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Windows is not really made to be managed from a command-line interface, and the somewhat primitive Windows Command Prompt stresses this fact. But the strongest side of Windows is that, for every weakness, a third party steps into the breach—and, in many cases, the stopgap is free. (Which is why the 4sysops list of free Windows admin tools now already contains 343 tools.) Console is another candidate.
Windows Command Prompt alternative - Console
Console's list of features reads like a list of Windows Command Prompt shortcomings:
Resizing the Windows Command Prompt
To enlarge a Windows Command Prompt window, you have to specify width and height through the window properties. Can someone please tell me what the point of this "feature" is? The majority of commands and messages don't fit into the tiny default size. Of course, you can change the default size, but then when you need a smaller window, you have to go through this cumbersome resizing procedure again.
With Console, you can resize the shell with the mouse, just like with every other Windows application. Yes, you can decrease the window size of the Windows Command Prompt with the mouse, but then you have to scroll horizontally to view lines that don't fit into the window. Console creates line breaks, which makes the reading of long lines much easier. The only thing missing here in Console is that it is not possible to maximize the window.
Copy and paste on the Windows Command Prompt
Copying and pasting on the Windows Command Prompt only works after you enable Quick Edit. I'm not sure why this is necessary. But my main critique here is this strange highlighting method that allows you to select only a rectangular area. Whenever you want to copy a command or output messages that extend over multiple lines, you have a problem. You either select too much text or not enough—never what you want.
Copy and paste - Windows Command Prompt
Copy and paste - Console
Console allows you to select text just as in any other Windows program by moving the cursor to the position where the command ends, which is the only highlighting method that really makes sense. By default, you have to press the SHIFT key while selecting text. However, you can configure this. You can copy text through the context menu, or you can configure a hot key. Avoid using CTRL + C though, because you might need this key combination to abort commands. The default setting is CTRL + INS. To paste text, you have to press SHIFT + INS. I don't see any reason not to configure CTRL + V here. By the way, there are many other hot keys. Check out the Console Settings.
If you only launch the Windows Command Prompt whenever you want to ping a remote host, you probably won't need this feature. But for those admins who think that GUI administration tools are only for sissies and who curse in PowerShell when you wake them up in the middle of the night, tabs are a must-have feature. If you want to use PowerShell with Console, you have to add a tab in the Console Settings and use this command for the shell on a Windows 7 machine: %SystemRoot%\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe. You can then open a PowerShell tab through the toolbar.
PowerShell geeks might prefer the Windows PowerShell ISE, especially for writing scripts. However, Console has more settings to offer when it comes to working on the command shell. In particular, the hot keys that allow you to switch quickly between tabs are quite useful.
Moreover, you can assign different kinds of shells to each tab. You just have to point the tab to the corresponding executable. Just in case you're thinking of using Putty with Console, well, this doesn't work. This would be my second favorite feature for the next Console version. My favorite feature? Support for Windows Server 2008 2 Server Core.
By the way, Console is portable. The settings can either be stored in an XML file in its folder or in the user profile.
Do you know of another good Windows Command Prompt alternative?