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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.

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