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Quick Tip Windows 7: Customize the command prompt

In Microsoft Windows 7, you can customize the command prompt using specifically configured shortcuts to better match the task at hand.

Despite the Microsoft Windows 7 graphical user interface, with its advanced features like Snap, Shake, and Peek, there are still plenty of good reasons to use the command prompt. If you find yourself using the command prompt for several different tasks, you may want to take a few minutes to customize it. By adjusting the font, screen size, and background color, you can make several versions of the command prompt environment, thereby associating each command prompt shortcut to a specific task.

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Create the shortcut

The customization is accomplished by adjusting property settings located in a Windows shortcut. The first step is to create a command prompt shortcut. There are several ways to do this, but for our purposes we'll use the direct method.

Right-click on any blank part of the Windows 7 Desktop and navigate to the New | Shortcut menu item (Figure A). This action will open a shortcut creation wizard, like Figure B.

Figure A

New Shortcut

Figure B

Shortcut creation wizard
Type or browse the following path in the Type the Location of the Item box, as shown in Figure C. Click Next when you are ready.

C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe

Figure C

The location
The next screen asks for a unique name for your new shortcut. You can name it whatever you'd like, but I am going to keep it simple and use Command 1 and then click Finish (Figure D).

Figure D

Command 1
There is now a new Command 1 shortcut on the Windows Desktop. Right-click that new shortcut and navigate to the Properties menu item to get the Properties screen, shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Shortcut Properties
Many times you need to run a command prompt with administrative privileges. You can make your customized shortcut run as administrator every time by clicking the Advanced button under the Shortcut tab and clicking the appropriate check box, as shown in Figure F. Click OK to put it into effect.

Figure F

Running as administrator
Under the Options tab, you can change the size of the command prompt cursor and change the two Edit Options check boxes (Figure G). Quick Edit mode allows you to paste text from the Windows clipboard into the command prompt without having to use the menu paste control. Insert mode, when checked, allows you to insert text at the cursor. If you unclick Insert mode, text will overwrite whatever text is there.

Figure G

Edit Options
Under the Font tab of the Properties screen, you can change the size of the command prompt cursor and change the font of the display (Figure H).

Figure H

Changing size and font
Under the Layout tab (Figure I), you can change the size and position of the command prompt screen on the Windows Desktop.

Figure I

Changing screen size and position
Under the Colors tab of the Shortcut Properties screen, you can change the color scheme this particular command prompt will use (Figure J). Note, the colors chosen are for instructional purposes only.

Figure J

Changing colors
Click OK when you have all the configuration settings the way you want them. My settings (Figure K) are a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea. By using a specific combination of Properties settings you can establish a set of command prompt shortcuts, each with visible cues to help you keep track of which prompt is running and what task needs to be accomplished.

Figure K

Identifiable command prompt
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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

11 comments
Franchell_Linda
Franchell_Linda

very nice tip ... thanks buffalo gals computer works

TobiF
TobiF

One of the first things I figured out with Vista was that I needed a convenient shortcut for an elevated command prompt, to use for flushing dns etc. And at the same time, I set a different background for this window, so that I'd easily see the difference.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you customize your command prompts? How often do you use the command prompt?

ian
ian

In Vista, you still need to negotiate the UAC. As FishWalker asked, it would be nice to utilize the windows key. Shortcuts always use cntrl+alt+ which means good dexterity in one hand or use two hands. Does anyone know how to configure the windows key?

Ron_007
Ron_007

I like it, I tried it then did some googling. I found this additional tip: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/adioltean/archive/2004/12/27/332974.aspx It allows you to set quickedit as a system default by using this DOS cmd: REG.EXE add HKCU\Console /v QuickEdit /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f I imagine it will also work for Win7. I also found that quickedit didn't work quite the way I expected in Vista. didn't work and paste happened immediately on right click. I can work with that. I use a variation of your suggestion to make the background red. I do the same for my Windows desktop background in my Administration ID. That way I can't forget when I am logged in as administrator.

elrico-fantastica
elrico-fantastica

if your command prompts arnt green text on a black background thats hacker 101 ....havent u seen the matrix?

fishwalker
fishwalker

I've used the Windows+R -> cmd to launch the cmd prompt for years, is it possible to customize the cmd prompt if you launch it this way?

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

My first encounter with a PC was an 8088 XT and it had a green print on black monochrome monitor, the rich dude up the street had an 8086 AT and an orange print on black monochrome monitor I still have an 8-bit MDA ISA card with a hardwired to 3BC parallel port on it and it still works

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

don't know about vista / 7 -(not deploying anything past XP here) win2K /XP: in the open cmd window that you launched from the run dialog use the application menu on the left of the cmd window select properties make the changes and when you click OK it will give a dialog asking: (*) Apply properties to current window only ( ) Save properties for future windows with the same title choose the second option and click OK then every time you open cmd from the run dialog it will have those customizations

lelandhamilton
lelandhamilton

after running CMD, right click in title bar and select Properties. I usually run CMD in a maximized window and have gone to the extreme a few times with a window width of 151 to capture some program outputs. I also have link to CMD in my start menu.