In this article we finally get the chance to cover the last tool from the system recovery suite - the powerful Command Prompt. This is a complex tool, worthy of a mini-series of articles. In this episode we will start by explaining what the Command Prompt is, how to access it and how to personalize it. Future articles will cover some of the most useful commands you can run from the Command Prompt.
What is the Command Prompt?
Before Windows came into the picture, the most common operating system was DOS (Disk Operating System). It was a text-based operating system, that enabled you to run programs by manually typing in commands. The launch of the Windows operating system simplified the whole computing experience by making it more visual. Even though DOS has not been included in Windows operating systems for years, there still is the Command Prompt - the text command-line interpreter, analog of the command shell of its old DOS ancestor.
This tool is generally used by more advanced users such as system administrators to run commands which might not be triggered from the visual interface of Windows.
Even though it may look a bit unfriendly, it does not mean that you cannot learn how to use it. If you will follow our mini-series you will see that this tool is useful and can be used by anyone.
How to Open the Command Prompt
This has been shown in great detail, in this tutorial: 7 Ways to Launch the Command Prompt in Windows 7 & Windows 8.
Access the Properties of the Command Prompt
To access the properties of the Command Prompt and customize them, right click on its window and select Properties.
You will notice four tabs with options that can be configured: Options, Font, Layout and Colors.
We will take a look at these tabs and detail all options that can be configured.
Customize the Command Prompt Cursor Size, Buffers and Edit Modes
First, you have the Options tab. It has three sections: Cursor Size, Command History and Edit Options.
For the cursor you can choose its size by using one of the available options: Small, Medium or Large.
In the Command History area you can customize how many commands are retained in the buffer. The buffer serves as a historical record of the commands you have run and you can use the up and down arrow keys to navigate through the previously entered commands. The default value is 50 but it can be made as large as 999. The next option, 'Number of Buffers' determines for how many concurrent instances of the Command Prompt you’re having separate buffers created. For example if you change the value to three, you will be able to have up to three Command Prompt instances open, each with its own buffer. The last option from this section, 'Discard Old Duplicates', allows Windows to remove duplicate command entries from the buffer.
In the Edit Options area you have only two options: QuickEdit Mode and Insert Mode. The first enables you to use the mouse to cut and paste text to and from the command window. The second one, Insert Mode, has basically the same function as the Insert keyboard key: insert text at the point of the cursor. If this option is inactive the text is overwritten. I recommend that you check both options.
A sample of how QuickEdit Mode works can be viewed in the capture below. With the mouse, I selected the text for copying. I pressed Enter and the text was copied to the clipboard.
To test if the text was really copied to the clipboard I decided to open WordPad. There I pasted the text from the Command Prompt. The result can be seen below.
Adjust the Font used by Command Prompt
In the Font tab you will be able to select the Font size and Font Type. Also, you can use the preview window to see the effect of your settings before applying them.
Change the Command Prompt Window Size
The Layout tab has three simple sections where you can configure the size of the Command Prompt window and of the lines of text within it.
The available options are as follows:
- 'Screen Buffer Size' - allows you to configure the number of characters that are displayed on a line in the Command Prompt window. This is achieved by adjusting the Width value, and the number of lines that are stored in memory, by adjusting the Height value;
- 'Window Size' - allows you to select the Width and Height of the window;
- 'Window Position' - enables you to configure the Command Prompt's window distance from the left and top edges of the screen. This option works only if the 'Let System Position Window' check box is not checked;
- 'Let System Position Window' - if it's checked, you won’t be able to configure the window position settings.
How to Set the Command Prompt Window Colors
The Colors tab is easy to configure. There are four items that can be customized:
- Screen Text - allows you to set the color of the text displayed in the Command Prompt window;
- Screen Background - enables you to choose the background color of the Command Prompt window;
- Popup Text - allows you to set the color of the text displayed in a pop-up window;
- Popup Background - permits you to set the background color of a pop-up window.
When you are done just press the OK button.
As you can see, there are plenty of options to make the Command Prompt more friendly than it seems at first sight. We will continue our mini-series on this tool with articles on the most common commands you can use. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this tool or problems with which you want help, don't hesitate to leave a comment.