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Win10 cmd.exe Gets Major Enhancements

In working with the Windows 10 Technical Preview, and reading others’ reviews of that environment, I’ve been forcibly struck by the major improvements and additions to the venerable old command line prompt environment, accessed in Windows versions through cmd.exe since time immemorial. The key to exploring this facility’s new features and capabilities lies in the Experimental tab in the tool’s Properties window as shown here:

Check all available checkboxes after enabling experimental features (top checkbox) to explore the full range of added features.

There’s a nice blog post in the Building Apps for Windows blog dated 10/7/2014 from Rich Eizenhoefer that explains all these features. It’s entitled “Console Improvements in the Windows 10 Technical Preview” and it’s very much worth a read-through. The checkbox items in the preceding screen cap do tell most of that story, for those who know how to read between the lines, but here’s a quick recap to help make things clearer for those who may not immediately grok all the potential implications involved (verbatim text from the screen cap is bolded to make it stand out from the rest of the following information):

  • Enable experimental console features (applies globally): turns on the new cmd.exe features for all users, and also applies to the PowerShell environment, too.
  • Enable line wrapping selection: You can turn line wrapping on or off inside the Command Prompt window at will (but it’s necessary for it to be turned on to support the “Wrap text output on resize” item below).
  • Filter clipboard contents on paste: TAB characters are removed when pasting, and smart quotes get converted to dumb quotes likewise.
  • Wrap text output on resize: In keeping with the newly-added ability to arbitrarily resize the Command Prompt window using standard controls (mouse to stretch horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), the window can also wrap text automatically to fit the current window size.
  • Enable new Ctrl key shortcuts: There are lots of Ctrl key shortcuts for navigating and selecting text in Windows applications. For those familiar with these shortcuts they now work in the Command Prompt window; those unfamiliar with them will find all of them nicely documented in the aforelinked Building Apps for Windows blog post that precedes this bulleted list.
  • Extended edit keys: No more need to right-click the Command Prompt title bar to cut-n-paste text using pop-up menu selections. You can now cut and paste text inside the Command Prompt window using Ctrl-C (cut) and Ctrl-V (paste) keys, and the mouse cursor to select text without opening or navigating any menus at all. Hooray! For the complete set of editing key options available, check the blog post again.
  • Trim leading zeros on selection: When numbers include leading zeros, these will be removed from the paste buffer by default when using cut-n-paste operations in the Command Prompt window. If you need to retain leading zeros for some purposes or specific applications, be prepared to toggle this on and off as needed.
  • Opacity controls can be set between 30% and 100%; lower values allow you to see into the window behind the open Command Prompt window, which may be helpful in some situations. When it comes to this setting, YMMV clearly prevails.

There are a few other new features not explicitly called out in this window that are nonetheless worthy of mention:

  • High-res display support: The Command Prompt window supports selection of TrueType fonts via the Fonts tab, where that facility automatically scales fonts to an appropriate size based on monitor size and pixel resolution. For high-res displays, especially those at 2K or larger, this makes Command Prompt text much easier to read (or even see, for those approaching geezerhood, like yours truly).
  • PowerShell support: Everything that goes for the Command Prompt window in Windows 10 also goes for PowerShell, too. Among other nice benefits, this enables easy back-n-forth action between both environments with consistent features across the board for cut-n-paste, window resizing, high-resolution readability, and transparent windows. Hooray again!

This is good stuff, and worth getting to know, especially for admins who tend to spend more time on the command line than do most ordinary Windows users.

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