VSCode on an iPad
An iPad running VSCode, streaming from a Shadow Windows VM

Here’s a way to leverage Shadow to code in VSCode with WSL on an iPad, an Android tablet, or even a Chromebook that can run Google Play.

Shadow is a cloud gaming service that lets you “rent” a remote gaming PC VM and stream its content on your local client.

The lowest tier is currently available for $11.99 / month and lets you game on a GeForce GTX 1080 equivalent with 256 GB of storage.

The platform supports Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS/ipadOS and tvOS.

While this is definitely not the most affordable way to code on an iPad, it is a viable solution if you are already paying for the service for gaming. In my experience, Shadow is the cloud gaming service with the most stable streaming performances.

Requirements

  • A compatible client
  • A Shadow subscription (use code LOI0MSH6 to support this blog)
  • An iPad with iPadOS 11 or later
  • A keyboard for your iPad
  • Optional: a trackpad or Bluetooth mouse, the experience will be significantly better

Setup

  • Get the Shadow app on your device
  • Start Shadow
  • If you are already on your iPad, long press on the desktop, select Display settings and set the scale to at least 150%
  • Setup WSL
    • Restart your VM after step 3
    • Ignore the steps related to WSL 2 (Steps 4 and 5)
    • To get an elevated prompt on your iPad without a pointer, press the cmd key, type cmd, then long press Command Promt and select Run as administrator
  • Install your favorite Linux flavor from the Windows Store (I went for the most recent Ubuntu LTS)
  • Start the Linux distribution you have installed and set up your user
    • If you get an error during the initialization, try to force WSL 1 in an elevated prompt: wsl --set-default-version 1
    • Update your distribution for good measure
  • Install Visual Studio Code or VSCodium
  • Install Git
  • Start VSCode and install the Remote - WSL extension from the Extensions menu
  • Click the green >< in the bottom left, and select Remote-WSL: New Window
  • Open a terminal inside VSCode with control + `
  • Congratulations, you now have a modern coding environment on your iPad

Notes:

  • VSCode extensions need to be installed from within the WSL window to be usable
  • I recommend checking Help > Keyboard Shortcut Reference if you are not using a mouse

If you run into any issue, feel free to ask in the comments.