If you hate the Windows Store, Windows 10's package manager can bypass it

"Get me Firefox, now." The new Winget package manager literally tells Windows to do just that, and Windows will obey.

Credit: Mark Hachman / IDG

Finally, Microsoft has a way to avoid wading through the Microsoft Store app or hunting down an app download link from the web: Winget, also known as the Windows Package Manager, has finally been released.

Package managers aren’t new to the Windows world. Chocolatey, for example, has been available as a package manager for years. (Package managers have also been a staple of Linux for years, and one of the operating system’s greatest features.)  Version 1.0 of Windows Package Manager is a command-line application that simply tells Windows to seek out a particular app and install it—no muss, no fuss. It will soon ship as an automatic update via the Microsoft Store for all devices running Windows 10, version 1809 and later, Microsoft said this week.

Colloquially, the Windows Package Manager is known as “winget,” the command you use to launch it. It’s easy to use: Typing winget install firefox will download and install the Firefox browser automatically.

How to use winget to download apps quickly

There are two ways of taking advantage of winget. First, via the App Installer app, you can sideload apps without going through the Microsoft Store. Weirdly, though, the app didn’t work well on our Insider machine. We’d recommend the second way, using the command line process instead—it’s simpler and more effective.

To do so, open the Windows PowerShell app. By default, the app opens into a DOS shell. Simply type winget to see a list of commands and launch the package manager itself.

winget install firefox windows package manager microsoft Mark Hachman / IDG

It isn’t fancy, but winget gets the job done.

What’s great about the winget command is that it connects to a repository of existing packaged apps, so you can pretty quickly find what you’re looking for if you already know the name of the app. The exception is if there’s more than one version of an app: Typing winget install opera, for instance, returns a notice saying you’ll need to reenter the command, selecting between the Opera GX gaming browser and the Opera Stable desktop browser. Winget search followed by the name of the package verifies that the package exists, and the correct terminology to find it.

You’ll want to know two other commands, too: winget uninstall and winget upgrade, where you’ll want to add the name of the app in question after the commands. The latter upgrade command may be unnecessary, because many apps will simply auto-upgrade themselves, or ask you to do it the next time you restart them.

You won’t yet find every app in existence within the Windows Package Manager. But if you’re so inclined, you can also ask Microsoft to add packages for others to find. The Windows Package Manager Manifest Creator (also known as “Winget create”) can be downloaded at Microsoft’s Github site. You’ll need to provide the install link to the installer file. Microsoft will then review the installer for security’s sake, though you’ll be able to track the status of the installer if you provide your Microsoft credentials.

The complexity of the Microsoft Store app has been a sore point with Windows users. Microsoft is expected to overhaul the Store in conjunction with its “Sun Valley” Windows 10 graphical updates this fall, but so far Microsoft has just made incremental improvements.  Winget is a terrific alternative while we wait.

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Mark Hachman

Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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