Windows PowerShell V5 Goodies in the April WMF5 Preview

It looks like we will get not just the package management features PackageManagement  and PowerShellGet, but the whole of PowerShell V5 downlevel to Windows 7.  This is great news!

The big features in V5 are package management, improved DSC and support for classes but there are quite a number of small goodies that folks will find useful.

First up are the package management features.  If you used a previous preview or read about earlier previews of PowerShell V5, you’ve probably heard about OneGet.  News alert: the OneGet module had to be renamed, due to trademark conflicts, to PackageManagement.  What is it with all this renaming?  First Metro, then OneDrive, now OneGet and possibly even Skype.  I guess I know why my company uses boring model numbers for products.  Smile

Keep in mind that OneGet, er PackageManagement is *not* a package manager itself but a manager of package managers.  One of those is PowerShellGet which comes “in the box”.

The PackageManagement module allows you to register various package sources.  By default you get the PSGallery which uses the PSModule provider used by PowerShellGet.  With this one feature you will be able to install popular PowerShell modules as simply as this:

PS C:\> Install-Module Pscx -Scope CurrentUser

You can install a module for all users (-Scope AllUsers) but you need to be running in an admin console to do so.  This feature alone is huge because it opens up easy access to very useful modules like Pscx, PSReadline, Pester, ISESteroids, xWebAdministration, etc to average users who might not know where to find these modules.  After all, we have multiple repos for these: CodePlex, GitHub, PoshCode, etc.  Additionally you can easily update modules to their latest versions using Update-Module.

When you start searching for or installing packages the first time, the PackageManagement module will need to bootstrap certain providers/sources like Chocolatey, which also requires it to download the NuGet provider (Chocolatey uses NuGet packages).

The Install-Package command allows you to install software from various repos. By default PowerShell comes with a Chocolatey provider which will allow you to install from Chocolatey but be careful, the same package may be found in multiple places.  For instance PSCX is on both the PSGallery and Chocolatey.

PS C:\> Find-Package Pscx | Format-Table -AutoSize

Name Version Source
---- ------- ------
pscx 3.2.0   chocolatey
Pscx 3.2.0.0 https://www.powershellgallery.com/api/v2/

The Install-Module command, as configured, will install only from the PSGallery.  However if you use Install-Package you can use the –Source parameter to specify the particular package source you want to install from.  Note that the version of Pscx from Chocolatey is actually the MSI installer for Pscx.

Chocolatey is a very handy source of developer tools.  You can easily find and install various tools using Install-Package e.g.:

PS C:\> Install-Package dotPeek –Source chocolatey
PS C:\> Install-Package fiddler4 -Source chocolatey

If you are thinking this looks like apt-get or yum on Linux, you’re right. Windows is overdue for a simple package management capability like this.

I’ve covered the classes feature in a previous blog post.  However there is a new related feature that will make using .NET types much easier and that is the new “using namespace” feature.  Ever get tired of typing full type names over and over?  Now you don’t need to:

using namespace System.Collections.Generic
$list = New-Object 'List[int]'
$cust = New-Object 'Dictionary[string, hashtable]'

I’ve been waiting a long time for that feature!!

There are also number of handy new commands:

  • Compress/Expand-Archive – finally!
  • Get/Protect/Unprotect-CmsMessage – protects secrets using PKI.  See my blog post on these commands.
  • Get-ItemProperyValue
  • New-Guid
  • New-TemporaryFile
  • Get-Clipboard – this can even paste file lists
  • Set-Clipboard
  • Format-Hex (the one in PSCX is better IMO)
  • Out-File, Add-Content and Set-Content have a new parameter -NoNewline
  • Get-ChildItem now has a -Depth parameter you use with -Recurse
  • Convert-String – for changing text from one form to another
  • ConvertFrom-String – to extract information from text into objects
  • New-Item -ItemType now takes SymbolicLink, HardLink and Junction as additional arguments
  • Test-ModuleManifest
  • Debug-Job, Debug-Process, Debug-Runspace
  • Disable-RunspaceDebug, Enable-RunspaceDebug, Get-RunspaceDebug, Wait-Debugger
  • Enter-PSHostProcess, Exit-PSHostProcess, Get-PSHostProcessInfo

For the Get-Clipboard FileList support, check this out.  I copied two files from different directories into the clipboard from Windows Explorer.  I was able to “get” those file items using Get-Clipboard:

PS C:\> Microsoft.PowerShell.Management\Get-Clipboard -Format FileDropList


    Directory: C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\Platforms\UAP\10.0.10030.0


Mode                LastWriteTime         Length Name
----                -------------         ------ ----
darhsl       12/31/1600   5:00 PM                Platform.xml


    Directory: C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\Source\ucrt\conio


Mode                LastWriteTime         Length Name
----                -------------         ------ ----
darhsl       12/31/1600   5:00 PM                pipe.cpp

Note that I prefixed Get-Clipboard with Microsoft.PowerShell.Management\Get-Clipboard to ensure I am using the new Get-Clipboard command and not the one in Pscx.

There are also a lot of enhancements to debugging.  You can break into the PowerShell debugger on any running script in the console by pressing Ctrl+Break (in ISE it is Ctrl+B).  You can remote edit a script using PSEdit from within a remote, interactive session (started with Enter-PSSession).  You can attach to any PowerShell engine process for debugging using Enter-PSHostProcess – this includes processes running on a remote machine!  Once you’re attached to the process, you can list all available runspaces using Get-Runspace, then start debugging the runspace you’re interested in using Debug-Runspace.

Get-Command will now also show the “Source” of a command instead of the ModuleName.  The pain in V4 and below is that when you use Get-Command on an exe or external script the default display did not show the path.  You had to pipe through Format-List Path to see the path to the command.  Not the case in V5, check it out:

PS C:\> Get-Command dnvm | Format-Table -AutoSize

CommandType    Name     Version Source
-----------    ----     ------- ------
ExternalScript dnvm.ps1         C:\Program Files\Microsoft DNX\Dnvm\dnvm.ps1

PowerShell V4 was interesting because of the DSC feature but as a dev I wasn’t able to use DSC that much so V4 was a bit of a let down for me.  However V5 is packed with lots of goodies for developers!!  You can grab the April WMF5 Preview from the link on this PowerShell team blog post.  Or if you are using Windows 10 build 10074 or higher, you already have it.

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