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Microsoft Unveils Windows 10 Perks for Developers

Microsoft announced a few Windows 10 advancements for developers during the week of its Build developer online event.

The perks include Project Reunion 0.8 preview, Windows Package Manager 1.0, Windows Terminal 1.9 preview and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) enhancements, among others.

Additionally, Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, hinted during the Build keynote on Tuesday that "soon we will share one of the most significant updates of Windows of the past decade to unlock greater economic opportunity for developers and creators."

He didn't offer any further explanation, though.

Project Reunion 0.8 Preview
Project Reunion is Microsoft's solution for easing Windows developer efforts, given the current schism between the Win32 (Windows 7) and Universal Windows Platform ("modern") models.

Project Reunion is still at the preview stage, but has advanced to version 0.8, as expected per Microsoft's roadmap page. It's currently described as preview version 0.5 (released in March) at Microsoft's main GitHub repository page.

Testers can install preview version 0.8 via the "Project Reunion Visual Studio template," according to the announcement.

The Project Reunion 0.8 preview includes support for unpackaged apps, which "allows you to use AppLifecycle, MRT Core, and DWriteCore in your unpackaged (non-MSIX) apps," Microsoft indicated.

App Lifecycle, MRT Core and DWriteCore are Project Reunion components. App Lifecycle adds certain app activation and lifecycle functionality for apps. DWriteCore is an API used for text rendering and is Project reunion's implementation of the DirectWrite DirectX API. MRT Core creates an index of all of the resources in a packaged app and is described as "a streamlined version of the modern Windows Resource Management System."

Microsoft previously explained that Project Reunion isn't a new model for developers. Instead, it combines Win32 capabilities with "modern" API techniques, and lets developers to use parts of it without having to rewrite a Windows app. Microsoft defines Project Reunion as "a set of libraries, frameworks, components, and tools that you can use in your apps to access powerful Windows platform functionality from all kinds of apps on many versions of Windows."

Fuller WinUI 3 capabilities in Project Reunion are expected to be available in Q4 2021, which is when Project Reunion 1.0 is expected to arrive, according to Microsoft's roadmap.

Windows Package Manager 1.0
Microsoft this week announced the release of Windows Package Manager 1.0, Microsoft's very own "native" command-line interface-based application installer.

It might have been thought that such an app installer already existed in Windows, but it was first introduced at last year's Build event as a preview. Users type "winget install" and the application's name to install apps on Windows systems using the package manager. A winget client or the PowerShell console can be used to type these install commands.

Currently there are more than "1,400 unique packages" in the Microsoft community repository that can be installed.

Windows Package Manager 1.0 is available in the latest Windows Insider test build. It's also available within the App Installer application in the Microsoft Store. There are other ways of getting it, too.

"You can also download and install the Windows Package Manager from our GitHub releases page or just directly install the latest available version," the announcement indicated.

Microsoft is planning to distribute Windows Package Manager 1.0 through the Windows Automatic Update mechanism to Windows 10 machines running "version 1809 and later" operating system versions. Microsoft has already published details on how to use Group Policy to manage it.

Windows Package Manager isn't a replacement for other package managers, which can freely use Microsoft's repository of validated packages. It also doesn't replace the Windows Store as it's just a command-line tool, and lacks the ability to display marketing information.

Windows Terminal 1.9 Preview
Microsoft this week announced the release of the Windows Terminal 1.9 preview, which is available via the Microsoft Store and its GitHub releases page.

Windows Terminal is Microsoft's more spiffed-up command-line interface tool, with color and font controls. It lets users run other command-line tools within it, such as the "Command Prompt, PowerShell and Windows Subsystem for Linux," according to a Microsoft document.

Version 1.9 of Windows Terminal lets users set it as the "default terminal emulator on Windows." It comes with a new so-called "Quake Mode" shortcut that pops up the terminal via a keyboard combination (Windows key + `). Microsoft also added an italic font option for the terminal's default Cascadia Code font.

Windows Subsystem for Linux Perks
Windows Subsystem for Linux is a Windows component that lets people run Linux applications on Windows 10. Microsoft indicated this week that Windows Subsystem for Linux's support for graphical user interface (GUI)-based Linux apps is now added.

Microsoft uses "WSLg" as its shorthand reference for the Linux GUI app support in Windows Subsystem for Linux. It's conceived as an aid for developers to test cross-platform apps while staying in Windows 10. The GUI support was at the preview stage back in April. Microsoft did not explain if this WSLg release was a preview or general availability release.

Additionally, Microsoft indicated that Windows Subsystem for Linux now has "support for graphics processing unit (GPU) compute workflows." The GPU support is conceived as an aid for data scientists that might be running machine learning projects using Linux environments.

GPU support in Windows Subsystem for Linux apparently is at the preview stage. It's supported on "AMD and Intel GPUs," plus "all of the major CUDA-based tools for ML acceleration on NVIDIA GPUs."

Other Dev Perks
Microsoft and Qualcomm have produced a Snapdragon Developer Kit for developers building Windows 10 apps on Arm-based PCs that use Snapdragon processors. It'll help developers port their apps to ARM64. The kit will be sold via the Microsoft Store sometime this summer.

Microsoft also touted a Windows Machine Learning (WinML) API that developers can use to deploy machine learning models in Windows applications. It's apparently not new, though, as Microsoft already uses it for current Windows 10 features, such as "Ink Recognition and Photos."  

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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