After I wrote the article "Get into gear with new features in Windows 8.1's PowerShell ISE," I recalled a similar tool that I used for a while back in 2005 that provided you with a tabbed environment for the standard Command Prompt. In addition, the tool also provided you with several windows conveniences, such as drag-and-drop, and other features like command history. For the life of me, I couldn't recall the name of the tool. However, after a bit of searching on the web, I was able to find it.
Called PromptPal from Technology Lighthouse, I immediately downloaded the tool. After reacquainting myself with it, I soon discovered that the newest version of PromptPal provides all sorts of new features that really make it a nice addition to Windows 7/8.1 when working from the Command Prompt. Knowing that there are a lot of command-line junkies out there, I decided to write an introduction to some of my favorite features in PromptPal.
Let me begin by saying that while PromptPal can be downloaded as a free 30-day trial, it does cost $29.99 (USD) for a license key. The free trial provides you with access to all of the tool's features. The license comes with a 90-day money back guarantee, lifetime support, and free updates.
As I mentioned, one of the features that I really liked in the earlier version of PromptPal (that I used years ago) was the tabbed user interface, and that is still present in the current version. Being able to have more than one Command Prompt window open in the same interface really is a nice feature. I often run multiple command-line tools simultaneously when troubleshooting connectivity issues. For instance, I might run IPConfig, PathPing, or Netstat. When I do, it's so much nicer to simply click a tab rather than having to go to the Taskbar. It also helps to reduce Taskbar clutter, thus making it easier to find other applications.
In addition to being able to have several instances of a Command Prompt open at one time, PromptPal also provides you with the added benefit of being able to open Administrative Command Prompt tabs (Figure A). Better yet, you'll find buttons for opening new tabs on the PromptPal toolbar.
PromptPal allows you to easily run instances of Administrative Command Prompt.
There's also an Advanced tab feature that will allow you to run the Windows PowerShell console. However, after using PowerShell ISE, I can't see any advantages to using this PromptPal feature.
There are lots of command-line tools that are packed with switches, and remembering them all is difficult — even for the most prodigious command-line power user. PromptPal provides a number of features that make it easy for you to quickly and efficiently use the available tools. As you type commands at the prompt, you'll encounter the Command Completion and the Command History features, which both appear in a pop-up (Figure B).
PromptPal provides you will all kinds of assistance.
As you begin typing, the pop-up will show you a list of commands that match what you are typing. At anytime, you can just click the command in the pop-up to bring it into the command line. In addition to the standard commands, you'll discover that the pop-up also displays matching commands that you have used previously (i.e. Command History). Again, if you want to reuse a previous command line, just click the command in the pop-up to bring it into the command line.
You'll notice that the command you are typing displays in what PromptPal calls the Info Bar, which appears right below the tabs and shows you the exact syntax of the command along with the available switches. Once you begin adding a switch to the command, you'll see the contents of the pop-up change to display all the available switches.
PromptPal also provides a customizable Command List. When you access it, the Command List shows you a list of all the commands that PromptPal has in its database. If you double-click on a command in the Command List, you see the Edit Command Information dialog box. While you can edit the information as you see fit, this feature also works like a Help system, providing reference details and syntax of the various commands.
And, if you discover that there's a command-line tool that isn't in the Command List, you can add it with the Add Command Info Wizard (Figure C).
Use the Add Command Info Wizard to add information to the Command List.
There are several other features in PromptPal that make it a valuable tool for working with the command line. The first of these is drag-and-drop. You can drag text out of PromptPal to an external application, you can drag text from an external application into PromptPal, and you can drag text from one area of PromptPal to another.
Another handy feature is the ability to insert folder and file path information into a command line. As you are typing your command, just click the Insert Folder Path or Insert File Path button on the toolbar.
Need to save a command's output to a text file? Just pull down the File menu and select the Save Text command. Better yet, create a command shortcut and assign it to [Ctrl] + [S] (Figure D).
You can create shortcuts for your favorite commands.
There's no shortage of configuration and customization settings in PromptPal. For example, on the Preferences tab of the PromptPal Configuration dialog box (Figure E), you'll find a host of settings that allow you to configure PromptPal's appearance and editing features. If you mess up, just click the "Restore defaults" button to return to the original settings.
You can configure PromptPal to work the way that you want.
What's your take?
When it comes to working from a Command Prompt, I've found that PromptPal gives me a lot more control and convenience. Have you used PromptPal? If so, what do you think? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to chime in the discussion thread below.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.