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The Windows 10 Command Prompt includes new capabilities

The Windows Command Prompt has been a stable feature for years, but Windows 10 brings some much-needed tweaks to the command prompt window.

Not many features have been a part of Windows throughout its entire history, but the Command Prompt window is such a feature. In fact, throughout the operating system's 30-year history, the Windows Command Prompt has undergone only one radical change.

Prior to the release of Windows 2000, desktop versions of Windows were not true OSes. Instead, Windows was merely an operating platform that ran on top of MS-DOS. In those days, the Command Prompt window was merely a convenient way to access the DOS prompt.

That changed in Windows 2000, when Microsoft gave Windows its own kernel. Because Windows no longer ran on top of MS-DOS, the Command Prompt had to be rewritten. The replacement Command Prompt window was an emulated environment that mimicked MS-DOS.

Over the years, there have been minor feature additions to the Command Prompt, but the Command Prompt window remained largely unchanged.

One thing that has long frustrated Windows administrators is that because the Command Prompt window is designed to emulate something that was created in the 1980s, it behaves very differently from almost any other Windows application. Thankfully, Microsoft has decided to modernize the Command Prompt window in Windows 10.

Most of the changes that Microsoft has made to the command prompt involve the way that Copy and Paste works. If you have ever tried to copy a block of text and paste it into the Windows Command Prompt, then you know that the Command Prompt window doesn't work with Ctrl+C or Ctrl+Z.

Instead, an admin had to click on the icon at the upper left corner of the Command Prompt window and choose either the Edit | Paste commands or the Edit | Mark, Edit | Copy commands, which you can see in Figure 1. In contrast, Windows 10 will allow text to be copied and pasted to the Command Prompt window in the same manner as any other window.

Windows 10 will allow text to easily be copied to the Command Prompt window.
Copy and Paste previously required using the Edit menu.

 

The pre-Windows 10 Command Prompt window also behaved strangely when it came to marking (selecting) text prior to copying the text to the clipboard. You couldn't just select the text. You had to use the Command Prompt menu to tell Windows that you wanted to mark the text. Even after that, however, the marking process did not respect wrapped text.

For a more concrete example, suppose that you wanted to mark text beginning in the middle of a line of text and extending to the next line. Rather than marking all of the text between the start point and the end point, Windows would mark a rectangle of incomplete text. You can see what this looks like in Figure 2.

Windows used to mark a rectangle of incomplete text.
The old command prompt did not support line wrapping.

By contrast, Figure 3 demonstrates how line wrapping works in Windows 10.

Line wrapping and marked text are more consistent in Windows 10.
In Windows 10, line wrapping works the same way that it does in Notepad.

Another way line wrapping behaved oddly in the pre-Windows 10 Command Prompt is that paste operations were not always cohesive. If you attempted to paste a block of text into the legacy command prompt and the text extended beyond the edge of the screen , Windows inserted a line break every time the text reached the right edge of the screen. Consequently, the long command that was being pasted into the window is interpreted (usually incorrectly) as a series of short text blocks rather than one long text string.

If you want to get a better feel for all of the new Windows 10 Command Prompt features, simply choose the Properties command from the Command Prompt menu. The Experimental tab contains a series of checkboxes you can use to enable and disable the new features.

As you can see in Figure 4, most of the new features are enabled by default. Presumably the Experimental tab will go away or be renamed in the release to manufacturing version of Windows 10.

The Experimental tab shows which new features are enabled by default.
Most of the new features are displayed on the Experimental tab.

Windows 10 contains some very welcome new features. It is great to see Microsoft finally update a long neglected part of its OS by updating the Windows Command Prompt.

Next Steps

See how Windows 10 features compare with those of Windows 7 and Windows 8

Ten Windows command prompt tricks you should know

Manage Windows 7 desktops with these command-line tools

This was last published in March 2015

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Essential Guide

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Will the Windows 10 Command Prompt change make your life easier? What other changes do you want?
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I find myself returning to Linux systems all the time, because I get annoyed with the additional requirements to install and manage apps, software, and etc. Windows did not have much good in place with Windows 8, but things are expected to be different with Windows 10.

You can search and command with easy terms through the OneGet package manager. This is a big plus--all else I'm currently hoping for is better virtual control management.
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I think the updates to using copy and paste will make things easier in the command prompt but, as I mentioned in another comment, I would like to see the command prompt receive some of the options that give the *nix shells so much power and make them more efficient to use. a couple of example are“!*” , which can be used to reference all of the last non-command items, ‘!$”, which reference the last non-command items, and “!^” which references the first non-command item from the previous command.
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Haven't used a command prompt since PowerShell v3.
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Making the option to copy and paste commands less onerous is definitely a positive. as to what I personally would like to see, I'd love to see a way to do history call and command substitution the way the bash shell does it now.
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Regarding "Selecting Text" in pre-win10 command prompt windows, you can Edit the properties of the shortcut and on the Options Tab, select "Quick Edit Mode." Then you can always use the mouse to select text, and then right-click to copy, and then right click to paste back in the same window, or use any Paste command to paste the selected text into any other Windows Program.
Regarding 'history call" - while I'm not a bash shell user, I wonder if you know about the Function keys: F7 will display a popup window of the command line history; F8 will scroll up through the command line history; and F9 will let you enter the line number of a previous command, if you already know it.
Hope this helps!
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Have extra fun with text selection keys, history navigation keys. This is just hotkeys! Be sure to explore the Properties dialog as well, and more.
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@DamienKay: I have been an avid user of the Command Prompt for two decades (learned to use a computer in the MS-Dos days, way before Windows 95 :-D ) but I was so shocked about your F7 tip that I instantly opened a command window to try it out. Thanks!! I have always (at least since Windows 95) known about using the up arrow key to cycle through commands, (which I think is the same in Linux bash shell; I've used Linux a bit but I'm not an expert), but this Function key option is really cool! So, @Michael Larsen, it's history actually has been available with the up/down arrow keys. I'm not bashing bash here (pun intended ;-) lol; I do have a tremendous amount of respect for Linux) but I'm not sure bash has the extra visual listing of commands option.
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An YET they still cannot give users what they really want...
The WIN7 "Classic Start/Menu UI" for NON Touch systems.
Linux can give it to users as a SKIN why can Microsoft do the same??
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I was actually hoping for something a little more radical that borrowed more from the power of the *nix shells, like an easier way to list directory contents with more options. I find the command prompt (or at least my knowledge of how to use it) to be too limiting for what I typically do, so I’ve been running a Cygwin terminal on all windows machines I use for years. That solution not only helps me keep my bash shell skills current, but it also allows me to work more efficiently, regardless of which environment I’m working in.
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Quick Edit has worked well with CMD for a long time; turn it on with defaults, adjust screen size as you like, scroll buffers. Then open a new CMD window.

Select text with a mouse, very easily, press and it is in your paste buffer. Right click on the CMD windows and the text will paste.

What could be easier? Much, much better than .

The new option is not needed and not in any way better than what has been available for a long, long, long time.



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Why didn't they just used powershell?
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I was told that PS was not for home users - just for system administrators.
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