Microsoft

Command Prompt improvements in Windows 10 Technical Preview

There are some significant, exciting changes to the Command Prompt in Microsoft's Windows 10 Technical Preview. Greg Shultz takes a closer look.

Microsoft Windows 10
Image: Nick Statt/CNET

If you've read some of my recent articles, then you know that when Windows 10 Technical Preview came out, I was extremely excited about the return of a real Start Menu.

And I have to tell you, I haven't been disappointed in what I've found so far. The new Start Menu / Start Screen amalgamation in Windows 10 is really great. To get a primer on this great comeback, take a look at Tony Bradley's recent TechRepublic article, "How to customize the Windows 10 Start Menu (or Screen)."

Despite all of the fancy stuff in the Windows GUI, I still like working from the Command Prompt, as you can probably tell from some of my recent posts:

So, when I heard that — in addition to bringing the Start Menu back — Microsoft has spent a great deal of effort to make the Command Prompt a much more respectable environment to work in, I was intrigued. After all, the Command Prompt has essentially remained unchanged for years.

Once I began investigating the new features in Microsoft's Windows 10, I couldn't help but shout "FINALLY!" for some of them and "WOW!" for the others. Let's take a closer look.

Getting started

While the new features are available in Windows 10's Command Prompt, they need to be enabled. To do so, launch the Command Prompt as you normally would, access the Properties dialog, and select the Experimental tab. Then, select all of the check boxes (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

You'll enable the new Command Prompt features on the Experimental tab.

While the tab is titled Experimental in the Technical Preview, I'm betting that these settings will become a permanent part of the Command Prompt once Microsoft sees how well received they are — and my guess is that the tab will be renamed something like Advanced Settings.

To continue, click OK. Then close and re-launch the Command Prompt.

Windows 10 Command Prompt

Finally, the Command Prompt window is being treated as a real Windows application! Here are some of the things you'll discover.

Resizable window

Once you enable the Experimental features, the Command Prompt window works like all the other windows in the operating system. Click in the Maximize button, and the Command Prompt window fills the entire screen. To put it back, click the Restore button.

Want to manually resize the Command Prompt window? Simply position the cursor on one of the corners and, when the pointer turns into a double headed arrow, click and drag.

Word wrap

When you resize the Command Prompt window, you'll see that any text in the window responds accordingly. Make the window smaller, and the text wraps at the end of the line. Make the window larger, and the text extends to the edge of the window.

Text selection

Need to select some key text in the output of a command? For example, let's say you've used the ipconfig /all command and want to select the IPv6 Address. With Quick Edit Mode enabled, you can highlight the exact text that you want with the mouse pointer (Figure B); no more block selection.

Figure B

Figure B

Precise text selection is much easier now that the old block selection method is history.

Copy and paste

Once you've highlighted some text in a Command Prompt window, press [Ctrl]+[C] to copy the text to the clipboard — just like in any other application.

Want to paste a long path from File Explorer into a Command Prompt window? No problem, just copy the path, click the command line, and press [Ctrl]+[V].

Want to select and copy all the text in a Command Prompt window? Just press [Ctrl]+[A] followed by [Ctrl]+[C].

High resolution support

If you have a super high resolution display, you can select one of the Command Prompt's TrueType fonts and the operating system will now automatically scale the font to an appropriate size, based on the size of the monitor. This will make the text in the Command Prompt much easier to read at high resolutions.

Transparency

I never thought that I would see this feature natively supported in a Command Prompt. Using the slider on the Experimental tab, you can drop the opacity of the Command Prompt windows down from 100% to 30% or anywhere in between. Thus, it allows you to keep tabs on any window that happens to be behind the Command Prompt window (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

Having a transparent Command Prompt window can come in handy.

The setting you choose on the Experimental tab will be the default for any Command Prompt window that you open. However, once the window is in use, you can use keyboard shortcuts to adjust the opacity setting on the fly. Press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[+] to increase transparency. Press [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[-] to decrease transparency.

PowerShell

All of the same settings and features are also available for PowerShell command window. This allows you to switch back and forth between the two command-line environments and have all of the features remain consistent. Copy and paste, resizable windows, high resolution support, and transparent windows — it's all there in PowerShell.

More details

If you want more details and a deeper dive behind the scenes, be sure to investigate the article "Console Improvements in the Windows 10 Technical Preview" on the Microsoft Building Apps for Windows blog.

What your take?

Do you use the Command Prompt a lot in Windows? What do you think of the new features in the Windows 10 Technical Preview Command Prompt? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.

About Greg Shultz

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.

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