Microsoft’s relationship with Linux has changed a lot in recent years. The company includes a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) that lets developers and power users run a Linux terminal within Windows, and Microsoft has become a major contributor to many open source projects.

The latest versions of Microsoft’s Edge web browser are built on top of Google’s open source Chromium code. And now Microsoft says it’s getting ready to make the Edge browser available to Linux users… no Windows PC required.

Edge for Linux will be available in a developer preview channel starting in October. And that’s just one of a bunch of new Linux/command line/geeky things Microsoft is announcing during this year’s MS Ignite developer conference.

The company is also bringing support for running Linux apps with a graphical user interface to the Windows Subsystem for Linux.

GUI app support is still a work in progress, but Microsoft program manager Craig Loewen shared a GIF showing what it looks like when you launch an GUI application like the Nautilus file manager or GIMP image editor using a command in a Linux terminal window.

We knew GUI app support was coming, but now Microsoft is providing a rough timeline: the company says a preview should be available to Windows Insiders “within the next couple of months.” Microsoft’s Steve Pronovost also provided more details about WSL 2 and X11 and Wayland apps during the XDC conference earlier this month.

A few other recent and/or upcoming changes to WSL 2 include:

  • Support for a “wsl — install” feature that lets you set up WSL and install a Linux distro at the same time with just a single command
  • A “wsl –mount” parameter that lets you view Linux file system such as ext4 in Windows Explorer
  • Linux kernel updates delivered through Windows update

Microsoft has also released preview version 1.4 of the Windows Terminal app, bringing support for embedded hyperlinks, blink graphic rendering, and Jump list support allowing you to launch different terminal profiles from the start menu or taskbar (such as PowerShell, Command Prompt, or WSL).

The company is also updating another command line tool, although it’s not a Linux feature, strictly speaking.

Earlier this year the company introduced a preview version of a Windows Package Manager that lets you download and install Windows applications from the command line, much the way you can on most GNU/Linux distributions. Now there’s an updated Windows Package Manager Preview that adds support for:

  • Toggling features by altering the winget settings
  • PowerShell autocomplete
  • Installing Microsoft Store apps using winget

Microsoft says other planned features for the winget package manager include support for uninstalling from the command line, an upgrade tool that would let you upgrade all of your apps at once, and a list feature that would show available applications.

You can try out the Windows Package Manager by joining the Windows Insider program or by downloading the latest release from Github.

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  1. Why would I infect a Linux machine with a browser from Microsoft? I mean really, there must be some reason, otherwise why would Microsoft spend real money to port Chromium/Edge to Linux.

    I totally get the Windows Subsystem for Linux; make Windows do Linuxy stuff to stem people from jumping of the Windows boat. But making Windows stuff work natively in Linux? I don’t get it.

    1. Edge is basically an alternative Chrome. Using it on Linux can be a way to keep Google off of your machine while still having a well-supported Chromium-based cross-platform browser available. Pick your poison.

      As for why MS would do it — I suspect that MS cloud stuff like Office 365 will work better on Edge for Linux than on other browsers, which might help their sales. Mindshare is important, and Edge on Linux maybe increases mindshare. Also Edge was built to be highly portable (it already works on MacOS, iOS, and Android) so adding one more platform probably isn’t that big of a deal.

    2. Depend on your use case, for our case we need to test a lot of our application againts Edge, so we have a lot windows VM for this purpose.

      If Edge run natively on Linux we’ll save a lot money on licensing.

    3. It has to do with content management. Utilizing intune policies can be built that say data in o365 can be accessed by a managed browser (edge). Microsoft is trying to ensure they leave no platform left behind. This will allow the company to only provision one device for the worker vs multiple when the end-users primary workstation is Linux.