Open Water Foundation / Learn Cygwin

This documentation provides resources to learn how to to use the free and open source Cygwin Linux-like environment on Windows. Cygwin is useful because it allows Linux programs to be run on a Windows computer without installing an entirely separate virtual machine. In particular, Cygwin allows shell scripts to be run, which helps automate common tasks. The advantage of using Cygwin is that someone familiar with Linux can be effective on Cygwin similar to Linux, and programs can transfer between Cygwin and Linux. Alternatives to Cygwin:

  • Windows/DOS batch file - runs in Windows/DOS command shell, limited functionality and portability
  • Windows PowerShell - often used for Windows system administration and automation
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux - useful for development but has limitations
  • a scripting language such as Python (requires installing the language interpreter and requires knowing the language)

One or more of the above options may be used on the same computer. However; Cygwin provides extensive software options that may be more straightforward. In some cases, a decision must be made as to where to install a software program. For example, should Python be installed and run on Windows, Linux, Cygwin, or multiple environments?

This documentation has been written based on experience using Cygwin at the Open Water Foundation. The remainder of this page includes the following sections:

About the Open Water Foundation

The Open Water Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit social enterprise that focuses on developing and supporting open source software for water resources, so that organizations can make better decisions about water. OWF has created this documentation to educate its staff, collaborators, and clients that work with spatial data.

See also other OWF learning resources.

How to Use this Documentation

The documentation is organized in order of information and tasks necessary to install/update, configure, and use Cygwin.

This documentation is not intended to be a full reference for Cygwin but focuses on important topics that will help understand technical concepts and be successful using Cygwin. The following main sections are included in this documentation:


The OWF Learn Cygwin website content and examples are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Source Repository on GitHub

The source files for this documentation are maintained in a GitHub repository: owf-learn-cygwin.

Release Notes

This documentation was last updated 2017-11-04. See the Release Notes in the GitHub Project.