Tag Archives: alias

Cmdlet and Function Alias Best Practice

Aliases are a beautiful thing, really. Even though this may be true, we need to make sure we’re following best practice, when we opt to use them. I’m not sure what it is about me, but I get a little antsy whenever I see someone not conforming to a best practice in PowerShell. I really don’t care how you lace and tie your shoes, or make your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but when you use your PowerShell aliases is important to me, and it should be to you, too.

The main idea here is that cmdlet and function aliases shouldn’t exist in something that lasts longer than a one time use. That means we shouldn’t see them in help documentation (although, I believe I’ve seen some), in online articles, and in PowerShell-related forum posts. The only time you’ll see me use a cmdlet or function alias, is if you’re looking over my shoulder and watching me type commands into my console, or the ISE’s console pane. Realistically, aliases do two things: One, they help speed up getting results in a one time use scenario, as I’ve mentioned, and two, they confuse PowerShell newcomers that come across a blog where they’ve been used without consideration to best practice. Perhaps it’s my desire to help people learn PowerShell, that’s driving some of this alias indignation. I should mention, that I think it’s acceptable to include them in cases where you also explain that you’re using an alias, and indicate the full cmdlet or function name.

If you showed up here after seeing one of those blogs, or scripts, where someone littered their work with aliases, keep in mind that we have a Get-Alias cmdlet that can help you determine to which cmdlet an alias resolves — we’ll get back to that momentarily. Let’s say you found this command online:

PS> ls c:\windows | ? {$_ -like 'Win*'} | % {echo "$($_.Name)||$($_.LastWriteTime)"}

I understand this command has the potential to be written better. One such way, would be to not pipe to ? in order to filter on the file or directory name, but instead to use the ls -Filter parameter. Weird… in that last sentence, I used a couple aliases instead of their cmdlet names, and even that was confusing. Imagine having read that as a newcomer. This command, since it’s going to live on this webpage “forever,” should have been written like this (for the most part):

PS> Get-ChildItem -Path c:\windows | Where-Object {$_ -like 'Win*'} | ForEach-Object {Write-Output -InputObject "$($_.Name)||$($_.LastWriteTime)"}

It’s longer, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s much more complete and easier to comprehend, especially had you found it in a lengthy script or function.

Back to Get-Alias: If you find yourself confused by a command you found online, where someone “didn’t think of the next person,” then run though the command, or commands, and check the aliases against the Get-Alias cmdlet. Let’s do that below, for the first example command I wrote. Notice that Get-Alias will accept a comma-separated list of (alias) values.

PS> Get-Alias -Name ls,?,%,echo

CommandType     Name                                               ModuleName
-----------     ----                                               ----------
Alias           ls -> Get-ChildItem
Alias           % -> ForEach-Object
Alias           ? -> Where-Object
Alias           h -> Get-History
Alias           r -> Invoke-History
Alias           % -> ForEach-Object
Alias           echo -> Write-Output

Now, notice the results. We’ve returned aliases that we didn’t request, such as h for Get-History and r for Invoke-History. Why? A little off topic, but this is because the question mark (?), in regular expressions, or regex, stands in for a single character. The results are not only returning the alias for the question mark, but for any aliases that only have a single character. In order to only return what we want, we’ll need to escape the question mark character and put it in quotes, so that the parser is certain we have supplied the string value, of an actual question mark.

PS> Get-Alias -Name ls,'`?',%,echo

CommandType     Name                                               ModuleName
-----------     ----                                               ----------
Alias           ls -> Get-ChildItem
Alias           ? -> Where-Object
Alias           % -> ForEach-Object
Alias           echo -> Write-Output

There, we go.

As a community, we should do things so they better help the current, and future members. Use all the aliases you want, but do so where they won’t exist for someone else to stumble upon, unless, you’ve taken the time to explain that you’ve used an alias, and to which cmdlet it refers.

In closing, I want to mention the PSScriptAnalyzer module. I pulled it down and installed it in PowerShell 5.0, using the Find-Module and Install-Module cmdlets: Find-Module -Name PSScriptAnalyzer | Install-Module. I then copied my alias heavily command above, pasted it into notepad, and saved it as C:\file.ps1. Following that, I ran an Invoke-ScriptAnalyzer command. You can see the command and its results below

PS> Invoke-ScriptAnalyzer -Path C:\file.ps1 -IncludeRule PSAvoidUsingCmdletAliases

RuleName                            Severity     FileName   Line  Message
--------                            --------     --------   ----  -------
PSAvoidUsingCmdletAliases           Warning      file.ps1   1     'echo' is an alias of 'Write-Output'. Alias can
                                                                  introduce possible problems and make scripts hard to
                                                                  maintain. Please consider changing alias to its full
                                                                  content.
PSAvoidUsingCmdletAliases           Warning      file.ps1   1     '%' is an alias of 'ForEach-Object'. Alias can
                                                                  introduce possible problems and make scripts hard to
                                                                  maintain. Please consider changing alias to its full
                                                                  content.
PSAvoidUsingCmdletAliases           Warning      file.ps1   1     '?' is an alias of 'Where-Object'. Alias can
                                                                  introduce possible problems and make scripts hard to
                                                                  maintain. Please consider changing alias to its full
                                                                  content.
PSAvoidUsingCmdletAliases           Warning      file.ps1   1     'ls' is an alias of 'Get-ChildItem'. Alias can
                                                                  introduce possible problems and make scripts hard to
                                                                  maintain. Please consider changing alias to its full
                                                                  content.

The cmdlet was instructed to only return the problems it found with aliases (see the parameter used and the included value). It’s a very powerful cmdlet; not only can you find any alias-related best practice failures, but it’ll help you locate any other areas, where you can improve your code.

Thanks for your time, and… your new dedication to not use cmdlet and function aliases, that last longer than a one time use.

Update: I just saw a post from The Scripting! Guy (http://blogs.technet.com/b/heyscriptingguy/archive/2015/10/25/powertip-group-powershell-cmdlet-count-by-version.aspx) where he used a few aliases and told us what they mean. If you’re going to use them, explain them.

Script Sharing – Get Synonyms for Approved and Unapproved Verbs

Download link at bottom of post. Note: This post contains information that is necessary to know to use this function. Please read it if you think you’ll try using this function.

Update: The previous version of the function (1.0) required the user to register and obtain an API key, and place it inside the function’s code. I’ve only had some 40 downloads, so I’ve opted to include my API key to see if this function can get more usage. This really can be a great tool, and so it seems the best idea for now. If anyone ever hits an error using the API key, please let me know: <my1stname>@<thisdomain>.com. (6/10/2016)

I consider myself a best practice kind of guy; especially when it comes to Windows PowerShell. There’s been a time or two where I’m quite sure that I, politely, called someone out for using an unapproved verb. If you’re familiar with PowerShell, then you know that cmdlet and function names should use the verb-noun naming convention. Now, no one cares about the nouns you choose, but verbs need to be approved.

If you haven’t before, try running the Get-Verb cmdlet. This cmdlet, when used without any parameters, will return all the approved verbs. Even for me, there’s been a time or two when the verb I wanted to use wasn’t approved. In that case, I recommend still finding and using an approved verb, but also creating an alias that you can use to call your properly named, cmdlet or function. Here’s a modified example from one of my previous posts:

Set-Alias -Name Launch-InternetExplorer -Value Open-InternetExplorer
 
Function Open-InternetExplorer {
    # Do Stuff.
}

In this example, that was originally posted here: http://tommymaynard.com/quick-learn-create-a-function-to-open-internet-explorer-like-in-run-2015, I can use Launch as my verb, since I’ve made it part of an alias. The function name with the approved verb is Open-InternetExplorer and my alias, that will run this same function, is Launch-InternetExplorer.

So, where am I going with this: I’ve always wanted a function that would allow me to pull back synonyms for a verb, and today, I have just that. I considered walking though what I did to write this, but instead, because it ended up being somewhat lengthy, I posted it on TechNet for download.

Before I provide a download link, I should mentioned that you’re going to need to do a couple things to make this function work for you.

  1. Go to http://thesaurus.altervista.org/mykey and register for an API key.
  2. Download my function from the link at the bottom of the page.
  3. Open the function in the ISE, or your editor of preference, and replace [string]$Key with [string]$Key ='<Your API Key>’, replacing <Your API Key> with key you received from step 1.

Now when you use the function, it’ll use your API key. In addition, we won’t have to make the -Key parameter mandatory, forcing it to prompt us for the key, even when the $Key variable is being assigned a value inside the function. Thanks!

get-synonyms-for-approved-and-unapproved-verbs01

Update: The newest version is now available for download on the PowerShell Gallery.

Download the Get-TMVerbSynonym advanced function here: https://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Get-Synonyms-for-Approved-f6625752

Twitter Reply – Rebel Doesn’t Mean Rebel to Everyone

Twitter Reply to: no link

I saw a recent Twitter #PowerShell post and while I wanted to respond to it on Twitter, I didn’t. I was opposed to what it said, but I didn’t feel it was my place to call anyone out in that fashion. That’s why there isn’t a link above, where they might’ve been otherwise.

The twitter post in which I’m referring indicated that a person was a “rebel” by not using an approved PowerShell verb. I saw the included :P, and that’s fine, but only if the author is joking about the whole thing — I didn’t get that they were.

To use an unapproved verb, especially while knowing you shouldn’t, is everything that PowerShell is trying to stay away from. Part of the success of PowerShell has been the consistency in which it’s been developed by Microsoft, and others. While you might consider yourself a rebel, I consider what you’re doing, a problem.

I will admit, there has been a time or two that I’ve struggled with the best option for my verb, but I’ve always found one. Here’s my recommendation if you are not satisfied with the list of approved verbs: Use an alias; don’t be a “rebel.”

Let’s say I have a function I want to invoke using the name Smack-Yourself, and it looks like this:

Function Smack-Yourself {
    Write-Output -Verbose "I've been smacked!"
}

I can tell you without looking; smack is not an approved verb. We’ll check if it exists anyway.

PS C:\> Get-Verb -Verb Smack
PS C:\>

Nope, this verb hasn’t (yet?) been approved by Microsoft.

Instead of using an unapproved verb, let’s give our function an approved verb and then make an alias we can use instead. There’s no best practice for aliases; name them whatever you want. As far as your function name, please stay consistent and follow the verb dash noun naming convention, using an approved verb.

Set-Alias -Name Smack-Yourself -Value Pop-Yourself

Function Pop-Yourself {
    Write-Output -Verbose "I've been smacked!"
}

In the example above, we’ve used Set-Alias to modify (or create) an alias, called Smack-Yourself. When run, this alias will ultimately execute the Pop-Yourself function, where Pop is an approved verb. Even if the approved verb you choose doesn’t perfectly align with the verb you wanted to use, you can use whatever you want, if you’re using an alias.

Using the Range Operator for Calculating Total Push-Ups

In December of 2014, I decided that my life in 2015 was in need of some push-ups. Instead of just starting with 10 a day, or some other arbitrary number, I thought I would do as many push-ups a day as it was the day in the year. This meant that on day one (January 1, 2015), I would do one push-up and on day two, I would do two push-ups, and so on. Today is the 20th day of the new year, and so I’ll have to do 20 tonight. I wanted to know how many push-ups I will have done by January 31st. Being the Windows PowerShell hobbyist that I am, I enlisted PowerShell to do my calculations for me.

I started with a variable, $EndDay, and the range operator (..). The combination of the two provides me an integer array of the days in January, such as 1..$EndDay (or, 1..31). Using this, I can calculate how many total push-ups I will have done by the end of the day on January 31st. The example below sets up the integer array, as well as the ForEach-Object loop where we’ll do our calculations. Note: I’m using the ForEach-Object alias, foreach.

$EndDay = 31
1..$EndDay | foreach {

}

The first thing we do, below, is include a second variable, $PushUps, that will collect the total number of push-ups for the month. We’ll use the += assignment operator. This operator takes whatever is already in $PushUps, and adds to it. If the current value stored in $PushUps was 1, and we used the += assignment operator like so, $PushUps += 2, then the value in $PushUps would be 3 (1 + 2 is equal to 3). If we used the standard assignment operator (=), then $PushUps would be 2, as 1 would be overwritten.

On the next line, below, we write some information on the screen. We write the current day: that’s the current number from the integer array represented by $_ (as of PowerShell 3.0, $_ can be represented as $PSItem). Then we write out the total number of push-ups completed by that day: $PushUps.

$EndDay = 31
1..$EndDay | foreach {
    $PushUps += $_
    Write-Output -Verbose "Day: $_ / PushUp Total: $PushUps"
}

I noticed that when I reran the code in the ISE, that the value of $PushUps was incorrect on the second run. This is because the variable already exists, and by the end of the first run already contains 496—the number of push-ups I’ll have done by the end of January! Therefore, I added an If statement that removed the $PushUps variable when $_ was equal to $EndDay. This happens on the final run through the foreach.

$EndDay = 31
1..$EndDay| foreach {
    $PushUps += $_
    Write-Output -Verbose "Day: $_ / PushUp Total: $PushUps"
    If ($_ -eq $EndDay) {
        Remove-Variable PushUps
    }
}

If you change the value for $EndDay to 365, you’ll be able to determine that after December 31st (if I can somehow keep this up) I will have done 66,299 total push-ups for the year. It’s hard to imagine that I could do 365 push-ups at once, but then again, it’s hard to imagine I’ll get though the rest of the month. Here’s an image that shows the the full results when we run the function above.

Using the Range Operator for Push-Up Calculations

Thanks for reading, and wish me good luck—I’m going to need it.

Determine if the Alias, or Function Name was Used

As a Windows PowerShell enthusiast, I am often thinking about PowerShell. Seems logical. Can I do this? What will happen if I do that? Why doesn’t this work!? Well, I had one of those thoughts recently. Can I determine if a function was called using an alias, or if it was called using the function name?

This thought occurred to me because of a change I considered adding to one of my functions. The idea was, that I wanted to prompt the user for confirmation to run a function (within the function), if an alias was used, and not prompt the user when the full function name was used. This lined up with the assumption that an alias could be accidentally entered more easily than the function name, and that we may want to take precautions when the alias was used.

My first consideration was to get the last command entered by the user, by using: (Get-History -Count 1).CommandLine. The problem with that “option,” is that the history isn’t updated until after the function has ended. This means that I wouldn’t know what was entered by the user while the function was running. Take a look at the example below. When I run the function Get-TMHistory the first time, nothing is displayed (in a fresh console), but something is displayed after the second run.

Function Get-TMHistory {
	Get-History -Count 1
}

PS C:\> Get-TMHistory
PS C:\> Get-TMHistory

  Id CommandLine
  -- -----------
   1 Get-TMHistory

I came up with a another idea. Let’s start by creating a new function called Get-TMHowCalled. In addition, we’ll need to create an alias for the function – let’s use ghc. I’ve included the New-Alias cmdlet’s -Force parameter in case there’s already an alias with that name. If there is, then New-Alias acts like Set-Alias, and updates the alias (instead of throwing an error). Note: This option could be problematic if it replaced ghc, and ghc was used for a different purpose.

New-Alias -Name ghc -Value Get-TMHowCalled -Force

Function Get-TMHowCalled {

}

The next thing to do is to construct the logic that will check and determine if the alias was used, or if the full function name was used. This is simple function: check, and echo what was entered by the user.

Function Get-TMHowCalled {
    If () {
        Write-Output -Verbose 'Alias was used.'
    } ElseIf () {
        Write-Output -Verbose 'Function name was used.'
    }
}

The secret here is the $MyInvocation automatic variable and its Line property. This stores what was entered, and so it can be used to determine how the function was called – by alias or by name. The best part, is that the variable is populated when the function is called and can, therefore, be queried inside the function. This variable can only be used in “scripts, functions, and script blocks.” You can read more about it using this command: Get-Help about_Automatic_Variables.

Function Get-TMHowCalled {
    If ($MyInvocation.Line -eq 'ghc') {
        Write-Output -Verbose 'Alias was used.'
    } ElseIf ($MyInvocation.Line -eq 'Get-TMHowCalled') {
        Write-Output -Verbose 'Function name was used.'
    }
}

Hope this proves to be helpful for someone. It might be for me.

about_Aliases

This post is the help rewrite for about_Aliases. While the help files for Windows PowerShell are invaluable, the idea behind a rewrite is so true beginners might even better understand the help file concepts. At times, some things discussed in the Windows PowerShell help file will not be included in a help rewrite. Therefore, it is always best to read the actual help file after reading this post. (PS3.0)

An Alias in Windows PowerShell is a simplified, or quicker, way to type a cmdlet using an alternate name. Get-Alias (or the alias for Get-Alias, gal) will display a list of all of the aliases that the Windows PowerShell session knows about. This includes both built-in aliases and any additional aliases created or imported. The first two examples below, indicate two ways to accomplish the same thing – listing all the aliases. These examples only show the first four results.

PS C:\> Get-Alias

CommandType     Name                                               ModuleName
-----------     ----                                               ----------
Alias           % -> ForEach-Object
Alias           ? -> Where-Object
Alias           ac -> Add-Content
Alias           asnp -> Add-PSSnapin

This example uses the alias for the Get-Alias cmdlet, gal.

PS C:\> gal

CommandType     Name                                               ModuleName
-----------     ----                                               ----------
Alias           % -> ForEach-Object
Alias           ? -> Where-Object
Alias           ac -> Add-Content
Alias           asnp -> Add-PSSnapin

In order to find the cmdlet associated with a single alias, the alias needs to be provided, as the value for the -Name parameter, to the Get-Alias cmdlet.

PS C:\> gal -Name gc

CommandType     Name                                               ModuleName
-----------     ----                                               ----------
Alias           gc -> Get-Content

The name parameter (-Name) is not required to use it. This means that if there is something after the Get-Alias cmdlet, such as gc in this example, then it will default to using the -Name parameter.

PS C:\> gal gc

CommandType     Name                                               ModuleName
-----------     ----                                               ----------
Alias           gc -> Get-Content

Windows PowerShell will error if the -Name parameter is supplied with a cmdlet name, or another value that is not an alias.

PS C:\> gal Get-Content

gal : This command cannot find a matching alias because an alias with the name ‘Get-Content’ does not exist.
At line:1 char:1
+ gal Get-Content
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
+ CategoryInfo          : ObjectNotFound: (Get-Content:String) [Get-Alias], ItemNotFoundException
+ FullyQualifiedErrorId : ItemNotFoundException,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.GetAliasCommand

In order to get an alias (or aliases, if there is more than one) for a cmdlet, the -Definition parameter must be used.

PS C:\> gal -Definition Get-Content

CommandType     Name                                               ModuleName
-----------     ----                                               ----------
Alias           cat -> Get-Content
Alias           gc -> Get-Content
Alias           type -> Get-Content

The Get-Service cmdlet returns the computer’s services, the Get-Process cmdlet return the processes running on the computer, and the Get-ChildItem cmdlet returns the directories and/or files from the root of a drive or from a folder. Here is how a user can get the aliases for multiple cmdlets at the same time.

PS C:\> gal -Definition Get-Service,Get-Process,Get-ChildItem

CommandType     Name                                               ModuleName
-----------     ----                                               ----------
Alias           gsv -> Get-Service
Alias           gps -> Get-Process
Alias           ps -> Get-Process
Alias           dir -> Get-ChildItem
Alias           gci -> Get-ChildItem
Alias           ls -> Get-ChildItem

There are a few other cmdlets that allow a user to work with aliases. By using the Get-Command cmdlet (or its alias – if it has one), additional cmdlets can be returned that all end with -Alias.

PS C:\> Get-Command *-Alias

CommandType     Name                                               ModuleName
-----------     ----                                               ----------
Cmdlet          Export-Alias                                       Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          Get-Alias                                          Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          Import-Alias                                       Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          New-Alias                                          Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          Set-Alias                                          Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility

Export-Alias: Exports information about currently defined aliases to a file.

PS C:\> Export-Alias -Path 'C:\aliases.txt'

Import-Alias: Imports an alias, or aliases, from a file.

PS C:\> Import-Alias -Path 'C:\ImportedAliases.txt'

Trying to import aliases that already exists will cause an error for every alias Windows PowerShell tries to import (that already exists).

PS C:\> Export-Alias -Path 'C:\aliases.txt'
PS C:\> Import-Alias -Path 'C:\aliases.txt'
Import-Alias : The alias is not allowed, because an alias with the name ‘ac’ already exists.
At line:1 char:1
+ Import-Alias -Path ‘C:\aliases.txt’
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : ResourceExists: (ac:String) [Import-Alias], SessionStateException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : AliasAlreadyExists,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.ImportAliasCommand

New-Alias: Creates a new alias.
Set-Alias: Changes an existing alias, or creates an alias if it does not already exist.

PS C:\> New-Alias -Name MyAlias -Value Get-Process
PS C:\> MyAlias | select -First 4

Handles  NPM(K)    PM(K)      WS(K) VM(M)   CPU(s)     Id ProcessName
-------  ------    -----      ----- -----   ------     -- -----------
    224      19     3440        772   110    16.50   4612 ALMon
    164      14     2476       2108    44     5.36   2744 ALsvc
     77       9     1336       5288    75   137.55   4076 ApMsgFwd
     90       8     1372       5788    76   162.11   4324 ApntEx

PS C:\> Set-Alias -Name MyAlias -Value Get-Service
PS C:\> MyAlias | select -First 4

Status   Name               DisplayName
------   ----               -----------
Running  AdobeARMservice    Adobe Acrobat Update Service
Stopped  AdobeFlashPlaye... Adobe Flash Player Update Service
Stopped  AeLookupSvc        Application Experience
Stopped  ALG                Application Layer Gateway Service

Bonus Information

Use the Measure-Object cmdlet, or the count property, to find out how many aliases Windows PowerShell knows about.

PS C:\> Get-Alias | Measure-Object

Count    : 182
Average  :
Sum      :
Maximum  :
Minimum  :
Property :

PS C:\> gal | measure

Count    : 182
Average  :
Sum      :
Maximum  :
Minimum  :
Property :

PS C:\> (gal | measure).count
182
PS C:\> (gal).count
182

Real World

While aliases are helpful in the console, the belief is that they should not be used in a script file (.ps1 file). Using full cmdlet names in a script is preferred for script readability. There are plenty of people writing Windows PowerShell who adhere to this best practice even while using aliases for the object cmdlets (select for Select-Object, where for Where-Object, etc.).

Learn More

This information, and more, is stored in the help file about_Aliases that comes with Windows PowerShell. This information can be read by typing any of the commands below. The first example will display the help file in the Windows PowerShell console, the second example will open the full help in it’s own window, the third example will send the contents of the help file to the clipboard (so it can be pasted into Word, Notepad, etc.), and the fourth example will open the help file in Notepad.

PS C:\> Get-Help about_aliases
PS C:\> Get-Help about_aliases -ShowWindow
PS C:\> Get-Help about_aliases | clip
PS C:\> Notepad C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\en-US\about_Aliases.help.txt

There is a built-in, automatic variable, $PSHOME, that stores the installation path of Windows PowerShell. This means that the third example above could have been partially written using that variable.

PS C:\> Notepad $PSHOME\en-us\about_Aliases.help.txt