Windows Terminal Customization for WSL 2 – The Complete Guide

Last week we have learned how to install WSL 2 on Windows, and as I have promised, we will continue this series until we have a beautiful and optimized terminal for WSL 2. In this guide, we will cover Windows Terminal Customization.

We will look at how far we can get by just using Windows Terminal’s own settings and customization options. They have added a ton of features that will probably satisfy most of the needs a regular person might have. If you want to take it a step further and really go deep into Windows Terminal Customization, you have to stay tuned for the next guide where we will cover OhMyZSH and further customization that goes far beyond basic usage.

Now without further ado, let’s dive into Windows Terminal Customization for WSL 2. A short side-note: Part 1 – 7 represent default Windows Terminal settings. The actual WSL 2 customization starts at Part 8. I recommend having a look through Step 1 – 7 anyway since we cover a lot of basics that affect startup behavior and so on.

⚠️This is a Tutorial Series⚠️

Part 1How to install WSL 2 with Windows Terminal – Complete Guide
Part 2Windows Terminal Customization for WSL 2

Table of Contents

Part 1 – Basic Settings

When you just freshly install WSL 2 and Windows Terminal, you are left with a pretty vanilla experience, which might be enough for some, but not for those striving for that hacker-feel that automatically makes you feel that your skills are far higher than they actually are!

Default WSL2 Experience
Vanilla Windows Terminal Experience

The times where we have to edit a JSON file to Customize Windows Terminal are over – they implemented a ton of GUI options to choose from – which of all of them make sense to me.

Windows Terminal Settings Overview

To open Windows Terminal Settings, click on the small down-arrow and click on Settings.

Customize Windows Terminal Settings
Entering Windows Terminal Settings

Once in there, you can click on the hamburger menu to extend the sidebar and get a quick overview of all of the available options.

Windows Terminal Settings Overview
Windows Terminal Settings Overview

Part 2 – Windows Terminal Startup Settings

Now, if you use WSL 2, you probably want to use WSL 2 as your default profile in Windows Terminal. To do that, simply select your preferred distribution as the default profile in Windows Terminal.

You have a couple of other options there as well, like launching your WSL 2 instance right when Windows starts, and you have a couple of options for window sizing and behavior. Choose to your own liking.

Windows Terminal Default Profile WSL 2
Windows Terminal Startup Settings

Once you are satisfied with your settings, we can move on to the interaction menu.

Part 3 – Windows Terminal Interaction Settings

Here we have a couple of formatting settings that we can adjust to our liking. I personally did not change any of those settings, but there is some interesting stuff in here like delimiters, automatically copying selection to the clipboard, and some text-formatting options, amongst others.

Have a thorough look through those options and just keep them in the back of your head in case you want to change them later, you know where to find them.

Windows Terminal Interaction Settings
Windows Terminal Interaction Settings

Part 4 – Appearance

On the Appearance tab, we have a couple of Windows Terminal Customization options in regards to it’s basic appearance. It sounds more exciting than it really is – it’s simple options like dark/light theme, showing tabs behavior, and so on. Play around with those as you see fit.

Customize WSL 2 Appearance
Customize Windows Terminal Appearance

Next up, we will cover Windows Terminal Color Schemes.

Part 5 – Windows Terminal Color Schemes

Here, you can select a default appearance for Windows Terminal. This doesn’t really affect our WSL 2 installation tho, to modify our WSL 2 color schemes, we need to actually modify the appearance settings within our WSL 2 installation – I show you how to do this in a second.

Color Scheme Settings
Windows Terminal Color Scheme Settings

That means, you can just acknowledge that those settings exist for now, but changing anything here doesn’t make sense if we want to customize WSL 2 appearance.

Part 6 – Windows Terminal Rendering Settings

Next up, rendering settings.

Those really only need to be modified if you experience any kind of performance problems. I would not see any case where it would be necessary to enable software rendering nowadays, but maybe if you run into some issues with an older GPU or something like this, it’s good to know these settings exist.

Rendering Settings
Windows Terminal Rendering Settings

You can also choose to redraw the entire screen when displaying updates if that’s something you’re into.

Part 7 – Keyboard Shortcuts

Now, this is really important and can boost your productivity by a ton! I use those shortcuts all the time. This is just an overview of those shortcuts – to modify them you need to modify the settings.JSON file, which I will show you later.

Windows Terminal Keyboard Shortcuts
Windows Terminal Keyboard Shortcuts

Alright, finally it gets exciting! Now we learn how to Customize Windows Terminal for WSL 2!

Part 8 – Customize Windows Terminal for WSL 2

Now that we have covered all the Basic Windows Terminal Settings, we can dive into how to customize Windows Terminal for WSL 2.

You probably have seen it by now, but all those options up top are the Default Windows Terminal Settings, whereas you find all of the individual settings for PowerShell, Command-Line, and all of your Linux terminals below.

Windows Terminal Customization Settings
Windows Terminal Customization Settings

Windows Terminal WSL 2 General Settings

Here you have a bunch of general options to choose from, I’ll break them down for you below.

Windows Terminal WSL 2 Customization
Windows Terminal WSL 2 Customization
  1. Change the Name of your distribution how it will appear in the drop-down list.
  2. Change the Startup Parameters. (Advanced users only)
  3. Change the Default Starting Directory your WSL 2 will start in. Per default it is your user profile ([email protected]:/mnt/c/Users/ceos3c$)
  4. You can Change the icon if you must. (Replace the Linux penguin with something else)
  5. Change the Tab Title. So instead of your tab saying [email protected] you can choose to let it say “Ubuntu” only, or something like that.
  6. Allows you to hide this profile from the selection drop-down.
  7. Delete this profile.

I usually like to modify the Tab title to something nicer, like the name of the distribution.

Windows Terminal WSL 2 Appearance Settings

Now comes the part you all have been waiting for! Customizing Windows Terminal appearance for WSL 2!

Here, you can change anything from the Color Scheme, Font Family, Font Size, Font-Weight, and a couple of very cool options like Retro Terminal Effects, change Windows Terminal Background Image as well as Acrylic Effects, or changing the Windows Terminal Background Opacity.

I highly recommend you watch the video that is mentioned at the beginning of this article where I go over each of those options in-depth.

You will always see a preview of your changes in the little console preview window up top in the Appearance options.

Let me give you a pretty cool example config that makes your Windows Terminal look immediately 10-times cooler. On the Appearance Tab select the following:

  • Color Scheme: One Half Dark
  • Font Face: Cascadia Code
  • Font Size: 13
  • Font Weight: Light
  • Retro Terminal Effects: On
  • Cursor: Vintage
  • Acrylic: On
  • Acrylic Opacity: 80%

You’ll end up with something like this:

Windows Terminal Customization
Windows Terminal Customization

Pretty sick for the minimum effort we put towards that I would say!

Play around with those settings and see what you like best. You can also Change Windows Terminal Background Image that way and have it look completely custom with a picture of your favorite cat behind your code.

Windows Terminal WSL 2 Advanced Settings

Next up, there are a couple of advanced options of which I would change at least two of them:

  • Text Antialiasing: Aliased
  • Bell Notification Style: Flash Window

I would recommend changing those two things to have better readable text and to disable audible notifications when you enter wrong syntax.

There is nothing that I had more than that annoying beep every time I hit double-tab for auto-completion and something goes wrong.

The Window Flash Effect instead is actually quite pleasing, so I like to roll with that. Of course, you can choose to enable none of that.

Windows Terminal Advanced Settings
Windows Terminal Advanced Settings

Part 9 – Windows Terminal Settings JSON

Now, as promised, this is the last part of this tutorial – Customizing Windows Terminal Settings.JSON.

Here, you can go down into all the nitty-gritty little details to fine-tune your Windows Terminal. I don’t actually see the need of using it for the most part since they improved the GUI experience so much, but go ahead and knock yourself out.

To open Windows Terminal Settings JSON just click on the small cog-wheel in the lower-left corner:

Windows Terminal Settings JSON
Windows Terminal Settings JSON

Now I obviously won’t go over every single setting in here. This is a simple JSON file and you can do a bunch of stuff in there, but as I said, I did not found the need to modify this at all since the newest version of Windows Terminal came out.

That being said, if you really, really want to modify the settings JSON file and you want a specific guide on that, let me know in the comments below and I shall deliver it.

Conclusion

Those Windows Terminal Customization and WSL 2 guides seem to be really popular among you guys, so I try to provide as much value as I can.
I think Windows Terminal is definitely the way to go when it comes to using WSL 2 on Windows, and since they made it much easier to get a beautiful WSL 2 terminal experience by simply going through a couple of settings in Windows Terminal, I don’t really see a need to go the whole nine yards by installing something super customizable like OhMyZSH for most people.

But since you, my dear readers, are not regular people but probably as nerdy as I am, you do want to have a guide on how to install OhMyZSH on WSL 2, which I will provide in the coming week. Stay tuned.

Let me know in the comments below if you liked this tutorial and if I should add something to it.

✔️ The Best Way to stay Up-to-Date with my Content

5 thoughts on “Windows Terminal Customization for WSL 2 – The Complete Guide”

  1. How did set the transparency for Terminal? I thought you could only configure it for background images only (like you could never see what’s behind the Terminal window).

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.