Pillars of PowerShell: profiling

Posted in: Technical Track

Introduction

This is the fourth blog post continuing the series on the Pillars of PowerShell. The previous post in the series are:

  1. Interacting
  2. Commanding
  3. Debugging

Profiles

This is something I mentioned in the second post and can be a great way to keep up with those one-liners you use most often in your work. A profile with PowerShell is like using start up scripts in an Active Directory environment. You can “pre-run” things on a domain computer at start up or when a user logs into the machine. In a PowerShell profile you can “pre-load” information, modules, custom functions, or any command you want to execute in the PowerShell console. There is a separate profile for the console and then for PowerShell ISE. Your profile is basically a PowerShell script saved into a specific location under your Documents folder. The path to this profile is actually kept within a system variable, most notably called, $PROFILE.

Output of the $PROFILE variable

Output of the $PROFILE variable

I am using a Windows Azure VM that I just built, so I have not created any profiles on this machine. The path is kept within this variable but that does not mean it actually exists. We will need to create this file and the easiest method to do this is to actually use a cmdlet, New-Item. You can use this cmdlet to create files or folders. You can execute this one-liner to generate the PowerShell script in the path shown above:

New-Item $PROFILE -ItemType File -Force
New-Item $PROFILE

New-Item $PROFILE

Now, from here you can use another cmdlet to open the file within the default editor set to open any “.ps1” file on your machine, Invoke-Item. This might be Notepad or you can set it to be the PowerShell ISE as well. Just execute this cmdlet followed by the $PROFILE variable (e.g. Invoke-Item $PROFILE).

One of the things I picked up on when I started using my profile more often was you can actually format your console. More specifically, I like to shorten the “PS C:\Users\melton_admin” portion. If you start working in directories that are 3 or 4 folders deep this can take up a good portion of your prompt. I came across a function that I truthfully cannot find the original poster, so sorry for not attributing it.

function prompt
{
if($host.UI.RawUI.CursorPosition.Y -eq 0) { "<$pwd> `n`r" + "PS["+$host.UI.RawUI.CursorPosition.Y+"]> "} else { "PS["+$host.UI.RawUI.CursorPosition.Y+"]> "}
}

Any function you save in your profile that performs an action you can call anytime in the PowerShell console, once it is loaded. However if I want that action to take effect when it loads the profile I simply need to call the function at the end of the profile script. I just add these two lines and ensure they are always the last two lines of my profile, anything added will go between the function above and these two lines:

prompt;
clear;

Profile_format

I use the clear command (just like using cls in the DOS prompt) to just get rid of any output a function or command I have may cause; just starts me out on a fresh clean slate.

If you want to test your profile script you can force it to load into your current session by doing this: .$profile. That is enter “period $profile” and just hit enter. You will need to take note that since I use the clear command in my profile if any cmdlet or one-liner I add outputs an error you will not see it. So when I have issues like this I simply comment the line out of my profile. You can put comments into your script using the pound sign (#), putting that before a command will allow it to be ignored or not run.

Set-ExecutionPolicy

PowerShell is a security product by default, so in certain operating system environments when you try to run your profile script above you may have gotten an error like this:

ExecutionPolicyError

 

 

 

This means pretty much what it says, execution of scripts is disabled. To enable this you need to use the Set-ExecutionPolicy cmdlet with a few parameters. You can find the documentation for this if you want by looking at the “about_Execution_Policies” in PowerShell or follow the link in the error. The documentation will explain the various options and policies you can set. The command below will allow you to execute scripts in your console and let it load your profile scripts:

Set-ExecutionPolicy -Scope CurrentUser -ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

Summary

In this post I pointed out the following cmdlets and concepts:

  • New-Item
  • Invoke-Item
  • Commenting in your script
  • Set-ExecutionPolicy

These are fairly basic areas of PowerShell and putting each one into your favorite search engine should lead you to a plentiful list of reading material. This post by no means encompassed all the potential you can do with Profiles, but was simply meant to get you started, and hopefully excited about what can be done.

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Author

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About the Author

Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP, Shawn has a knack for automating mundane task where IT staff can focus on more business critical issues and task. He has been recognized for his skills in PowerShell and has a broad knowledge of technology around Microsoft's Data Platform and various Cloud providers.

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