Derek Schauland finds a free tool to help shore up your PowerShell skills and share knowledge with a community of users.
When I started using PowerShell and various Integrated Scripting Environments (ISEs) to help me become more proficient, PowerShell Studio from Idera was one that quickly surfaced as an easy-to-use and comprehensive editing platform.
What are the standout features?
SigningPowerShell Plus has many solid features, my favorite being the ease with which scripts can be signed. In other tools, saving a script would sign it if the option was enabled, which is great, but PowerShell Plus allows selection of installed code-signing certificates in the event that multiple certificates are installed. Suppose your IT organization uses self-signed certificates for development and testing, but has a code signing certificate available for production use. PowerShell Plus supports the selection of certificates right from the GUI. Figure B shows the selection pane for certificates.
Choose your certificate (click to enlarge images)
Code signing is only available from within a script. When a script is opened or a new script document is created, the code signing tab is available. If no certificates are available on your computer when you attempt to sign a script, PowerShell Plus will prompt you to create one the first time you attempt to select one.
Because I am still learning the ins and outs of PowerShell, the get-help commandlet is one I use fairly often. When a new script is created, the comment blocks needed to add help to the script are included at the top of the file. By doing this, PowerShell Plus allows you to enter the details in a preformatted section of text. This ensures that as you create scripts they include comment-based help. Since you are not required to add, or go back and add, the help documentation to scripts created, the details are more likely to get added if they can easily be added right away.
Starter CodePowerShell Plus provides a Getting Started pane to help those using it to quickly access items from PowerShell. Other applications have done snippets of code to allow for reuse, but the straightforward nature of the getting started portion of this application is much like an idea starter. Figure C shows the Getting Started pane.
Scenario based code samples
Code samples are based on useful items to help you see real world reasons to use PowerShell. For example, one of the getting-started scripts allows you to query the registry for installed applications. To use this code, highlight it in the sidebar and drag it to the script file. The code will be expanded and ready for use. The availability of useful code, outside of PowerShell itself, is a great way to see what the language is capable of.
Clicking on the tabs at the bottom of the Quick Click Library pane also exposes other products that can leverage PowerShell to provide even more useful examples. The included products are:
- Active Directory
- Microsoft Exchange
- Internet Information Server
Being able to get feedback from the PowerShell community by uploading your content to community servers at powershell.com is a great way to help others with scripts you are working on. In addition to publishing content to powershell.com, you can download scripts from the community to help solve problems and learn by example how a script operates.
To access community content, you will need an account at Powershell.com. To upload content, you will also need an API key. Once you have these items, a wizard inside of the application will walk you through connecting to the community servers.
What does the application cost?
PowerShell Plus is completely free. There was at one time a $49.95 cost associated with the application, but Idera removed the cost and has put some ads in to other tools for PowerShell, SharePoint, and SQL Server, but I did not find them to be intrusive. For someone getting started in PowerShell and looking for a tool to help learn the language, this might be the perfect tool to use, especially if price is an issue.Final thoughts
The real world examples included with this product as well as the ability to connect to a community for examples and useful scripts is a great feature to have out of the box. Working with PowerShell offers a ton of learning opportunities and while the technology has been around for a few years, it is becoming more prevalent every day. Many more products from Microsoft and other vendors will be incorporating PowerShell for management and automation purposes, so having tools like PowerShell Plus available to decrease the learning curve is a big benefit.