Git Bash Is My Preferred Windows Shell
Updated  2023-February-22

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Ongoing  According to Repology, the latest packaged Git for Windows is version [displayed at this link]. To keep up with releases of Git for Windows, which includes Git Bash and the Mintty terminal emulator, see,, or

2022-November-18  As of today, this evolving⁠[1] article has been on the web for 2 years.🎂🎂

About shells🐚

A shell is a layer or interface between you and an operating system. There are a lot of command-⁠line shells for Windows, including:

  1. COMMAND.COM, also known as “the DOS Prompt” (used in Windows 9x and earlier)

  2. Cygwin

  3. UWIN

  4. cmd.exe, also known as CMD and “Command Prompt”

  5. PowerShell[2]

  6. WSL Bash, also known as “Bash on Ubuntu on Windows” and “Bash on Windows’ Subsystem for Linux”⁠[3]

Over the years, I’ve used all six of the above Windows command-⁠line shells. In 2020, I installed Git for Windows and can now add a seventh shell to the list of command-⁠line Windows shells I’ve used:

  1. Git Bash

About bash

Bash is an acronym for “Bourne again shell” and it is a command-line shell that was created for Unix-like systems. Details are at


What is Git Bash

Git Bash is a Windows command-line shell that is packaged with Git for Windows. It emulates the bash shell that is familiar to nix-nux users.⁠[4]⁠[5]

Git Bash is useful even if you do not use git.


Git Bash is not one of Windows’ subsystems. When you are in Git Bash, you are in your regular Windows environment. And your Windows environment variables are available.⁠👍


Why I Prefer Git Bash

I like Git Bash because…

  • I’m more comfortable with bash commands than CMD or PowerShell commands (because I’ve been using Bourne shell (sh) and friends for more than 30 years).

  • It’s easy to install.

  • It has a small footprint.

  • It installs a Git Bash Here command that is available when right-clicking on a folder in Windows File Explorer.

  • I can pipe the output of commands through the less pager, which is better than the more pager.⁠[6]

  • In addition to the less command, the commands awk, cat,⁠[7] cd, clear, cp, curl, cut, date, dd, diff, dos2unix, echo, file, find, gpg, grep and friends,⁠[8] gunzip, gzip, head, history, jobs, kill, ls, md5sum, mkdir, mv, mount, nano, od, openssl, perl, printenv, ps, pwd, rm, rmdir, scp, sed, sftp, sha1sum, sha256sum, sha512sum, sort, split, ssh, stat, tail, tar, touch, uname, uniq, vim and friends,⁠[9] wc, which, whoami, and more nix-nux commands are available.

  • I can view built-in help for a bash command with, for example, less --help or pwd --help.

  • Almost any app that’s on my path — including hugo, figlet, and[10] — can be launched either within a Git Bash script or at a Git Bash command prompt (possibly with the help of winpty).[11]

  • I can write bash or sh⁠[12] scripts and…

    • my Windows environment variables are available,

    • and I do not have to worry about WSL file system issues[13] because Git Bash uses the regular Windows file system (but be aware that Git Bash uses forward-slash-delimited paths to refer to the Windows file system).

  • I can use output redirection (with, for example, >) to create a file that is UTF-8 Unicode text rather than Little-endian UTF-16 Unicode text, with CRLF line terminators (which is the CMD and PowerShell default encoding⁠🙀).


Managing Git for Windows and Git Bash


To install Git Bash, install Git For Windows, which you can download from either…

Think carefully about what options you choose during the installation. If you are a power user, the defaults are probably not what you want. For example, I like to change the default install directory, which is C:\Program Files\Git\, to C:\Program Files\GitForWindows\ because this helps me remember the full name of the app in this directory.

Git for Windows requires Windows Vista or newer. Windows Vista was released in 2007 (~16 years ago).



To learn about launching Git Bash in various terminal emulators, including Mintty (which is Git Bash’s default terminal emulator), see Launching Git Bash in Mintty, ConEmu, VS Code’s Terminal, and Other Terminal Emulators.



To learn about the Git for Windows that you are using, run some or all of the following at a Git Bash⁠[14] command-line prompt:

git --version
git --version --build-options
uname -a

To see what options it was installed with, run the following at a Git Bash prompt:

cat /etc/install-options.txt



To update Git for Windows, run the following at a Git Bash⁠[14] command-line prompt:

git --version
git update-git-for-windows
git --version

When you update Git for Windows…

  • Your home (~) directory should be preserved, but to be safe, back it up before you update.

  • Your Git Bash /etc/ and other root-level Git Bash directories will not  be preserved (and ideally you should not edit these directories).


Mintty customizations

Mintty is Git Bash’s default terminal emulator. Details are at

Mintty color scheme🎨

Since I prefer the Solarized Light color scheme, I edited ~/.minttyrc so it includes the following.

ForegroundColour=101, 123, 131
BackgroundColour=253, 246, 227
CursorColour=    220,  50,  47

Black=             7,  54,  66
BoldBlack=         0,  43,  54
Red=             220,  50,  47
BoldRed=         203,  75,  22
Green=           133, 153,   0
BoldGreen=        88, 110, 117
Yellow=          181, 137,   0
BoldYellow=      101, 123, 131
Blue=             38, 139, 210
BoldBlue=        131, 148, 150
Magenta=         211,  54, 130
BoldMagenta=     108, 113, 196
Cyan=             42, 161, 152
BoldCyan=        147, 161, 161
White=           238, 232, 213
BoldWhite=       253, 246, 227

This is the contents of the .minttyrc.light file, which is part of Thank you Michael Newton ( for making this color scheme available on GitHub!


Mintty font and character set

To change the character set and fonts used in the mintty terminal emulator, right click anywhere in a mintty window or title bar and choose Options. In the left pane, choose Text and then…

  1. Click Select… and choose DejaVu Sans Mono, 10pt (or whatever you prefer) for the font.

  2. Under Character Set, choose UTF-8 (Unicode) (or whatever you prefer).

  3. Click Save

These and other settings will be appended to the bottom of your ~/.minttyrc file.


Git Bash customizations

Display some of Git Bash’s default settings

Before you customize Git Bash, check out some of its default settings by running the following four commands at a Git Bash command-line prompt.

set -o



If ~/.bash_profile exists, the commands in it are run each time you launch a Git Bash terminal. To create and edit this file do the following.

  1. Launch a Git Bash terminal.

  2. At the Git Bash command-line prompt, run one of these commands:

    nano ~/.bash_profile
    vim ~/.bash_profile

    Note that the TUI (terminal user interface) editors nano and vim are included in Git Bash and are on your PATH. (If you do not know how to use vim, I recommend that you use nano because, otherwise, it may take you a while to figure out how to exit vim.⁠😆)

  3. Add whatever commands you’d like to this file. Here is an excerpt of my ~/.bash_profile:

    ## Created: 2023-02-24
    ## Use `gvim filename` to edit filename with GUI Vim
    alias gvim="/C/Windows/gvim.bat"
    ## Use `cdi` to cd to the Infinite Ink project root
    ## Note I set INFINITEINKROOT environment variable via Control Panel
    alias cdi="cd `cygpath $INFINITEINKROOT`"
    ## Do not let me overwrite a file with > redirection
    set -o noclobber
    ## Make Backspace and other things work in VS Code's & IntelliJ's terminals
    export TERM=cygwin
    # export TERM=xterm
    # export TERM=xterm-256color
    ## NOTE: All 3 of the above TERM settings work for me
  4. Save your edits and close the editor.

  5. At the Git Bash prompt, use the following file command to check the file type.

    file ~/.bash_profile

    This will probably display ASCII text or UTF-8 Unicode text. If either “BOM” or “CRLF line terminators” are mentioned in the output of this file command, convert it to Unix-format with one of the following commands.

    dos2unix ~/.bash_profile
    nano --unix ~/.bash_profile

    To learn about these commands, run the following commands.

    dos2unix --help
    nano --help


After you change your ~/.bash_profile, I recommend that you close all Git Bash sessions and all Windows File Explorer windows, and then relaunch Git Bash and make sure your new ~/.bash_profile settings worked.



To see what aliases are available, run:


On my system, this displays:

alias gvim='/C/Windows/gvim.bat'
alias cdi='cd /c/Users/USERNAME/path/to/infiniteink/project/root'
alias ll='ls -l'
alias ls='ls -F --color=auto --show-control-chars'

The first two aliases are the ones I created above in my ~/.bash_profile. The last two are Git Bash’s default aliases.

Default aliases (and more) are specified in files that are located in the /etc/profile.d/ directory. It is best not  to edit files under /etc/ because they might be replaced when Git for Windows is updated.


Git Bash tips

Case insensitivity

Normally Unix-like shells are case sensitive, but Git Bash, in general, is case insensitive.



To view your current path, run the following command, which means “print working directory.”


To go to your Git Bash home directory, which is also known as ~, run either of the following equivalent commands.

cd ~

On most systems, your Git Bash home directory is…


with USERNAME replaced with your user name.

Note that in Git Bash…

  • The path delimiter is slash (/), which is also known as forward slash.

  • The C: drive is mounted as /c/. To list all mounts, run the mount command.

  • You can display a Windows-type path of the current working directory with pwd -W. The format of the path this command displays is sometimes called “mixed type” because it starts with a drive letter, such as C:, and uses forward slashes (/) rather than backslashes (\) as path separators.


The start command

When you are at a Git Bash prompt, you can launch a file or directory in your system’s default app by using the Start command, which is equivalent to the start command (thanks to case insensitivity). Below are some examples.

To open the current directory in Windows File Explorer, run:

start .
     Notice this dot (.)

To open your home directory in Windows File Explorer, run:

start ~

To open your $APPDATA directory in Windows File Explorer, run:

start $APPDATA

To open /c in Windows File Explorer, run either of these equivalent commands:

start /c
start /c/

To open the parent directory of the current directory in Windows File Explorer, run:

start ..

To open an HTML file in your default web browser, run something like this:

start ReleaseNotes.html


Launching any app on your path

You can launch any app that’s on your path from a Git Bash prompt. For example, if Visual Studio Code is installed on your system and is on your path, you can use the following to open the current directory in VS Code.

code .
    Notice this dot (.)


Environment variables

To find out the environment variables available to Git Bash, run:


This includes the PATH environment variable, which lists the directories that are searched for executables.



I’d rather write a bash or sh⁠[12] shell script than a Windows batch file to deal with apps, files, and folders that live in my Windows file system. Thanks to Git Bash, It’s easy to do this. (I have learned the hard way that it’s not so easy to do this in WSL.⁠[13])


Where to put scripts

When you run printenv, you can see that the ~/bin/ directory (usually /c/users/USERNAME/bin/) is on your PATH. This is a reasonable place to put your Git Bash scripts. To create this directory, run this command:

mkdir ~/bin/


Example script

One of my scripts is called gvim-winpath and it looks like this:


## Created: 2023-02-24
## Filename: gvim-winpath
## Usage: gvim-winpath "C:\path\to\filename"

/c/windows/gvim.bat `cygpath "$1"`

I use this to launch gvim on a file that is specified using a Windows-style backslash path. To learn about the cygpath command, which is used in this script, run one of the following commands at a Git Bash prompt.

cygpath --help
cygpath --help |less

If you pipe the cygpath --help output to the less pager, you need to know how to use less: The essentials are that within less, you can press Space to page down, press b (for back) to page up, and press q to quit.


cygpath is analogous to wslpath, which I use in Infinite Ink’s qutebrowser Userscripts on Windows.


No need to chmod

In most Unix-like shells, you need to chmod +x executables but in Git Bash this is not needed.



If you have issues with non-ASCII Unicode characters, run the following at a Git Bash prompt and make sure each setting includes UTF-8.


Also, you can try to solve Unicode issues by running the following sequence of⁠[10] commands at a Git Bash prompt. 65001

This changes the code page to 65001, which supports UTF-8 encoding.

Nowadays UTF-8 is the standard file encoding of the internet (and of Unicode in general).


Case insensitivity exceptions

--help and other command arguments

Arguments to nix-nux commands, in general, are case sensitive. For example, in the following

cygpath --help

The command cygpath is case insensitive, but its argument --help is case sensitive. For example, this works:

Cygpath --help

but this does not work:

cygpath --Help



To quit Git Bash, you can either click the close-window X in the upper right corner of the terminal window or type the following at the command prompt:


This exit command is a system call and must be all lower case.⁠ ◊


See also


1. Many Infinite Ink articles, including this one, are evergreen and regularly updated.
2. I have experience using Windows PowerShell (powershell.exe) but I do not yet have experience using PowerShell Core (pwsh).
3. It would probably make more sense if WSL were called LSW (Linux Subsystem for/of/on Windows), but it is not because, according to Rich Turner in this tweet, Microsoft “cannot name something leading with a trademark owned by someone else.” Rich’s tweet has inspired me to interpret the WSL acronym as meaning Windows’ Subsystem for Linux (notice the apostrophe (’)).
5. Git Bash is sometimes called “bash on MSYS” or “MSYS bash.”
6. The more command is not included in Git Bash, but the less command, which can do everything more can do (and more), is included in Git Bash.
7. cat stands for concatenate.😸
8. grep stands for “get regular expression.” Its friends include egrep and fgrep.
9. vim's friends include view, vimdiff, and vimtutor.
10. and are located in /c/windows/system32/ and are on your Git-Bash path. Each must be called with the .com file extension.
11. When launching an app from Git Bash, it’s sometimes useful to append  & to the end of the command so it will be launched as a background job.
12. bash is “Bourne again shell” and sh is “Bourne shell”.
13. To learn about some problems with WSL, see Windows Subsystem for Linux: The lost potential by Julio Manuel Merino Vidal. Also see the Hacker News comments about that article at
14. Alternatively, you could use a PowerShell or CMD command-line prompt for this command. Because this article is about Git Bash, I suggest using a Git Bash command-line prompt throughout the article. Note that many of the commands discussed in this article must be run from a Git Bash prompt.

Discuss or share 📝 🤔 🐘