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Make-over: Win to *nix
Part 2 - Tools, Apps, and other animals

In the first part of this article, we looked at emulating the X Windows GUI. Now we get into the interesting part, the tools and apps ported over from Unix to Windows. This approach is more for the 'hardcore', who use *nix elsewhere and miss their favourite tools and apps. However, they may also be useful to those hoping to leap the chasm between the *nix and Windows worlds. One word of warning - many of these programs are run from a DOS prompt, so if you have an aversion to text mode apps, run away now :)!
Cygwin & Commandline Tools
Some of these ports require the Cygwin tools to be installed. From the site:
"The Cygwin tools are ports of the popular GNU development tools and utilities for Windows 95, 98, and NT. They function by using the Cygwin library which provides a UNIX-like API on top of the Win32 API."
Basically, they're commands such as less, chmod, and grep, wrapped up with a port of the Unix "bash" shell (the equivalent of DOS, but more powerful). They are released under the GPL and X11 licenses, and so are free to download - about 20MB, all in all (try using the setup.exe program to download and install automatically, or you can download manually if you wish). If you don't want to download them, you can still use many of the apps here; those that require Cygwin will state as much on their site. The tools are quite useful to have though - either as practice before trying a real Unix system, or to stop you from getting annoyed when none of the commands you type work in DOS (heh, this happens to me too often).
Terminals are consoles that run on the desktop, a little like running a DOS prompt in Windows. RXVT is one of the best, and the Windows port (requiring Cygwin) is faithful to the original. Less eyecandy than Econsole, but very quick and fairly customisable.

If you want your DOS prompt to dazzle you, try Econsole. Strictly speaking, it isn't a port - more a clone of the Eterm console for Enlightenment. Econsole functions as a DOS prompt, but with options such as transparency, shading, and background graphics. It ran very slowly for me uner Win95, and was fairly unstable; but Econsole's creator, Corion, states that it was designed for Windows NT. Win95 users should also note that, although system monitors show Econsole as using 100% cpu time, this is a bug - it apparently only uses about 3%. Results under Windows 2000 were naturally much better, quite quick and very stable.
Text Editors
Vim is a famous (infamous?) text editor for Unix, based on the original VI program. It's textmode only, and the keyboard shortcuts can be difficult to get used to at first; however, it's a very powerful tool. It's been ported to many flavours of OS, and Windows binaries are available on all the FTP mirrors (under the pc directory). The port is similar to the Unix version in all important ways; but, like Emacs, it's difficult for beginners to get to grips with. Once you do, however, notepad will seem bizarre by comparision :) Works fine under both Win95 and Win2000, very stable and fast.

Emacs is a very well known "self-documenting real-time display editor" (for most people, a very fancy text editor :)) It's quite complicated, and difficult to learn from a Windows viewpoint; however, it's very powerful, and has been ported to many different systems and OSes. There are ports for Win95, 98, NT, 3.11, and MSDos - not sure about Win2000, though the NT version might work? Actually installing and setting up Emacs for Windows requires a bit of work, so read the README file carefully.

There's also a Emacs for Windows FAQ, containing info on Win9x, NT, and DOS versions - a must read for all users.

Also of interest is the XEmacs port. XEmacs is another version of Emacs, with a Win32 port in development. More info at http://jagor.srce.hr/~hniksic/xemacs-on-windows-faq.txt. It's a big download though, and I haven't yet tried it under Windows. The two are very similiar on the surface, though there's some discord between the Emacs and XEmacs programming teams...
Net Tools
For a dose of retro browsing, consider trying Lynx. It's a textmode web browser, good for high speed surfing on simple, info-heavy sites. There are a few ports available - Win95 and up users will want one of the Win32 ports, but there's also a native DOS mode version available. The Win32 version works very well - many times more stable than your average modern browser. And you can even view Virtual Plastic with it, so you need never want for anything else ;).

Alright, so maybe you do want a GUI browser, for the full flash experience of many modern sites. Netscape still fills this role for most Linux users, though less adequately as time goes on. A better option is the open source browser Mozilla, initially based on Netscape's source code, but now evolved into an entirely different beast. Development is done in community fashion, with users submitting code and modules to improve the browser. It's best to download the most recent "Milestone build", as these are usually more stable than the nightly builds...

Pine is a text mode email and news client - very quick and stable, and with a great menu system. Comes complete with an address book and filtering system, and more configuration options than you'll ever need :) Ports exist for DOS, Win3x, and Win9x/NT/2000. I'll admit a degree of bias here, as I've used Pine under Linux for some time; however, in some ways the Windows port is easier to get to grips with, as it has its own mouse-driven GUI.

For news reading, Slrn is a good option, with a well-featured and fast textmode DOS port available, now also Win32 port. Not much more to say here; if it's an easy GUI you're after, best look elsewhere, but if you want speed and configurability, slrn might be a wise choice.

Another popular textmode news reader is Tin, with a slightly different style to SLRN - choose whichever you like best. There's a Windows binary available on all the FTP sites; I've provided a direct link here, but other mirrors may be faster.

NCFTP is a commandline FTP client, finally ported to Windows. Blows Win95's built in DOS FTP app out of the water, and a very small download.
More commandline tools are available at Virtually Unix - some nice ports of standard utilties (pwd, gzip, ps, grep), an early tcsh (a Unix shell) port, and instructions for core Unix commands in Windows .hlp format - very useful!

The Gimp is the premier free *nix graphics manipulation program; a very powerful tool, and quite user-friendly, possessing some features which even major commerical apps miss out on. This tool has gone from strength to strength, and in my opinion has now surpassed Paintshop Pro, standing second only to Photoshop. A Win32 port exists, and seems very stable and complete - also skinnable, in a similar way to the GTK themes used by GNOME.
So, you now have a wide range of Unix apps to go with your new GUI look. More to come here, as there are many more interesting ports in development, particularly relating to Cygwin (Afterstep for Windows?....). Please, your comments and suggestions, or if you have any ideas for further exploration. Hopefully, this article has provided a good starting point for you to explore the world of the alternative OS, or at least proven an interesting diversion :).

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