Windows Insider Build Adds Linux GUI App Support

Posted on April 21, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 32 Comments

Today, Microsoft released Windows 10 Insider Preview build 21364 to the Dev channel with the first-ever support for Linux GUI apps.

“The Windows Subsystem for Linux now includes a first preview of support for GUI applications,” the Microsoft announcement post notes. “This means [that] you can now run your favorite GUI editors, tools, and applications, [sic] to develop, test, build and run your Linux apps.”

A demonstration video is available if you’re curious about what this looks like.

Additionally, build 21364 features a revamped Task Manager that can now identify individual Microsoft Edge processes and view their resource consumption, plus a new experimental feature called “Eco mode” that gives users the option to throttle process resources. “This feature is helpful when you notice an app consuming high resources and would like to limit its consumption so that the system gives priority to other apps which will lead to faster foreground responsiveness and better energy efficiency,” Microsoft explains.

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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Windows Insider Build Adds Linux GUI App Support”

  1. bart

    I think Leo should wear a party hat on WW today. He must be excited about this.

  2. scovious

    This is amazing! I wonder if would be possible to wrap Linux apps in a native looking shell so those minimize, close and maximize buttons are consistent with Windows. Then again, maybe its important to have them visually distinct...

  3. chaoticbastian

    So glad for this, although not many there are a few linux applications that i would love to see on windows and now here is the way. Curious how they perform this task and if it will perform like native applications

  4. prifici

    I'm really excited for this. Since the switch there have been one or two Linux GUI apps that I've missed on Windows. It'll be great to have them back. I'll be interested to see how they perform too.

  5. dftf

    Someone should tell the user in their example screenshot that Audacity has a native Windows port! (The latest version of which still runs on, albeit with no support, on Vista!)

  6. longhorn

    I think WSL1 was kernel call translation to NT kernel. WSL2 is full virtualization with the Linux kernel running inside Windows. If you want theme integration etc. just install Linux in a virtual machine. On good hardware, vm performance is very good, close to native for CPU tasks (depending on number of cores you allocate).


  7. hrlngrv

    I've tried Windows as host, Linux as VM under Hyper-V and VirtualBox, Windows and WSL, and Linux as host with wine and Windows as VM under VirtualBox, and I prefer that last configuration.

    That's subjective except for the fact that I'm an incurable tinkerer, and Linux as primary desktop shell/environment gives me MUCH CREATER SCOPE for tinkering with keyboard shortcuts. Yes, even when compared to the keyboard mapper in the latest PowerToys.

    In terms of the software I use, no games, nothing from Adobe, and aside from Excel, Outlook and a few ancient in-house utilities implemented in VB at work, I don't use anything which doesn't also have a Linux version or run well under wine. Excel and Outlook keep me using Windows at home for work and pleasure (Excel user-to-user forums), but I don't need it for anything else.

  8. hrlngrv

    I thought if one had a 3rd party X server running under Windows, it was possible to run Linux GUI software in the original WSL. If so, this would be MSFT adding its own X server to WSL. Could it run X software running on remote systems?

  9. earlster

    This is great for developers and IT staff in mixed environments. And let's be honest, most servers these days are not Windows Servers anymore, that race was won by Linux and the cloud.


    I use Windows Terminal with the Ubuntu WSL integration a lot for anything networking related, and it's awesome. But being able to also run GUI apps will really put this over the top.

  10. bluvg

    "the option to throttle process"


    There are definitely some processes I'd like to throttle.

  11. davidl

    This is huge for crossplatform development.

  12. matsan

    Why, just why??? Sigh

    • unfalln

      In reply to matsan:

      I've always preferred the GUI of Windows to any desktop manager that *nix has had, and I've always been lost trying to get comfortable with Mac. However, over the years I have moved to working on web-based systems and having a unix shell based development environment has increasingly become an advantage. I switched for a few years over to linux when docker first started working there and built tools around that, but once WSL2 started becoming a workable solution I switched right back.


      I'm sure you think I'm an idiot for not being a Mint Guy or a Mac guy or just switching to building Android Apps or whatever, but my work is successful and I'm a basket case reason for why this move to add linux to Windows is a good idea.

      • matsan

        In reply to unfalln:

        I don't think you're an idiot - made the same journey 5 years ago when we started using Docker images for our production environment and had to leave Windows for this (and other Java-related issues).

        After trying many different distros on HP and Dell machines we settled on macOS just because we could still use Microsoft Office - that was the deal-breaker. Docker, AWS tools and homebrew together with JetBrains IDE is what we use.

        Personally I hate the UI parts of macOS but love the unix underpinnings and the stability and resource management of macOS.

        Still - trying to shoehorn a Linux kernel into Windows when there are perfectly good alternatives... But maybe Microsoft will announce they are moving everything to the Linux kernel much as Apple moved to Mach...?

        • IanYates82

          In reply to matsan:

          WSL1 was closer to what you describe - a layer that shimmed the Linux system calls and directed them into the NT Kernel. The Linux processes were literal processes running alongside your other Windows processes.


          WSL2, which is where all the attention is now, is closer to a tightly managed VM. Much like Windows 7 had the XP Mode VM where apps could run within it but, from your Windows GUI perspective, appear alongside your apps on your desktop, WSL2 is quite similar.


          So there's no shoehorn really going on here. It's a low-overhead VM, now with an X Server.


          For a lot of Windows devs - and Enterprise has hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of them - that are having to modernise and think about the cloud, having their familiar tools running in Windows, but easy access to Linux tools, a Linux runtime environment, and so on, is fantastic.


          I talk from experience here...


          Also, Microsoft is not moving everything to a Linux kernel. Microsoft is the poster child for backwards compatibility, and changing the kernel doesn't fit with that.

    • anderb

      In reply to matsan:

      It gives big companies an excuse not to roll out (expensive) macbooks to developers who are demanding a shell to work with AWS/GCP.

    • Stokkolm

      In reply to matsan:

      They're trying to attract developers back to Windows from Mac and Linux. It makes a lot of sense.

      • hrlngrv

        In reply to Stokkolm:

        WSL might attract developers from Linux, but from macOS?

        • mattbg

          In reply to hrlngrv:

          I don't know how many developers would actually switch from MacOS - for some it's more about image and than anything else - but there are a lot of developers that historically used MacOS because they liked its UNIX underpinnings. But MacOS isn't Linux, and this is. I would not be surprised to find that it did sway some developers, or at least got them talking about Microsoft and Windows in a positive way (which is also what VSCode is about).


          The Windows command line is difficult to swallow for a developer. CMD is a non-starter. PowerShell is much better, and arguably better than Linux shells in many respects, but it's also very verbose and a bit too rigid and consistent for people that have memorized the Linux peculiarities and workarounds.

      • matsan

        In reply to Stokkolm:

        if they are simply adding another runtime platform they won’t attract any new developers. The developers will stay on Linux or whatever.

  13. rmlounsbury

    Oh good, now we can see terribly design UX/UI apps from Linux in Windows now.

  14. compuser

    "Additionally, build 21364 features a revamped Task Manager that can now identify individual Microsoft Edge processes and view their resource consumption, plus a new experimental feature called “Eco mode” that gives users the option to throttle process resources."

    I think these will both be useful additions.

    • dftf

      In reply to CompUser:

      I'm not sure I see the point of the Edge addition: can't you get those stats from within the browser anyway by right-clicking an empty space on the titlebar and choosing "Browser task manager"? (Not to mention most IT Pros probably use Process Monitor).


      And I can't find any details on what the Eco Mode actually does. I'm guessing fully-suspend Win32 apps, similar to what UWP apps support. As otherwise you can already reduce the impact of a Win32 app using the "Priority" and "Affinity" options

  15. mattbg

    I hope I can use Eco mode on all the security theater processes that my employer is stockpiling onto machines lately.

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