MinTTY Gives Cygwin a Native Windows Interface

March 26, 2009

MinTTY next to Cygwin If you need your Unix command line on a Windows PC, chances are you use a terminal emulator like Cygwin--and if you do, you want to check out MinTTY. The MinTTY terminal window for Cygwin puts a native Windows interface on Cygwin which offers more keyboard shortcuts and colors and styles. Check out the difference between Cygwin and MinTTY side-by-side in the thumbnail on the right. Using MinTTY you can turn on window transparency, set your font, and colors, copy and paste output by just selecting it with your mouse, and scroll up using the Shift+arrow key combination. (Once it's installed, right-click on the MinTTY window and choose Options to customize its look and keyboard shortcuts.) Here's what the full MinTTY window with transparency turned on looks like.


Install MinTTY either in Cygwin's setup (find it under Shells) or get the standalone download from MinTTY's homepage. The downside to MinTTY? It doesn't include a tabbed interface and the developer doesn't plan to add tabs, either. Still, MinTTY's a big upgrade for anyone who spends time with Cygwin. After MinTTY's installed, choose its shortcut instead of Cygwin's from your Start menu. MinTTY is a free download that works with Cygwin for Windows only.

If beginners are interested in learning a bit about Unix through Cygwin, check out my three-part series of tutorials published over at Lifehacker:

Another good option is to run an rxvt shell from cygwin directory. That along with Tabbed Cygwin, gives you tabs, and a “real” unix shell. No transparency though :(

Joseph Schnurr
Mar 26 09 at 10:26 am

Thanks for the tip. MinTTY looks and feels great, but it won’t launch windows programs for me. For instance, I use the Textmate clone E for coding (which, incidentally, comes with CygWin). From the regular CygWin Bash shell, I can type e . in a directory to open that directory as a project in E. In MinTTY, e . just hangs and never does anything. I have to Ctrl-C to end the command. Any idea what’s going on?

Donnie Clapp
Mar 26 09 at 11:35 am

@Donnie: MinTTY uses Cygwin’s pseudo terminal devices (“ptys”), which are implemented using Windows pipes. Native Win32 apps expect to talk to a console rather than a pipe though, which often causes trouble with interactive programs. You could try running E through ‘run’ or ‘cygstart’.

ak2 [+1]
Mar 26 09 at 2:07 pm

I couldn’t get mine to look as sexy as yours, but a nice tip nonetheless. Love the site, Gina.

Mar 26 09 at 5:23 pm

What’s the Windows theme in the screenshot? It does look rather good.

ak2 [+1]
Mar 27 09 at 5:17 am

Have you looked at Console? I only just started playing with it, but I think it does everything you want, including tabs.

Mar 27 09 at 6:26 am

Not bad. I personally used Console2 a lot back in my cygwin days. tabs and a native win32 interface. not quite as pretty, though.

Tom Hirashima
Mar 27 09 at 9:27 am

Cygwin stays on my list of top geeky stuff. It’s not linux and it’s not windows – something complex in between. I never figured out all the details of some unix commands through cygwin.
Instead, I decided to install linux in a virtual machine and I just fire it up whenever I need to do serious command line stuff.

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