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command line interfaceWhen it comes to the command line, it often seems that our Linux and Mac OS brethren get to have all the fun. They have all of these fantastic shell environments (bash and zsh, for example), but more importantly, they have some very slick console application to access their text shells from within X-Windows or OS X.

While recent version of Windows have started offering something called PowerShell, that addresses only half of the problem. Using PowerShell is still a decidedly eighties-style experience, with plain looking windows and a dearth of customization options. In sweeps Console, ready to save the day with its awesome-sauce and open-source chic.

command line interface

At its simplest, you can use Console to create a ginormous-looking command console. “But this can be done with Windows’ own console!” I hear you say. You’re right, you really can change the font size with the default Windows tool. What you can’t do is smoothly drag it to change its width – and that’s something Console easily lets you do.

This alone may not be worth the hassle of installing a new app. Fortunately, Console has several other tricks up its sleeve. Check this out:

windows command line mode

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This is part of Console’s Settings dialog, which lets you configure multiple tabs. Not only can you have several tabs, but each tab can use a different shell! So you can have normal Windows “cmd” running alongside PowerShell, in one single app. In fact, there it is:

windows command line mode

This screenshot gave me a chance to demo another PowerShell feature called alpha transparency. While there are plenty of third-party utilities that let you set window opacity for any app on your system (Volumouse 5 Desktop Enhancements you Should Definitely Try 5 Desktop Enhancements you Should Definitely Try Read More , anyone?), it’s nice to have that option built right into Console.

Console’s tabs are different than your browser’s tabs in one key respect: Each new tab type you make gets saved, and you can then quickly access that type of tab using the New Tab menu.

command line interface

By the way, can you see how the text cursor in the screenshot above looks a bit strange? That’s because it’s pulsing – Console lets you select one of several styles for your cursor, and I went for one that constantly changes size, just to see what it’s like. It’s a cute gimmick but not something I think I’d use on a regular basis.

Another one of my pet peeves about Windows’ default console is that for some obscure reason, you can’t just select text and copy it! You need to go to the window menu, select Edit, then Mark. What’s the deal, Microsoft? With Console, I can just hold down Shift, start dragging, and text is selected for copying just like I would expect it to work. Once text is selected, you do need to use a toolbar button to copy it – if you’ve ever used the console before, you may remember that Ctrl+C means “Break” in DOS.

Bottom Line

I first used Console when I needed it for screen-sharing. I was looking for a way to quickly make a huge console window that the other person could clearly see even though resolution was terrible on our connection. It did the trick then, but that was using just part of its abilities. If you spend any length of time using Windows’ command-line tools, then first – you have my condolences. Second, you really should take Console for a spin.

  1. Donald
    July 24, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Please, can you tell me where to find the stripes wallpaper on the third picture? Thanks!

    • Anonymous
      July 25, 2011 at 7:02 pm

      Sure! It's from SimpleDesktops.com. Lots of awesome wallpapers there actually, if minimalism is your thing. Their tagging system isn't so great so I was unable to track down this particular one, but it's not an endless collection -- and who knows, you may find something else you like there :)

    • Donald
      July 26, 2011 at 6:53 am

      Found it, thanks!

  2. Mike
    July 22, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    One question I haven't read out:
    Is it an "improved feature richer" version of command line or does it also provide additional functionality/commands like Cygwin?

    • Anonymous
      July 22, 2011 at 3:47 pm

      No, it's just a better GUI wrapper (you might say) around the CMD executable. But you can use it with other shell executables as well, and probably Cygwin too.

    • Donald
      July 26, 2011 at 11:20 am

      I use it with Cygwin, works perfectly!

  3. Sam Reckoner
    July 22, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    The problem with this is that it doesn't play nicely with autohotkey. Some keys are not interpreted correctly by console2. 

    • Anonymous
      July 22, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      Interesting -- could you copy/paste some AHK code here so I can test and confirm? I'm also going to review another alternative console soon, so I'd like to see how your script works there.

  4. D G
    July 22, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Erez,

    Nice article, already downloading it to try it out. One note though on the Windows command line. You can copy and paste in one operation with using the file menu. You have to setup your option s on the command window. So instead of Right-Clicking and Choosing Mark, choose Properties instead. This brings up all the properties for the current command window, on the Options Tab under Edit Options click "Quick Edit Mode" and then Ok to save. You will be prompted to apply the changes to only the current window or to the shortcut that opened the current window. This allows you to change the default behaviour for cmd.exe or just the currently open window.

    • Anonymous
      July 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      Hey, that's a great tip! Thank you! Now if only they made it possible to set the width... ;)

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