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Run Linux GUI apps in Windows 11

Use Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to run Linux graphical user interface (GUI) programmes in Windows.

To get this working, you will need Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2 (WSL2) running on Windows 11 Build 22000 or higher. I will assume that you are running Ubuntu. If you are using a different distribution than Ubuntu, you may need to use a different package manager than apt.

If you meet these requirements and have WSL2 installed, set-up is as follows:

Step 1: Update WSL

Open PowerShell (or a PowerShell in Windows Terminal) with administrator privelleges and run the following command:

wsl --update

This will ensure that you have the latest version of WSL2. You will need to restart WSL for the update to take effect. You can restart WSL by running the shutdown command in PowerShell:

wsl --shutdown

Close Powershell and open the Ubuntu command prompt. Update your packages via the following command:

sudo apt update
Screen capture of Ubuntu command prompt in Windows 11
Updating packages in Ubuntu under WSL2.

Step 2: Install Packages

Gedit is the default text editor of the GNOME desktop environment and can be installed with the following command in the Ubuntu terminal:

sudo apt install gedit -y

To launch your bashrc file in the editor, enter:

gedit ~/.bashrc

GIMP is a free and open-source raster graphics editor used for image manipulation and image editing, free-form drawing, transcoding between different image file formats, and more specialised tasks. To install GIMP, enter the following command:

sudo apt install gimp -y

To launch GIMP, type gimp into the terminal, then press ENTER.

Nautilus, also known as GNOME Files, is the file manager for the GNOME desktop (similiar to Windows File Explorer). To install Nautilus, enter the following command:

sudo apt install nautilus -y

To run Nautilus, enter nautilus.

VLC is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player and framework that plays most multimedia files. To install VLC, enter the following command:

sudo apt install vlc -y

To launch VLC, enter vlc.

X11 is the Linux windowing system and this is a miscellaneous collection of apps and tools that ship with it, such as the xclock, xcalc calculator, xclipboard for cut and paste, xev for event testing, et cetera. To install X11, enter:

sudo apt install x11-apps -y

To launch, enter the name of the tool you would like to use. For example xcalc, xclock et cetera.

Finally, to install Mozilla Firefox, enter the following command:

sudo apt install firefox -y

To launch Firefox, enter firefox.

Screen shot of terminal
Installing Mozilla Firefox in Ubunto on Windows 11.

Step 3: Fix some bugs

After completing these steps, I ran GIMP but encountered a “(gimp:17967): Gtk-WARNING **: 10:09:36.892: Unable to locate theme engine in module_path: "pixmap",” error, which was fixed via the following command:

sudo apt-get install gtk2-engines-pixbuf

Nautilus also had a problem locating bookmarks. I created a bookmark and then ran the following command to update all of the Ubuntu packages and ensure that everything was up-to-date:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Step 4: Enjoy

Here’s a screen shot of my Windows 11 machine running the Ubuntu terminal, GIMP, Nautilus and Firefox:

Screen shot of multiple programmes running on computer
A Windows 11 desktop displaying the Ubuntu command prompt, Nautilius, Firefox and GIMP as Linux apps.

With WSL2, it’s possible to directly pin Linux apps to the Windows start menu if so desired.



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