Skip to main content
May 25, 2021

The Windows Developer’s Guide to Microsoft Build 2021

This year’s Microsoft Build is packed with news tailored specifically for developers. Our team has been hard at work creating useful tools and improving the developer experience for anyone who develops on Windows, including innovations with Terminal and WSL2. Additionally, we are unifying the Windows Desktop Application development with Project Reunion.   

Check out our shortlist of the top Windows developer updates from Microsoft Build 2021 to learn more about how you can improve your development workflow: 

An updated preview of Project Reunion  

With the Project Reunion 0.8 preview you can create and modernize your Windows apps seamlessly for both client and cloud endpoints. To get started, simply install the Project Reunion Visual Studio template and you’ll have access to the project templates and APIs you need.  

When you build an app that uses Project Reunion, you get access to: coherent and modern interactions and UX with WinUI 3, great system performance and battery life, an experience optimized for the device hardware, and hassle-free app discovery and management. It’s all built on top of existing Desktop (aka Win32) features available to adopt incrementally at a much faster pace since they are decoupled from the Windows OS.  

Lastly, you can try the new unpackaged app support preview in Project Reunion. This allows you to use AppLifecycle, MRT Core, and DWriteCore in your unpackaged (non-MSIX) apps! 

You can learn more about Project Reunion 0.8 preview and provide feedback in our GitHub. We’re constantly evaluating feedback and if there’s something missing, we want to know! 

New development optimizations for Windows Terminal  

Windows Terminal 1.9 Preview has a new feature called Quake Mode that allows you to open a new terminal window with a simple keyboard shortcut from anywhere in Windows. Additionally, the terminal has a new settings UI that gives you the ability to edit your settings without using a JSON file.  

You can also set your default terminal emulator to Windows Terminal inside Windows, meaning that any command line application will automatically launch inside Windows Terminal rather than the traditional console experience. Before this setting, all command line applications opened in the original console. Now, people can choose which terminal these apps will launch in, making their Windows environment feel even more customizable. You can learn more about Windows Terminal 1.9 Preview here. 

Windows Package Manager 1.0 

Windows Package Manager 1.0 enables you to installupgrade, and import packages on Windows 10. The Microsoft community repository includes over 1,400 packages. You can also uninstall and export packages from Add / Remove Programs. The new Windows Package Manager Manifest Creator Preview will help make it easier for you to submit packages to the community repository or include in your CI/CD pipelines to automate releases. 

You can also use the reference implementation of the new Windows Package Manager REST API so you can host your own source. This reference implementation, and all the tools are open source at GitHub. You can learn more about the Windows Package Manager 1.0, the Microsoft community repository, and the Windows Package Manifest Creator preview on the Windows Command Line blog. 

Expanded WSL support: AI training and WSLg 

There are several exciting Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) announcements at Microsoft Build this year. Firstly, WSL now includes support for applications to leverage your GPU on Windows, allowing you to run your Linux AI and Machine Learning scenarios directly inside of WSL.  

With the popularization of ML-based experiences, we know how important it is for data science professionals to be productive through the best tools. The Windows Subsystem for Linux support for graphics processing unit (GPU) compute workflows allows data scientists to seamlessly access the GPU on the Windows host for speeding up the training of ML models.  

Through WSL, you can use the same ML tools you are already familiar with in Linux to run your ML training jobs, while continuing to take advantage of the best productivity and collaboration tools provided by Windows. WSL supports all of the major CUDA-based tools for ML acceleration on NVIDIA GPUs, including frameworks that implement CUDA backends such as TensorFlow and PyTorch. It also supports the TensorFlow-DirectML package, which extends TensorFlow* by providing cross-vendor hardware acceleration for ML student workflows, enabling training and inferencing of ML models on a wide range of DirectX 12 compatible hardware. You can learn more about AI training in WSL here. 

The second major WSL announcement is that we have added support for Linux GUI apps in WSL, which makes it possible to run your favorite Linux editors, tools, utilities and applications. This will greatly improve your ability to build, test, debug and run Linux applications.  

Once you’ve installed GUI app support, you’ll be able to open a WSL window and start a Linux GUI app right away, without the need to set up an X Server each time. You can learn more about support for Linux GUI applications in WSL here. 

Build great AI-powered experiences with WinML  

Windows Machine Learning is an on-device ML API for deploying ML models within Windows applications. WinML provides developers with APIs that reduce development and maintenance costs, handling hardware-specific optimizations, process scheduling and memory isolation on behalf of the API caller.  

Experiences using WinML deliver fast and accurate results on the broadest number of devices in the Windows ecosystem. WinML powers key Windows capabilities and apps, such as Ink Recognition and Photos, as well as innovative experiences from software vendors like Adobe, GE Healthcare and others. You can learn more about WinML here. 

Voice and Video Support added to Azure Communication Services Calling SDK for Windows 

The Azure Communication Services Calling SDK for Windows apps is available in preview, streamlining the publishing of apps on Windows devices with UWP support. Developers can now add voice and video calling capabilities to their native applications that run on Microsoft Windows, enabling rich communication experiences for desktop PC, Xbox, Mixed-reality headset, HoloLens, IoT devices and more. You can learn more about Azure Communication Services Calling SDK for Windows here. 

Introducing the Snapdragon Developer Kit, an affordable Windows 10 on Arm-based PC designed for developers 

Yesterday, Qualcomm Technologies announced the Snapdragon Developer Kit, a cost-effective unit designed for developers to test and optimize their applications for the portfolio of Windows 10 on Arm-based PCs powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon compute platforms. Together with Qualcomm Technologies, we are releasing this resource, in a convenient desktop configuration, to lower the barriers of entry for developers to port their Windows 10 on Arm apps to support ARM64 natively. Independent software vendors need hardware to test native ARM64 apps running on Windows 10 on Arm, and the Snapdragon Developer Kit is a cost-effective new option for developers. Units will be sold at the Microsoft Store this summer. We’re excited to see this announcement from Qualcomm Technologies this week and we’ll have more share on this device at a later date.  

These updates will allow developers to optimize their workflow or incorporate new functionality into their applications, enhancing the experience for the end user and creating a better product overall. The further development of Project Reunion is definitely something Windows Developers should be closely watching, allowing developers to unify their development process and modernize previously developed applications without programming. If you’d like to learn more about any of these announcements, tune in to the all-digital Microsoft Build 2021 May 25th-27th. 

*TensorFlow, the TensorFlow logo and any related marks are trademarks of Google Inc.