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May 1, 2021

Mintty as a terminal for WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux).

Overview

WSLtty components

  • wsltty package components (see below) in the user’s local application folder %LOCALAPPDATA%
  • a wsltty configuration directory in the user’s application folder %APPDATA% (“home”-located configuration files from a previously installed version will be migrated to the new default location)
  • Start Menu shortcuts to start WSL terminals
  • *.bat scripts to invoke WSL terminals from the command line
  • optional context menu entries for Windows Explorer to start WSL terminals in the respective folder
  • install/uninstall context menu items from Start Menu subfolder WSLtty

Requirement

Since release 3.0.5, WSLtty requires Windows version 1809 (the November 2018 release).


Installation from this repository

WSLtty installer (Download standalone installation)

Run the installer to install the components listed above. If Windows complains with a “Windows protected your PC” popup, you may need to click “Run anyway” to proceed with the installation. You may need to open the Properties of the installer first, tab “General” section “Security” (if available) and select “Unblock”, to enable the “Run anyway” button.

Installation from archive

In case a local anti-virus guard barfs about the wsltty installer, the release also contains a .cab file. Download it, open it, extract its files to some temporary deployment directory, and invoke install.bat from there.

Installation from source repository

Checkout the wsltty repository, or download the source archive, unpack and rename the directory to wsltty. Install Alpine WSL from the Microsoft Store. Invoke make build, then make install.

Note this has to be done within a Cygwin environment. A minimal Cygwin environment for this purpose would be installed with the Cygwin installer from cygwin.com, with additional packages make, gcc-g++, unzip, zoo, patch, (lcab).

Installation to non-default locations

(For experts) Within the installation process, provide parameters to the script install.bat. The optional first parameter designates the installation target, the optional second parameter designates the configuration directory.

Installation with other package management environments

Note that these are 3rd-party contributions and do not necessarily provide the latest version.

Chocolatey

If you use the Chocolatey package manager, invoke one of

  • choco install wsltty
  • choco upgrade wsltty

Scoop

If you use the Scoop package manager,

  • scoop bucket add extras

then, invoke one of

  • scoop install wsltty
  • scoop update wsltty

Windows Appx package

A Windows Appx package and certificate is available in the wsltty.appx repository.

Uninstallation

To uninstall wsltty desktop, start menu, and context menu integration: Open a Windows cmd, go into the wsltty installation folder: cd %LOCALAPPDATA%\wsltty and run the uninstall script. To uninstall wsltty software completely, remove the installation folder manually.


Invocation

WSLtty can be invoked with

  • installed Start Menu shortcuts (or Desktop shortcuts if copied there)
  • *.bat scripts (optionally with WSL command as parameters)
  • Explorer context menu (if installed from the Start Menu WSLtty subfolder)

Starting the mintty terminal directly from the WSLtty installation location is discouraged because that would bypass essential options.

WSL V2

Terminal communication with WSL via its modes V1 or V2 is handled automatically by wsltty (mintty and the wslbridge2 gateway).

Starting issues

If wsltty fails with an Error: Could not fork child process: Resource temporarily unavailable..., its runtime may be affected by some over-ambitious virus defense strategy. For example, with Windows Defender, option “Force randomization for images” should be disabled.

If wsltty fails with an error message that mentions a disk mount path (e.g. /mnt/c), workarounds may be the shutdown of the WSL V2 virtual machine (wsl --shutdown on the distro) or turning off “fast startup” in the Windows power settings (#246, #248).

WSL shell starting issues

With WSL V2, an additional background shell is run which may cause trouble for example when setting up automatic interaction between Windows side and WSL side (see https://github.com/mintty/wsltty/issues/197#issuecomment-687030527). As a workaround, the following may be added to (the beginning of) the WSL shell initialization script .bashrc (adapt for other shells):

    # work around https://github.com/mintty/wsltty/issues/197
    if [[ -n "$WSL_DISTRO_NAME" ]]; then
      command -v cmd.exe > /dev/null || exit
    fi

Configuration

Start Menu and Desktop shortcuts

In the Start Menu, the following shortcuts are installed:

  • Shortcut WSL Terminal to start the default WSL distribution (as configured with the Windows tool wslconfig or wsl -s)
  • For each installed WSL distribution, for example Ubuntu, a shortcut like Ubuntu Terminal to start in the WSL user home

In the Start Menu subfolder WSLtty, the following additional shortcuts are installed:

  • Shortcut WSL Terminal % to start the default WSL distribution in the Windows %USERPROFILE% home
  • For each installed WSL distribution, for example Ubuntu, a shortcut like Ubuntu Terminal % to start in the Windows %USERPROFILE% home

One Desktop shortcut is installed:

  • Shortcut WSL Terminal to start the default WSL distribution (as configured with the Windows tool wslconfig or wsl -s)

Other, distribution-specific shortcuts can be copied to the desktop from the Start Menu if desired.

The Start menu folder WSLtty contains the link configure WSL shortcuts. This function is initially run when wsltty is installed. If should be rerun after adding or removing WSL distributions, in order to create the respective set of shortcuts in the Start menu.

Command line scripts wsl*.bat

WSLtty installs the following scripts into %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\WindowsApps (and a copy in its application folder %LOCALAPPDATA%\wsltty):

  • For each installed WSL distribution, e.g. Ubuntu, a command script like Ubuntu.bat to start in the current folder/directory
  • For each installed WSL distribution, e.g. Ubuntu, a command script like Ubuntu~.bat to start in the WSL user home
  • WSL.bat and WSL~.bat to start the default WSL distribution

Given that %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\WindowsApps is in your PATH, the scripts can be invoked from cmd.exe, PowerShell, or via WIN+R.

Context menu entries

WSLtty provides context menu entries for all installed WSL distributions and one for the configured default distribution, to start a respective WSL terminal in a specific folder from an Explorer window. They are not installed by default.

To add launch entries for the default or all WSL distributions to the Explorer context menu, or remove them, run the respective script from the Start Menu subfolder WSLtty:

  • add default to context menu adds context menu entries for the default WSL distribution
  • add to context menu adds context menu entries for all WSL distributions
  • remove from context menu removes context menu entries for WSL distributions

Icon

Wsltty installation and the mintty terminal try to use the icon of the respective WSL distribution. If it cannot be determined, a penguin icon is used as a default. You can replace it with your preferred fallback icon by replacing the icon file %LOCALAPPDATA%\wsltty\wsl.ico.

Mintty settings

Mintty can maintain its configuration file in various locations, with the following precedence:

  • file given with mintty option -c (not used by wsltty default installation)
  • file config in directory given with mintty option --configdir
    • %APPDATA%\wsltty\config in the default wsltty installation
  • %HOME%\.minttyrc (usage deprecated with wsltty)
  • %HOME%\.config\mintty\config (usage deprecated with wsltty)
  • common config file for all mintty installation instances
    • %APPDATA%\mintty\config
  • %LOCALAPPDATA%\wsltty\etc\minttyrc (usage deprecated with wsltty)

Note:

  • %APPDATA%\wsltty\config is the user configuration file location. Further subdirectories of %APPDATA%\wsltty are used for language, themes, and sounds resource configuration. Note the distinction from %LOCALAPPDATA%\wsltty which is the default wsltty software installation location.
  • The %APPDATA%\mintty\config option provides the possibility to maintain common mintty settings for various installations (like wsltty, Cygwin, MinGW/msys, Git for Windows, MinEd for Windows).
  • (About deprecated options) By default, %HOME% would refer to the root directory of the cygwin standalone installation hosting wsltty. So %HOME% would mean %LOCALAPPDATA%\wsltty\home\%USERNAME%. If you define HOME at Windows level, this changes accordingly. Note, however, that the WSL $HOME is a completely different setting.

Shell selection and Login shell

The WSLtty deployment does not impose a shell preference; it invokes the user’s default shell in login mode by the final - parameter:

  • %LOCALAPPDATA%\wsltty\bin\mintty.exe --WSL= --configdir="%APPDATA%\wsltty" -

You may tweak shortcuts, scripts, or context menu entries as follows:

To launch a default shell in non-login mode, remove the final dash.

To invoke your preferred shell, replace the final dash with a shell pathname and an optional -l parameter

  • %LOCALAPPDATA%\wsltty\bin\mintty.exe --WSL= --configdir="%APPDATA%\wsltty" /bin/bash -l

WSL locale setup and character encoding

Character encoding setup by locale setting is propagated from the terminal towards WSL. So you can select your favourite locale with configuration options or with command-line options, for example in a copied dedicated desktop shortcut.

If for example you wish to run WSL in GB18030 encoding, you may set options Locale=zh_CN and Charset=GB18030 and the WSL shell will adopt that setting, provided that the selected locale is configured to be available in the locale database of the WSL distribution. This can be achieved in Ubuntu with the following commands:

  • sudo mkdir -p /var/lib/locales/supported.d
  • sudo echo zh_CN.GB18030 GB18030 >> /var/lib/locales/supported.d/local
  • sudo locale-gen

Components and Credits

For mintty, see the Mintty homepage (with further screenshots), the Mintty manual page,
and the Mintty Wiki, including a Hints and Tips page.

It is based on Cygwin and includes its runtime library (sources).

For interacting with WSL, wslbridge used to be the gateway prototype. Many thanks for this enabling gateway go to Ryan Prichard.

For recent changes in WSL, particularly WSL mode V2, the new gateway wslbridge2 is used instead. Many thanks for this further development and maintenance go to Biswapriyo Nath.