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An early preview of the new Windows Terminal is now available

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is working on a new open source terminal application that could potentially replace the Command Prompt sometime down the line, and you can test drive a preview version right now.

It's called Windows Terminal, and you can find it in the Microsoft Store. Beyond being a "very early preview" with some feature limitations, the other caveat is that you must be running Windows 10 with the May 2019 update installed.

So, what exactly is it?

"The Windows Terminal is a new, modern, fast, efficient, powerful, and productive terminal application for users of command-line tools an shells like Command Prompt, PowerShell, and WSL. Its main features include multiple tabs, Unicode and UTF-8 character support, a GPU accelerated text rendering engine, and custom themes, styles, and configurations," Microsoft explains.

It's sort of a better version of both the Command Prompt and PowerShell, though that's selling its capabilities a bit short. First announced at Build 2019, both of those can be accessed from within the Windows Terminal. So can various Linux terminals, all from within a single window.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Visually, the Windows Terminal is a dramatic departure from the Command Prompt. Everything is customizable (via a JSON file, which is opened with a separate text editor), from the size and color text, to being able to write your own key bindings for any function you might want to invoke from within the terminal. It also supports background images, or you can have an acrylic background with a blur effect.

"This means each of your profiles can be uniquely styled with different background images," Microsoft explains.

Functionally, switching from one terminal to another—for example, going from the Command Prompt to an Ubuntu terminal—is as easy as selecting it from the pull-down menu. Users can also create keyboard shortcuts.

As a preview release, there are some missing features. Notably, it lacks support for assistive technologies, and it suffers from "many usability issues." One minor annoyance I discovered is having to click on the right-most section of the window bar in order to move the terminal around.

"This is the first of several preview releases to the Microsoft Store," says Kayla Cinnamon, Windows Terminal program manager. "The Terminal team is working towards creating a consistent schedule that offers regular previews and more frequent builds for those who want to get access to the latest features as they arrive. Windows Terminal 1.0 will arrive in the Microsoft Store this winter!"

In the meantime, the preview version is available to Windows 10 users who want to kick the tires.