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How to Customize the New Windows Terminal App

With the new Windows Terminal app, Windows now finally has a tabbed terminal that can run Cmd, PowerShell, and Bash prompts in the same window. It’s deeply customizable, too—you can even set animated GIFs as the background.

Beyond the background, you can change the terminal’s theme, too. Whether it’s the colors of the text or backgrounds or the font style, you can make Windows Terminal your own. Microsoft even included several pre-set themes. All you need is a text editor and some basic familiarity with JSON. If you aren’t familiar with JSON, you can probably still make changes; we’ll walk you through it.

How to Customize the Windows Terminal

Windows terminal json configuration file, showing a custom background option.

The first step to customizing Windows Terminal is to ensure Windows has default app associated with the JSON file type. The best way to do that is from File Explorer.

Launch File Explorer and find a JSON file. If you don’t have one, create one. Right-click on File Explorer and “New” then click on “Text document.”

Rename the file to test.json (deleting the .txt extension in the process), and confirm you want to change the extension. If you don’t see the .txt file extension, tell File Explorer to show file extensions.

File explorer submenu with arrows pointing to New and Text Document

Next, right-click on the new JSON file and choose the “Open With” option. Choose your preferred text editor, whether that be Notepad++ or Notepad.

Now that you have a text editor set for JSON files, it’s time to make changes to Windows Terminal settings. Open Windows Terminal and click on the down arrow in the title bar (just to the right of the plus symbol), and then choose “Settings.”

Windows terminal with arrows pointing to Down arrow and Settings options.

A JSON file will launch in the editor you choose earlier. You can make all changes here.

How to Change the Background

You can change the background to any type of image file you like—a PNG, a JPEG, or even an animated GIF.

To change the background of any of the shells, you’ll first need to place the image file in a location the Terminal App can read. Windows Terminal is a Univeral Windows Platform (UWP) app, so it prefers to use its own AppData folder. AppData is a folder you usually find in the User Profile and is used for storing program settings. UWP apps create a custom AppData folder and use that instead. Windows Terminal’s AppData folder is located in:

%LOCALAPPDATA%\Packages\Microsoft.WindowsTerminal_8wekyb3d8bbwe\RoamingState

Just copy that into File Explorer’s path bar and hit Enter; you’ll be taken to the correct location. Place your image files here, and Windows Terminal can use them for backgrounds.

Providing a background image for Windows Terminal

Open Settings in Windows Terminal, and scroll to the profile you want to change. There are several profiles under the ”  "profiles" : ” section. Each corresponds to an option in the menu: Cmd, PowerShell, Linux distros, and so on. You can tell which is which by examining the ” commandline ” or ” name ” line in each section.

To change the background image for one of these sections, under the "icon" line, add the following lines:

"backgroundImage" : "ms-appdata:///roaming/yourimage.jpg",
"backgroundImageOpacity" : 0.75,
"backgroundImageStrechMode" : "fill",

Where “yourimage.jpg” is the name of your image or gif file. Make sure every line in the section—except the last one—ends with a comma.

If you’re using a GIF file, you may want to change the “fill” to “uniformToFill” instead. We ended up with a black box around our GIF with “fill,” but it was fine with “uniformToFill.”

Setting a background image in Windows Terminal's JSON file

Save the file, and your changes should show up immediately, even with the Windows Terminal open.

How to Change Default Key Bindings

The first section pertains key bindings if you don’t like a particular keyboard shortcut you can change those here. For instance, if you want Ctrl+e to close tabs, you would find this section:

{
 "command" : "closeTab",
 "keys" : 
 [
 "ctrl+w"
 ]
 },

Change the “ctrl+w” to “ctrl+e” (being sure to keep the quotes) and then save the file. If you want to align everything to match the existing indentation, be aware the file uses spaces instead of tabs. And as seen in our screenshots, the file uses Unix Line Endings, but most text editors (even Notepad) can handle Unix Line Endings without issue.

Windows terminal key binding options.

How to Switch the Default Color Scheme

Windows Terminal comes with several color schemes that change the font color, background color, cursor shape, and so on. You can choose themes individually for Command Prompt, Bash, and PowerShell.

To switch the default theme, first, find the shell profile you want to by scrolling down to the ” "profiles" :  ” section and looking at the command line entry in each subsection.

Command Prompt is found under: "commandline" : "cmd.exe", for instance. Then change the "colorScheme" : "Campbell"  to the color of your choice. You can choose from Campbell, One Half Dark, One Half Light, Solarized Dark, and Solarized Light. If you wanted Solarized Light, for example, you would change the color scheme line to "colorScheme" : "Solarized Light. These are the same color schemes used by Microsoft’s colortool utility.

Windows terminal color scheme option for cmd.exe.

Windows Terminal is pretty interesting, and it gives you a small taste of Microsoft’s former Windows Sets feature. The tabbed functionality here isn’t as robust, but it’s a hint at what could have been. At the very least, now you won’t need to switch programs to move between Command Prompt, Powershell, and Bash.

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