Last week, Microsoft formalized the new version of WSL, its Linux emulation layer, which will now be distributed via the store so that Windows 10 users can run – also – graphical Linux applications.
WSL, Windows Subsystem for Linux, is a Windows layer that allows Linux applications to run natively under Windows. Launched in 2016, developed in collaboration with Canonical (Ubuntu), this emulation was first designed to make life easier for developers of web services and native cloud applications, allowing them to develop for Linux without leaving the Windows environment . WSL saw a major evolution in 2019 with the integration of a true Linux kernel at the heart of Windows and then in 2021 with Windows 11 and support for graphical Linux applications.
Since the start of the year, Microsoft has sought to allow WSL to develop outside of Windows beats and make it a Windows Store-implemented app. Last week, Microsoft announced the completion of this “Windows Store” version, which – for now – will coexist with the one integrated into Windows. ” The native 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. said Craig Loewen, Windows Developer Platform Program Manager, in a blog post.
Starting today, the Store version of WSL will become the standard 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 enable the “Windows Subsystem of Linux” component, nor the several 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 enterprises (and internal enterprise developers) have not migrated to the latest version of Windows and are still benefiting from Windows 10 (Microsoft has also started the distribution of the 22H2 update for Windows 10 in recent days).
This Store version also gives all Linux developers access to the optional support of “systemd”, this software package that allows to control 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 various Linux distributions, both those officially supported via the Windows Store and those that may have been compiled 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 many Linux developer 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 for Linux Partitions.
Beyond the interest of having Linux at the fingertips of 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 to natively support Android apps under Windows.
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