Working at the Command Line

I maintain statistics about each of my books. Lately, I’ve noticed a trend with my command line reference books. More people are sending me e-mail about Microsoft Windows Command Line Administration Instant Reference and Administering Windows Server 2008 Server Core. However, the questions are becoming more diverse and less technical. Rather than the targeted questions about administration needs, I’m getting what I think are probably power user questions as well. People see my blog posts about commands, such as FindStr, and they naturally want to know more.

Someone recently wrote to ask me about what I thought the trends regarding the command line are. Based on my statistics, I would think that administrators are continuing to use the command line and more power users are rediscovering the command line. However, basing an opinion solely on book-related e-mail isn’t always the best idea and it certainly isn’t very scientific. Statistically, the e-mail is probably skewed to some extent because people aren’t speaking in general about their feelings—they have specific questions.

So, today I come to you with a request. Could you either comment to this blog post or send me e-mail about how you use the command line, or whether you use it at all? Microsoft is doing everything it can to move people to PowerShell. You can do quite a lot with PowerShell, including writing scripts that are more robust than those you can write at the command line. In addition, there are sites, such as, that cater to the needs of the PowerShell user.

Even though it would seem at first like PowerShell is the future and the command line is passé, the command line has the advantage of simplicity and long term stability. In addition, there are still more resources available for the command line than there are for PowerShell. I generally use the command line for all my needs because I simply haven’t had a need for the additional resources that PowerShell provides. Let me know your thoughts about the command line and whether you generally see PowerShell as the required replacement for it at


Understanding the Maturing of the Command Line

A number of people have asked me why I’ve written several different command line reference books. The answer is that each book serves a different market. Serving reader needs is a quest of mine. As reader needs change, I also change my books to better meet those needs. The command line may seem static, but reader needs have changed over the years because of the way in which the command line is perceived and the new commands added to it.

The most popular of the set, Windows Command-Line Administration Instant Reference, provides the reader with quick access to the most commonly used commands. In addition, this book emphasize examples over documentation, so you see how to use a command, but don’t necessarily get every detail about it (only those that are used most often). This book is mainly designed to assist administrators. With this group in mind, the book also provides a good overview of batch files and scripting. The point is to provide something small that an administrator can easily carry around.

A second command line reference, Administering Windows Server 2008 Server Core, is designed to meet the needs of those who use Microsoft’s Spartan Server Core operating system. The book includes a number of special features for this audience, such as instructions on getting hard to install software to work in this environment. This is also the only book that discusses how to use Mono to overcome .NET Framework limitations in this environment. Even though the title specifies Windows Server 2008 Server Core, the book has also been tested with Windows Server 2012 Server Core. The point of this book is to allow you to get all of the speed, reliability, and security benefits of Server Core installations without all of the hassle that most administrators face.

My third command line reference, Windows Administration at the Command Line for Windows Vista, Windows 2003, Windows XP, and Windows 2000, serves the general needs of administrators and power users. This book is intended to help anyone use the command line more efficiently. It provides a little more hand holding and considerable more detail about all of the available commands than my other two books. This is also the only book that discusses PowerShell.

The PowerShell portion of this third book has received a lot more attention as of late. Microsoft is making a much stronger emphasis on this new version of the command line, so I’m glad I included it in my book. One of the strong suites of this book is that it not only discusses documented commands, but many undocumented commands as well (with the appropriate caveats, of course).

No matter which version of my command line reference you use, I’m always here to answer your questions about my books. How do you interact with the command line? Has PowerShell taken a more prominent role in the way you do your work? Let me know at