Terminal
There are a few quick ways to open Windows Terminal on your Windows 10 or 11 machine:
Start Menu Search – Search for "Windows Terminal" and click the result. This is how I open Terminal 99% of the time.
Run Command – Type "wt" and press Enter in the Run dialog (Windows key + R). Great for quick launch.
Context Menu – Right-click the Start button or desktop and choose "Windows Terminal".
File Explorer – Navigate to
C:\Program Files\WindowsAppsand launch the
WindowsTerminal.exeapplication file directly.
You‘ll typically run Terminal as a normal user. But if you need elevated admin privileges, right-click the Terminal shortcut in your Start menu and choose "Run as administrator".
Once open, you‘ll see Terminal‘s clean tabbed interface:
The default view opens PowerShell. But you can configure multiple tabs with different:
- PowerShell sessions
- Command Prompt instances
- Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) distros
- Azure Cloud Shell
- SSH connections
- Custom developer tools like Node.js
Now let‘s review some handy keyboard shortcuts to help navigate Terminal:
|Ctrl + Shift + W
|Close active tab
|Ctrl + Shift + T
|Open new tab
|Ctrl + Tab
|Switch to next tab
|Alt + F4
|Close active terminal window
View all shortcuts under the Terminal "Settings" menu. I encourage customizing them to match your personal preferences.
With its versatile tab management, Windows Terminal makes working across different environments incredibly seamless. Let‘s look at how to customize it further.
Customizing Windows Terminal
While the default settings work great, the real power comes from customizing Windows Terminal to match your workflow. Access the settings file by clicking the down arrow at the top of Terminal and choosing "Settings".
This opens the JSON configuration file in your default text editor. As a developer myself, I appreciate how editable and hackable Terminal is. Don‘t be afraid to tinker and tune!
Useful Settings To Configure
Here are some particularly helpful settings to consider:
Default profile – Choose which tab type opens automatically when launching Terminal, like Command Prompt or PowerShell.
Start on user login – Launch Terminal automatically when logging into Windows. I have this enabled.
Always show tabs – Keep the tab bar visible even if just one tab is open.
Confirm close all tabs – Show a confirmation dialog when closing Terminal with multiple tabs open. Helps prevent accidentally closing everything.
Copy on select – Automatically copy text selections to the clipboard. Saves me tons of Ctrl+C clicks!
Theme – Pick from several preset color schemes and background wallpapers. I‘m using the "One Half Dark" theme currently.
Disable panes – Restrict Terminal to one pane to prevent unintended horizontal/vertical splits.
Take a look at the default
settings.json file to see all available options. I encourage spending some time to configure behaviors that make you most efficient.
Creating Custom Profiles
One of the most powerful customizations is creating your own tab profiles. You can pre-configure terminals for specific directories, shells, tools, and environments.
For example, I have custom profiles for:
- Git Bash terminal set to start in my code repository folder
- Node.js command prompt that opens in my frontend project directory
- WSL tab with zsh shell instead of bash
With profiles, you can launch right into the context you need for each tab.
To add a custom profile:
In Terminal "Settings", click "Add new profile".
Give your profile a name and configure the desired shell.
Set the starting directory, color theme, icon, etc.
Click "Save" and your new profile will appear when clicking the Terminal "down arrow".
The profile documentation explains all available configuration options. Don‘t be afraid to really personalize it!
Integrating Developer Tools
In my opinion, the biggest benefit of Windows Terminal is consolidating all my various command-line tools into one clean application. Let‘s look at some of the shells, languages, and environments I‘ve integrated:
The original cmd.exe remains handy for quick Windows admin tasks. I use Command Prompt tabs for things like network troubleshooting.
As a sysadmin, much of my Windows automation involves PowerShell. Having it integrated alongside my other tools is invaluable.
Windows Subsystem for Linux
WSL has been a total game-changer for Linux dev on Windows. I can work natively across .NET, Node, Python, C++ and more without dual booting.
I manage a lot of Azure services and use Cloud Shell for infrastructure automation. Getting Cloud Shell access through Terminal is super convenient.
Terminal supports SSH, allowing me to securely connect to remote Linux servers and devices right from the tabbed interface.
As a DevOps engineer, I work across the full stack and use a diverse set of languages and tools on a daily basis. Windows Terminal has become the unified control panel that brings everything together into one place.
Comparing Terminal to Old Command Prompts
To appreciate just how big of a leap Windows Terminal is, let‘s compare it to the traditional command prompt experience…
|Old Command Prompts
Beyond the table above, I want to call out a few key advantages:
Seamless navigation – I can smoothly switch between tools/environments without disrupting my flow. Tabs change everything.
Flexible customization – My old command prompts had zero customization capability. With Terminal, I can tweak every aspect.
More powerful – Features like Markdown rendering, Unicode support, and Cascadia fonts make Terminal feel much more modern.
Actively developed – The Terminal project is advancing rapidly with new features shipping frequently. It‘s the future!
If I had to go back to using disjointed standard command prompts after experiencing Windows Terminal, it would be incredibly painful. The consolidated, customizable, tabbed workflow has increased my productivity exponentially.
Real-World Use Cases
Windows Terminal packs benefits for all kinds of users. Here are just a few examples:
Integrate your IDEs and preferred shells like PowerShell, bash, zsh, etc.
Boost context switching through custom profiles and tab management.
Streamline server management with simultaneous access to PowerShell, cmd, WSL/Linux, and more.
Configure profiles to launch directly into resource contexts.
Standardize your team on one consolidated terminal.
Develop advanced workflows that bridge multiple command-line interfaces.
Automate frequent tasks across tools using PowerShell scripts.
Customize a pretty, productive environment aligned to your needs.
Simplify by consolidating all command-line tools into one app.
Avoid learning multiple disjointed interfaces.
Grow your command-line skills in a friendly, modern environment.
Whether you live on the command line or just occasionally access it, Windows Terminal will streamline your efficiency. For developers like myself, it‘s an absolute game-changer.
Now that we‘ve explored Windows Terminal extensively, let‘s recap some key learnings:
🌟 Terminal consolidates all your command-line tools into one tabbed interface – no more switching between separate prompt applications.
🌟 You can fully customize profiles tailored to your directories, languages, environments, and work styles.
🌟 Smooth navigation through tabs and keyboard shortcuts makes context switching painless.
🌟 Useful settings like confirm close tabs help avoid mistakes and save time.
🌟 Frequent updates deliver exciting improvements like Unicode support, advanced settings, and WASM extensibility.
🌟 Windows Terminal modernizes the command-line experience with tabs, theming, configurability, and more.
As a developer and sysadmin who works across multiple languages and environments daily, I find Windows Terminal to be an indispensable productivity booster. I hope this guide has shown you how much it has to offer!
Please reach out on Twitter @peter_codes if you have any other questions as you get started with Windows Terminal. I‘m always happy to chat command line and developer productivity tips.