A review — Microsoft Windows PowerShell Step By Step (Ed Wilson)

March 23, 2009

Another book review, and another giveaway for the Adelaide SQL Server User Group. This time, it’s Microsoft Windows PowerShell Step By Step.

Last month I had picked up the Windows PowerShell Scripting Guide, wondering if it was going to be a good recommendation for people who were interesting in getting into PowerShell. Even though I thought the book was very good (particularly if you want to use PowerShell to access the innards of a Windows installation), it didn’t seem like the right book for recommending for PowerShell beginners.

This book is though, and I’ll definitely recommend it for people wanting to get into PowerShell.

It’s worth pointing out that it’s a thinner (and cheaper) book than the other one. It certainly doesn’t cover how to perform the variety of Windows Admin commands that the Scripting Guide did. But what it replaces that with is a guide on getting the most out of PowerShell. PowerShell is used in so many different products now, it’s no longer just the domain of Windows Administrators. Developers can use PowerShell for unit tests. DBAs can use PowerShell to perform routine maintenance. Just about everyone in IT could use PowerShell to make their job easier. My background is in development, not system administration, so I’m always keen to write code to automate tasks. I was never that keen on VBScript, but PowerShell gives me a much richer environment while also being much closer to the system itself. I can hook into subsystems of Windows and .Net objects easily, and into environment variables, certificates and more, piping the results into other functions and utilities to extend the scripts as much as my imagination can provide. I’m always happy to recommend PowerShell as an important skill for the future.

And this book can people get introduced to PowerShell, walking them (step by step, just like the title suggests) into the depths of PowerShell — leveraging functions and providers, and a good introduction to using PowerShell with WMI and Exchange. I’ve enjoyed reading it, and plan to re-read it a few times over the next months, looking for those techniques that I’m not using (yet) but that I’d like become more familiar with. PowerShell reminds me of my early days using the vi editor (which I still use as my preferred text editor in Windows). We were forced to use vi at university, and the learning curve felt very steep. It seemed as if I learned some new (and better) way of doing something every day, to the extent that these days I still find it by far the quickest way to edit many types of text files. This book feels like those fellow students of mine, pointing out features I didn’t know existed even after I felt proficient (although I’m pleased to mention, not as many as I thought there might have been).

The book also has a CD full of examples that I need to find time to go through (and tweak, and practise, and learn). It includes a bunch of utilities, and an electronic copy of the book as well. Having said that, the book isn’t too big to carry with me for a while, and I’m sure will be a regular read for those “no electronic device” periods of flights.

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