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We have reached the end of this daily 2-week long series so it’s time to close with some parting thoughts. Before drafting some conclusions on how this whole year has gone, there is just one more topic I have to touch on… and that’s the much dreaded telemetry.
As you are well-aware, Windows is a closed-source operating system. That, however, does not mean that it is opaque. In fact, it feels quite the opposite in many areas, which might be a surprise to you—especially if you develop on/for open-source operating systems.
I briefly mentioned in the intro to this series that, as part of the transition to Windows, I recently built my most powerful home server ever. The server in question is a machine from 2011 so it’s not “powerful”, but it’s the best I have ever had as a home server! And it is running FreeBSD 13. Wait, wait, wait. What does this have to do with Windows?
The native Windows command line, the one derived from DOS, is objectively painful. On the one hand, the batch language is full of hacks that have cropped up over the years. These hacks exist to offer new features while maintaining strict backwards compatibility, a heroic effort with nasty consequences. On the other hand, the interactive editing features of cmd.exe are rudimentary1. Fortunately, PowerShell exists as a first-party, built-into-Windows alternative to cmd.exe.
We are finally entering the final part of this one-year retrospective by shifting gears into developer-oriented topics. I hadn’t touched Windows to write code since 2006 and the development experience has massively changed for the better during the last 6 years. So let’s start this part by talking about the crown jewel of development on modern Windows: the WSL + Windows Terminal + VSCode trifecta.
The previous episode in this series was about PowerToys: a nice collection of first-party tools to extend the functionality of Windows for power users. But what about functionality that’s built into the system? There are a few more areas I wanted to touch on before concluding the GUI part of these series, so let’s dive in.
If you were around the Windows 95 days, you may remember the PowerToys addon. PowerToys was a collection of first-party miscellaneous utilities targeted at power users and it died off sometime around 2010. In a surprising (to me) move on May 2019, Microsoft relaunched this brand as an open-source project targeting modern versions of Windows. At the time of this writing, PowerToys provides 12 different disparate tools. Which ones you find interesting will depend on your needs.
Windows is about managing windows so it should excel at window switching. Uh huh? Let’s investigate how that works in this episode and how Windows’ approach feels to a long-time macOS user. Spoiler alert: I never really liked macOS’s way.
Enough complaining about keyboards, shortcuts, and input methods. Let’s shift this one-year reflection to the user interface and slowly towards more positive topics. First of all, let’s make one thing clear: GUIs are like colors. There are plenty to choose from, everyone has their preferences, and that’s just fine. Windows’ GUI is what it is and doesn’t leave a lot of room for customization. If you are a macOS user, you have learnt to put up with a similar approach, but if you are a Linux user, you will despair at the lack of options.
Yesterday’s post on this series was almost a rant on how keyboard shortcuts don’t work on Windows. @blude on Twitter was curious to know about inserting “special characters”, which is really an euphemism for non-English letters. As a non-native English speaker, inserting such letters is something I occasionally have to do but somehow the topic didn’t cross my mind. Let’s take a look now.
As I mentioned in the introduction to these series, different physical keyboards are a source of frustration. This, however, pales in comparison to trying to use Windows as a former macOS user: the different keyboard shortcuts break muscle memory, and this made me feel completely unproductive and… furious every time I made a mistake.
2022-03-07: Introduction 2022-03-08: Keyboard shortcuts 2022-03-09: Input methods 2022-03-10: Look'n'feel 2022-03-11: Window switching 2022-03-12: PowerToys 2022-03-13: Miscellaneous tools 2022-03-14: Development experience 2022-03-15: PowerShell 2022-03-16: Networked file systems 2022-03-17: System debugging 2022-03-18: Software installation 2022-03-19: Finale A bit over a week ago, I narrated my decades-long love and hate relationship with Windows. Today, it’s time to start covering my impressions of this platform after spending a year on it as my primary OS. This is noteworthy because I had been a Unix-only person for about 25 years and spent the last 15 on macOS alone. Switching to Windows 10 and 11 has been quite a change and… for the most part, a positive one. I like what I’ve seen.