It’s finally happening. Microsoft is giving developers a command line interface to install their favorite tools. That’s right — at Build 2020 today, Microsoft announced Windows Package Manager in preview.
This is not simply about helping developers build for Windows. It’s about helping developers and businesses embrace Windows. Microsoft is on a mission to get developers to love using Windows over macOS and Linux. Part of that mission involves releasing tools like Windows Terminal for enterprises and improving WSL for anyone who needs Linux while they code. Another part is helping developers (and IT admins) set up their Windows environments as effortlessly as possible. In a similar vein, Microsoft today also threw in highly requested features for PowerToys: Run and Keyboard Remapper. But the former is definitely the bigger news.
Windows Package Manager
Windows Package Manager is a command line interface for searching, viewing, and installing commonly used developer tools. Developers list their applications in a GitHub repository; the package manager grabs and installs them. In a briefing ahead of Build 2020, Microsoft partner program manager Scott Hanselman laid out the vision:
You’ve just joined a company and they give you the onboarding document. They give you some ridiculous Word document and they’re like ‘Here, onboard.’ It’s like, ‘Install this. Set that up.’ And honestly, they don’t expect you to get any work done for at least a couple of months. They say, ‘Get ready by the end of the week.’ They’re lying. You got to set up all this equipment. It’s a huge hassle.
What if you could have the Windows Package Manager? And you could say ‘winget install Terminal, winget install Visual Studio.’ Boom, boom, boom. What if I could give you a script that just sets your machine up? You got all the stuff that you need. That’s one thing. Then they say, ‘Well, get the source code now.’ They say that. ‘Bring the source code down and compile it. Just compile it.’ Never works that way.
What I want to do is, I want to say, I want to join your area. I want to join your space. There’s a code space of yours I want to enter. There is a best practice. There is a series of tools that we want to get. And I’m going to go and say, ‘Give me those tools.’ I’m going to enter that code space, we’re going to spin up a container in the cloud, pull that code down from GitHub, and you now have an area in the cloud that is representative of the best practices of the company, and you could really be coding within a few minutes. Literally, people say that. Like, 10 minutes, and you’re up and running. And that’s really something I’ve never seen before, and I’ve been doing this for 30 years.
Even better, Windows Package Manager is open source — Microsoft is asking for developers to help improve it.
Microsoft PowerToys are free system utilities designed for Windows power users. PowerToys add or change features to maximize productivity or add more customization. They were first available for Windows 95 and later Windows XP. Last year, Microsoft brought back PowerToys for Windows 10.
Microsoft today released Microsoft PowerToys version 0.18. The update adds two new utilities: PowerToys Run and Keyboard Remapper. The former is an app launcher utility for getting to your programs faster (hit alt+space and start typing). The latter lets you customize keyboard inputs key to key and shortcut to shortcut.