Resources: Using the Windows Subsystem for Linux with a Windows Editor

Edit in Windows, Build and Run in Bash

You should use a good editor to create code. By that, I mean you should use an editor that allows you to focus on the code you want to create, without getting in your way.

Let’s say that editor is inside of Visual Studio, Sublime Text or Atom in the Windows OS. Meanwhile, you need to build and run your program in the Windows Subsystem for Linux.

Basic Ideas

Choose a location in your Windows system to store the project

For most people, this is in Documents or some other folder where they naturally put most files. It’s important to find the full path of the top-level folder. For example, it might be C:\Users\fred\Documents\Projects\RubiksCube.

You can find this full path using the windows file explorer window. Once you find the location you want, click on the address bar and it will show you the full path. Write down, or remember that location.

Make that location accessible to the bash prompt

Open the bash prompt. Put a symbolic link to the project location, so you don’t have to type the long path all of the time. Translate the previous path by replacing C:\ with /mnt/c/, and replace all other \ with /. Then use the following command, with your path instead of the one shown here.

ln -s '/mnt/c/Users/fred/Documents/Projects/RubiksCube' './RubiksCube'

The quotes are important if you have any spaces or special characters in the path name. The only problem is if you have quotes in your path. At this point, you should be able to open a bash prompt and issue cd RubiksCube to enter the work area. Try the ls command to list the contents of the folder.

cd RubiksCube

Edit files using your editor in Windows

Edit/Create/Delete files in your project using your Windows editor. For example, open up Visual Studio, and use it to create files in the location identified above. C:\Users\fred\Documents\Projects\RubiksCube in my example.

In your bash prompt, you should be able to see new files, using the ls command, assuming you have already cdd into the directory. You can look at the contents of the files with cat filename, whatever the actual filename is. This is only to verify that you are in fact creating content in Windows and seeing it in the bash prompt.

Build and run in the bash prompt

In your bash prompt, cd into the project folder, as listed above. If you’re already in the directory, no need to do it again. Each bash prompt has its own current working directory, and they start at your bash home directory.

Assuming you’ve built a Makefile with correct project information, you should be able to build the project with:


If the build is successful and builds the desired program, you should be able to run it here as well.


Where rubiks_test should be the name of the program you built with the make command.

Last Updated 01/08/2020