Last week, Microsoft formalized the new version of WSL, its Linux emulation layer, which will now be distributed via the Store allowing Windows 10 users to run – too – Linux graphical applications.
WSL, Windows Subsystem for Linux, is a Windows layer that allows Linux applications to run natively under Windows. Launched in 2016, this emulation developed in collaboration with Canonical (Ubuntu), was first designed to make life easier for developers of web services and native cloud applications and allow them to develop for Linux without leaving the Windows environment. WSL experienced a major evolution in 2019 with the integration of a real Linux kernel at the heart of Windows then in 2021 with Windows 11 and support for graphical Linux applications.
Since the start of the year, Microsoft has been looking to allow WSL to evolve outside of Windows beats and make it a Windows Store-deployed app. Last week, Microsoft announced the finalization of this “Windows Store” version which – for now – will coexist with the one integrated into Windows. ” The built-in Windows version of WSL will continue to receive critical bug fixes, but it is only in the Store version of WSL that new features and functionality will now be added. says Craig Loewen, Windows Developer Platform Program Manager, in a blog post.
Starting today, the Store version of WSL will become the default version of WSL. In other words, by running the “wsl.exe –install” command, the Store version will be installed by default if your Windows is up to date. From a technical point of view, launching this command will no longer activate the “Windows Subsystem of Linux” component and nor the multiple MSI packages “WSL Kernel” and “WSLg” which are now useless.
The arrival of the “Store” version thus allows Windows 10 users to take advantage of the support for graphical Linux applications (GUI Apps) hitherto reserved for Windows 11. An important point at a time when many companies (and internal company developers) have not migrated to the most recent version of Windows and are still benefiting from Windows 10 (Microsoft having also started the distribution of the 22H2 update to Windows 10 in recent days).
This Store version also allows all Linux developers to access the optional support of “systemd”, this software suite which allows to manage the startup and the processes launched at system startup.
On installation, it is a version of Ubuntu that is installed by default. But remember that WSL supports different Linux distributions both those officially supported via the Windows Store and those possibly prepared by the user via vhdx files. Note that it is possible to install WSL without a distribution by specifying “wsl –install –no-distribution”.
WSL simplifies the life of developers by giving them access to the multitude of Linux dev tools from Windows, by allowing them to program/test/debug their Linux apps from their Windows environment and by simplifying file transfers thanks to access from Windows Explorer to Linux partitions.
In addition to the interest of having Linux at your fingertips for cross-platform developers, WSL is also a way for curious users to experiment with Linux commands and certain Linux apps without leaving the Windows universe.
As a reminder, Windows 11 also has another emulation layer, WSA, intended for native support of Android apps under Windows.
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