Working with PowerShell

PowerShell is an open-source, command-line interface (CLI) based tool that allows developers, IT admins, and DevOps professionals to automate tasks and configurations using code. This article explains the working of PowerShell in detail and discusses its use cases and advantages for users.

What Is PowerShell?

PowerShell is an open-source, command-line interface (CLI) based tool that allows developers, IT admins, and DevOps professionals to automate tasks and configurations using code.

PowerShell is a bifunctional attribute built on Microsoft .NET technology. PowerShell can be used as an open-source shell or as a scripting language. PowerShell is used as a shell to control the computer with commands from a command-line interface related to the operating system. The command-line interface is another interrelation preference aside from the graphic user interface (GUI), which is used to convey commands from a user to an operating system.

With this shell functionality, one can use PowerShell to automate processes that require repetitions. This makes work easier and reduces the possibility of errors. In addition, each command line can be easily reproduced whenever necessary because they are always saved immediately.

As a scripting language, PowerShell is a form of programming language that is used to pass instructions from a parent software to another software. Unlike other programming languages like Ruby, Python, etc., scripting languages like PowerShell are interpreted to machine code differently.

PowerShell commands are interpreted line by line with an interpreter instead of a compiler. This feature makes it possible to improve the functionality of the parent software, automate tasks, extract data from data sets, configure management, etc.

How does it work?

Generally, PowerShell functions more like a programming language than a command-line program because it was built on the .NET framework. Power shell works with objects. In fact, everything in PowerShell is an object. These objects represent attributes (properties) or instructions (methods). They can even be made continuous to work through the program as an input or output. PowerShell manipulates objects with four different types of commands.

Cmdlets

Cmdlets, pronounced as command-lets, are the basic single-function commands of PowerShell. If PowerShell is a paragraph, cmdlets are letters of every word in the section. One can use them singly to carry out a function and combined to carry out more significant functions. Note that each cmdlet still works as an individual function to contribute to the cmdlet output in the combined function.

However, cmdlets are not written in PowerShell. They are written in another language, compiled, and made available in PowerShell. Cmdlets is a critical command in PowerShell as their function limit depends on the developer’s creativity. Developers and DevOps engineers may use “pipes” to pass a cmdlet output into another cmdlet’s input as an object.

PowerShell functions

Functions are one of the many commands used to execute codes in PowerShell. Unlike cmdlets, functions are written in PowerShell language. They are a sequence of instructions that are formed and are to be achieved simply by invoking them. Its input is parameters, but the output can either appear on the user’s screen or be piped to another function or cmdlet input.

There are two functions in the power shell: basic and advanced. The basic function is the simplest form of the function used in PowerShell. With basic functions, there are no built-in features of inherited features. There’s only a set of curly brackets containing the function’s body. Advanced functions are functions that have properties of a basic function as its core, but have additional features. These functions carry built-in features which give it more functionality.

PowerShell scripts

PowerShell scripts are written with cmdlets. These scripts are used to create automation for different tasks. There are three types of commands in a PowerShell script. The “get” command is the first one used to retrieve data from a file system. The “set” command is used to edit the windows component information. This includes assigning properties to different components. The “remove” command is used to delete operations completely. PowerShell scripts reduce code complexity while writing codes and other use cases of automation.

Executable commands

Executable commands are commands used in running executable files. Executable files have an extension of .exe and are software components of Microsoft Windows. There are three commands used in running .exe files. The first is with the “Invoke-expression” command. This is arguably the most popular method of running these files.

The second command is the “start-process” cmdlet. This command starts more than one process on your device but gives the same result as the first command. The third option is typing “.\” before the file’s name. This is the easiest method, but all alternatives run the .exe file.

What is PowerShell used for?

Enabling task automation

The first of these reasons is task automation in DevOps. As a scripting language, PowerShell is mainly used to create automation. Automation spans every use case of PowerShell. Automations are made on other scripting languages but mostly on PowerShell because of the unique format system. PowerShell is also a better option because the program is extensible with functions, classes, cmdlets, and modules.

Driving data accessibility

Another reason for PowerShell’s popularity is data accessibility. A significant part of PowerShell use cases is administrative activities. In large computer networks, many services work independently and are controlled by a central IT admin. PowerShell offers the IT admin easy access to different data stores of network services such as file systems or registries.

Managing “infrastructure as code”

As a third reason, PowerShell employs a management framework that enables users to manage their company’s infrastructure with configuration as a code. This framework is called Desired State Configuration (DSC). Managers or IT admins obtain PowerShell skills to know how to push or pull configuration models in PowerShell for smooth composability as the need may be. They also need these skills to enforce configuration settings, obtain repeatable deployments and create declarative configurations.

Facilitating remote commands

Finally, PowerShell has such a wide acceptance rate and use case because of its ability to facilitate remote command. Remote use is the new gold rush and software or tools that allow remote work to gain widespread popularity. With PowerShell, administrators can perform remote operations on multiple systems. This is possible through Windows Management instrumentation and WS-management protocol. 

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