If you’ve been using PowerShell for a while, then you are certainly familiar with the PowerShell console and the PowerShell ISE. These are the most common applications that host the PowerShell engine. They are easy to use and just about everywhere you need them. The PowerShell ISE is an optional feature on Windows Server platforms. However, because PowerShell can be hosted by an application, there are other possibilities. You could even write your own hosting application given sufficient .NET skills. If you’re like me, then that’s way too much work. Instead, you might look at third-party offerings such, as PowerShell Plus from Idera.
This tool was originally a paid commercial offering, but Idera started offering it for free a couple of years ago. The product requires at least PowerShell 3.0, which should also means that you have .NET Framework 4.0 or later. You will need to register on the site to download. There are x86 and x64 versions. You should end up with a zip file. I extracted the x64 setup file and launched it on my Windows 8.1 box.
Installation is pretty typical. I didn’t feel the need to change any of the defaults and the entire process took less than a minute. The product is title PowerShellPlus Professional Edition.
If you press and hold the shift key, then you’ll have a dialog box of options.
Remember this is another PowerShell host like the ISE, so your profile scripts will still run. This is where you can configure PowerShellPlus to ignore them.
This is similar to running Powershell –noprofile from a CMD prompt. Shortly after starting, you may also see this warning:
So it seems as if PowerShellPlus will make it easy to run scripts without having to do a lot of typing, which could be useful. Eventually, we get the main product screen.
In the status bar at the bottom you can see that the application will analyze your environment, including looking at all your modules. In the meantime, I’m going to jump right to the console tab.
I have some fun things in my PowerShell profile and I can tell from the screen that PowerShell Plus ran it. This means I should have access to the same things I have when I run PowerShell in the console. For example, I should have a PSDrive mapped to my Dropbox Demo folder.
Very good. The console includes Intellisense-type help as you write a command, much like the PowerShell ISE.
The same is true of parameter names.
Or I can just use tab-completion. Although I found tab completion to take little longer than the ISE or traditional console.
There is a Log option that you can enable at any time.
However, unlike a transcript, this log only records the commands you entered at the prompt, not the results. Unfortunately, PowerShell Plus uses a function called Start-Transcript for this feature. This means that if you want to use Microsoft’s cmdlet, then you need to include the full command name.
microsoft.powershell.host\Start-Transcript -Path c:\work\psplus.txt
Personally, I don’t understand why Idera chose to use an existing command name, but that may be a minor nit. I do like how easy it is to capture what is in the console screen with the Capture button. The menu hints that you can also create a bitmap screen capture, but I could never figure out how.
Another feature that you may like is that you can run the console in “mini-mode.” This hides everything except the console, which you can configure to always be on top, as well as transparent.
Windows 10 will eventually get us a transparent console, but you can have it now. So far, PowerShell Plus isn’t too much different than what you are already using. So let’s look at some features that might make it more compelling.
PowerShell Plus has a System Explorer panel that includes typical management information.
Instead of having to know how to run Get-Process, I can use this tool. I can even do things with the selected object, such as stopping the process. All of this is handled through a plugin. Right-Click on My Computer at the top, and select Configuration. You can also select the Configuration icon.
If you’ve ever used PowerGUI, this is very similar. What’s nice is that you can extend this. I’m going to add a child folder to My Computer, which I’ll call WSMAN.
I want to display the value of TrustedHosts.
When I finish and go back to the main program, my addition is there.
What about remote computers? You can modify existing items to get information from remote computers using the appropriate parameters, or you can create entirely new folders and tasks.
If you like managing from a GUI this may be very useful, although you still need to understand how to use the underlying PowerShell commands to get what you need. Because Idera is a toolmaker for SQL Server and SharePoint, there are options for those product-specific tasks. And on a related note, there is also a quick script library organized by products.
You can double-click a script and run it. But I recommend you right-click and check the properties so you can see what the script will do.
PowerShell Plus has been around in one incarnation or another for a number of years and some of these scripts may be antiquated by current PowerShell standards, if not out-right obsolete. Although this is certainly a feature where you can add your own scripts and tools. Or you can download scripts from the PowerShell Community.
Remember that just because these scripts are on Microsoft properties doesn’t guarantee that they are good examples of PowerShell scripts or that they will even run in your environment. But I have to admit this is a useful feature to at least discover what is in the wild.
Lastly, let’s look at PowerShell Plus as a scripting editor. It can create several types of files.
The editor is about the same as the PowerShell ISE.
Although Intellisense doesn’t seem as complete, there is support for Snippets, and you may like the auto-format feature to make your code pretty. Although I like being able to specify arguments or parameters, there’s also a debugger. The two features that distinguish the PowerShell Plus editor from say the PowerShell ISE are the script signing and collaboration features. There is also an option to hook into source control.
Although if you had the experience, you could add these types of features to the PowerShell ISE. But these are here and ready for you to use.
So what do I think? I think it comes down to a philosophical choice. Some IT pros are eager to leverage PowerShell but don’t want or can’t take the time to learn it. PowerShell Plus comes with some built-in functionality that gives you access to PowerShell behind a nice GUI. Personally, I’m quite happy with a PowerShell prompt, and this is especially true when it comes time to manage remote computers. It can be done in PowerShell Plus, but I found it cumbersome. Although I think once you have it configured it can be easy to implement. Granted, I haven’t spent a lot of time with the editor, but I’m just as happy in the PowerShell ISE. Although having easy access to the community of PowerShell scripts is intriguing. If only to see what other people are doing.
All of that said, remember that I am giving you my impressions of PowerShell Plus, which are colored by my years of PowerShell experience. I think for someone just getting started with PowerShell and is a little unsure about how to use it, PowerShell Plus is a good introduction. As long as you understand that it is not PowerShell, but merely a tool that sits on top of PowerShell. Overtime, you’ll either come to embrace it as a management tool and will have learned enough PowerShell to customize it to meet your needs, or you’ll realize you can handle the console on your own. In any event, it doesn’t cost you anything, other than an email address, to try.
Are you using PowerShell Plus? Have you in the past? I’d love to hear your experiences and opinions.
PowerShell Plus (Idera, Free)
- Free to use
- Helpful collaboration and publishing features for scripts
- Helpful access to community PowerShell scripts
- Source control integration
- Learning curve can be a bit steep as this is more than a PowerShell console
- Included scripts may be out of date
- I would like the product to support its own profile script
This is a free tool that tries to have it both ways with PowerShell. It wants to give you a traditional console and editor experience and it wants to give you PowerShell based tools to manage your environment like the old PowerGUI program that Quest Software used to have. If you are new to PowerShell, then you might get lost and feel overwhelmed. And if you are an experienced PowerShell user, then you probably don’t need all of the shortcuts. But it is free, so you’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a spin.