A new co-op position meant new hardware1, and a new technology stack to learn. Unfortunately, that includes having to use Windows. Coming back to Windows after almost 2 full years on Linux, it felt like I forgot how to use a computer. All the keyboard shortcuts that my hands were used to would do funny things like lock my laptop. I just wanted my shell, my terminal, and my tiling window manager back.
Note that this post is only about Windows alternatives for tools in my Linux workflow. I won’t be talking about tools that are specific to the job like IDEs and DB browsers (maybe in a separate post).
Going full Linux with WSL
I used WSL before I became a full-time Linux user. I had a positive experience
with it, so my first instinct was to reach for that. I was disappointed with the
performance, though, and the startup time is horrible. Not good if I want to be
able to use the shell right away. Having a separate
$HOME directory also made
file organization awkward.
I figured that this was in no way going to be tolerable, so I knew I had to get cross-platform or Windows-native tools. It was time to give up my dream of having a single workflow everywhere.
Shell: Nushell (
I use Nushell because… (?) I didn’t like Powershell2?? Now that I’m writing
about it, there was no reason for me NOT to learn Powershell. The concept of
piping objects instead of text is somewhat different, but Nushell uses that same
concept (since it’s inspired by Powershell). If anything, Powershell is probably
more polished since it’s built with Windows as a priority. I also had to spend
time learning Nushell, anyway. My time would’ve been better spent learning the
tools that are actually native to the system I’m using. I wasn’t giving up
on my Linux machines either, so Nushell being cross-platform doesn’t mean
anything to me.
I used to use
lf to change directories using an
lfcd binding, but
it’s a bit harder to integrate with Nushell since change in environment
variables are scoped. I came across
zoxide which is great for jumping around
my most frequently visited directories. If I do need to explore a deep
directory, I actually fire up
lf, even if it takes around 1.5 seconds to start
Terminal Multiplexing: Nothing :(
I tried looking for a cross-platform platform alternative to
tmux, probably something written in Go or
Rust. One of them was
zellij, but it doesn’t work on
Windows. For simple terminal management, Windows Terminal
I have also flipped my workflow around Neovim and terminals. Instead of having
two or three
tmux panes, I simply have Neovim open and use the terminal inside
it using the
:terminal command. By not using Neovim inside
tmux, I can use
the increment number (
<C-a>) binding properly. I have also carried this in my
Linux workflow which simplifies things by a lot. It could get annoying sometimes
though when I accidentally quit Neovim as it also kills the shell sessions that
I start inside it. VSCode also has this problem so I usually run development
server processes in separate Windows Terminal tabs.
I tried to get tiling windows using
FancyZones from Microsoft PowerToys,
but it felt laggy and it was quite a resource hog. I also didn’t have enough
screen space for it to be useful, anyway. I eventually got used to pressing
Alt + Tab and
Alt + Shift + Tab to go back and forth between windows, which
isn’t too bad. I have also carried this keyboard shortcut back to Pop! OS,
although I still prefer moving between workspaces3.
Windows Terminal, hands down. This is what I’ve used back when I used
Windows 10. It’s customizable enough to keep me happy and the shortcut to start
different shells in new tabs is really handy when I need an admin shell (no more
Powershell, and clicking ‘Run as Administrator’). It’s also the
only terminal that I’ve used on Windows that actually sends mouse terminal
sequences to programs. Even the VSCode integrated terminal doesn’t work properly
I also tried using Alacritty, which is what I use for the rest of my machines, but it doesn’t matter how fast the terminal emulator is if the programs themselves are slow. Not having the features of Windows terminal actually slows me down more.
When I first started using Windows again, it all felt so foreign to me. But with
these alternatives to my workflow, there’s not much difference from when I’m
working inside Linux. Maybe except for having Visual Studio running in the
background for the back-end server. With cross-platform tools written in modern
languages like Rust and Go, I can simply download the binary, plop it into
PATH, and go crazy.
This beast of a gaming laptop costs around 3 times as much as my personal laptop. It does makes sense now that they’d give me something so beefed up since none of my own hardware can actually run Visual Studio. ↩︎
Maybe it had to do with it being slow? I think all shells are sluggish on Windows anyway, even Nushell. Powershell 7 promises some performance improvements, though. I will try setting it as my main shell after I’ve copied my Nushell config. Writing really does help with introspection. EDIT December 17: Nope, nope, nope. The shell taking at most 1.5 seconds to “load configurations” when I haven’t made any personal configuration yet seems like bad news. I will never use it as an interactive shell, sorry. ↩︎
I realized now that Windows also has desktop workspaces. I need to start using that more. ↩︎