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Powershell in a Month – Day 2, Help

This is part of my Powershell Challenge, to learn more about Powerhsell (PoSh) using the Learn Windows Powershell 3 in a Month of Lunches book by Don Jones.

Today was Chapter 3, Using the Help System. Another not-so-exciting topic, but one that does matter. There are a ton of commands to learn and use in PoSh and being able to get help on them is important if you are to develop code with any level of speed. Note I said code. This is scripting, it’s interactive, but it’s code. Whether you run it once or save it and schedule executions every minute, it’s code.

The first point in the chapter is to RTFM, or “read the friendly manual”. The authors emphasize that using Google instead of help means you’re copying code, not learning about the code, and potentially stunting your development or even wrecking your production system with commands you don’t understand. As much as I love Google, I can understand the point here.

One of the first things the chapter does is ask you to update help. However that didn’t work for me:


The book doesn’t talk about the CLI v the ISE, which is the problem. I found a post on MSDN that noted this works from Powershell, but not the Powershell ISE.  Once I went to the CLI, it worked.


I used to do UNIX work, and was forever typing “Man xxx” to learn about xxx. MAN is a wrapper here, as is “help” for the get-help command. I played around with some get-help stuff, using wildcards and tab completion. Both of which are handy. I can definitely see that learning to use help and tab is important.

The rest of the chapter brings out various ways in which you can use help, including getting more details, getting examples, and going to the online pages, which are more up to date than your local copy might be. All good tricks to getting going with PoSh. Lots of example commands showing how to get help, and I ran most of these.

The chapter was boring, but at the end when I got to the lab, I was surprised how little I know. As I tried to go through the lab questions, I wasn’t sure what was working and what wasn’t. I didn’t know if I was actually running the right commands, since things like “help *array*” worked. There are answers you can download from the morelunches.com site, and once I did that, I was able to check my results, and get help on a few items I wasn’t sure about. 

I was surprised that I learned a few things, and I can definitely see that working with help is both important, and cumbersome. For example, the scrolling isn’t smooth in the ISE and the MORE piping from the HELP wrapper doesn’t work. Definitely something to practice on as I move through the book.

Filed under: Blog Tagged: career, powershell, syndicated

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