It's a play on term, bash, because I'm trying out Window 10's Ubuntu BASH subsystem. Get it? Geddit? Anyway. I'm trying out some new development on Windows 10 and I wanted to write up some of my experience here.


I've published 38 videos for new developers, designers, UX, UI, product owners and anyone who needs to conquer the command line today.

I'm using the terminal a lot (if you didn't gather by the inline ad on this page for!), but my Windows terminal experience is limited. Although I come originally from Windows, I've since found myself extremely comfortable inside of the *nix bash-like environments, and on my Mac I'll spend at least 50% of the time in the terminal.

On Windows, there's a few terminal options available:

  • Old reliable cmd.exe - as simple as it comes, with a few enhancements allowing me to use ls and it will map to dir.
  • Powershell - which as yet, I have zero experience with, but I have heard that if the shell is properly embraced, it can be better than bash due to the way data is shared (though, I may well be misquoting!).
  • cygwin - the "old" way to use bash commands on Windows. So far as I can tell, this isn't recommended any more, possibly because it was such a headache to get right - I've certainly burned through many hours in the past trying to install all the things to get this right
  • git-bash - which is probably the most sensible goto for a mixed bash and windows environment (more on this in a moment)
  • Ubuntu BASH subsystem - fully immersive Unix environment, including the ability to install using apt-get which is great, but comes with it's own problems.

Window shells

Subsystem vs. shallow fake

My two preferences here are going to be git-bash (the shallow fake) and the bash subsystem. What appeals to me most about the bash subsystem is that everything is there that I'd expect from a unix based system. I tried to run wget and (obviously) it wasn't installed. This was simple (to me) to fix as I'm already familiar with the installation process on Unix: I can run apt-get install wget and now I've installed the program I wanted to run.

Then I went ahead and installed git using the same installation process: still all good. But when I switched over to Visual Studio Code to do some development, I went to run a git clone, and it failed, reporting that git was missing.

Git was was missing from Windows. I may have already installed git into the bash subsystem, but not into Windows itself. So now I needed to install git separately into Windows (which conveniently comes with git-bash).

Now inside of git-bash I have the git commands, but I don't have wget, which I installed earlier. But I installed wget into bash, not windows. Hopefully you can see how I'm going in circles here!

The additional problem for me, is that git-bash isn't quite bash. It looks like bash, but it's not. It's masquerading. I quickly tried to run wget and it gives me a command not found. Sure, wget isn't available by default, but typically here I'd install it. But...with a fake bash, I'm not quite sure how (though I'll work it out).

The spinning top effect

There's already been quite a few moments for me where I forget that I'm inside the bash subsystem and can't work out why I can't see or communicate with part of Windows. Another simple example of this is the clipboard. A subsystem doesn't share the clipboard with it's parent. The same way as you might not expect a Docker instance to be able to read and write from your host machine's clipboard.

It's just a little too easy to forget that I'm inside this inception-like machine inside of Windows. Particularly compounded by the fact that I don't have a stable development environment in windows yet.

For now though, I'll continue to push my tooling inside of the bash subsystem, and see if I can work around the issues where software on the host (i.e. Windows) needs those tools. TBC.

Want more?

Posts, web development learnings & insights, exclusive workshop and training discounts and more, direct to your inbox.

I won't send you any spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit