Making windows feel more like Linux

Posted by Simon Walker on Tue 03 July 2018

I haven't posted for a while, and this is not going to be a very useful post, you have been warned...

At work we use Windows. I vowed when I left my last job that I'd never go to work somewhere that uses Windows.

I am very much still not a fan, especially since I have not got admin rights and we are using Windows 8 - one of the most hated versions of Windows since ME.

I have been using Linux personally and professionaly for a decade now, and am so optimised to live on the command line that Windows is genuinely slowing me down at work.

There are a few programs that help with this. They do not recreate my life on the command line as before, but they help with general behaviours.

Mouse-dragging of windows

Most Linux desktop environments support dragging a window by holding Alt and dragging with the left mouse button. Additionally, some of them support resizing windows by holding alt and dragging with the right mouse button.

AltDrag is the program that provides this functionality for Windows.

Scrolling the inactive window

In Linux, scrolling the mouse wheel over an inactive window scrolls the content. This does not happen on Windows, at least Windows 8.

Again, AltDrag provides this functionality and is crucial when for example, writing some notes on a webpage and scrolling the page without selecting the web browser.

Task launcher

The Windows 8 search functionality for programs is abysmal. Compared to the lightning pace of life when on the command line, the Windows 8 search box performance is terrible.

If it's accuracy were perfect, I'd try to put up with the terrible performance, but it also is not.

I switched to Executor which I've bound to the Spotlight-default Alt+Space. It starts instantly, looks great, and finds programs very well.

Vimium

This is actually a feature that I use in Linux as well. Given I use Vim as my text editor, I am so acustomed to the key bindings and modal editing in general, I strive to use Vim keybindings everywhere.

I have tried many Vim shortcut plugins for my web browser over the years, and Vimium is the best I've found. Since Firefox switched to WebExtensions, this plugin has worked with Firefox reinforcing my opinion that Firefox is my favourite browser.

Keyboard shortcuts

Part of living life on the command line is never using the mouse. Windows has some general keyboard shortcuts that can help, and some programs have shortcuts that help.

Text editors

Luckily for me, my text editor of choice Vim is supported on Windows, as is Neovim.

I am also having good success using Visual Studio Code - with Vim keybindings, including true Neovim integration. The plugin ecosystem is excellent.

Portable apps

This is not really a program that makes Windows feel more like Linux, but it does help getting around the lack of admin rights.

Portable Apps are a way to run quote a lot of Windows programs without "proper" installation. I presume this means they do not need to set registry keys1 etc. This way I can have my text editor, a decent web browser and a few other programs.


  1. don't get me started on a global binary method of storing configuration, rather than simple plain-text scripts in standard locations... 

tags: windows, linux