We like the Command Prompt and we are not alone in that. But, even though it is a mighty and powerful tool, it sure looks boring. What if you want to make it prettier? And what about customizing certain aspects about the way it works, like how many commands it stores in its history? To learn all this and more, read this tutorial.
What is the Command Prompt?
Before Windows was created, the most used 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 is no longer included in Windows operating systems since Windows ME (in 2000), we still have the Command Prompt - the text command-line interpreter, analog of the command shell found in the old DOS operating system.
This tool is generally used by geeks and more advanced users, such as system administrators. With it, you can run all kinds of commands. You can manage your partitions, network devices and connections or you can simply run programs and executable files.
Most probably, the Command Prompt will also be phased out and, in the future, Windows users will have to learn and use PowerShell if they want to use a powerful command line interpreter. But, for now, let's learn how to launch Command Prompt and how to make it look pretty. It is not as un-customizable as you would think.
How to Start 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.
When you first open the Command Prompt it opens at your user folder:
"C:\Users\Your user name".
When you run it as administrator, it opens at the default system folder:
How to Access the Properties of the Command Prompt
If you want to customize the way the Command Prompt looks and works, you need to access its Properties window. Right click on the top of the Command Prompt window and click Properties.
You will notice four tabs with options that can be configured in detail: Options, Font, Layout and Colors.
Let's take a look at these tabs and see what they offer in terms of customization options.
How to Customize the Command Prompt Cursor Size, Buffers and Edit Modes
The first tab is named Options. It includes three sections: Cursor Size, Command History and Edit Options.
The first section is about changing the size of the cursor. You can choose one of the available options: Small, Medium or Large. The default is Small and it should work well for most users. If you have sight issues, making it larger will help.
In the Command History section you can customize how many commands are retained in the command buffer. The buffer serves as a historical record of the commands you have executed. Use the Up and Down arrow keys to navigate through the previously entered commands.
The default value is 50 commands 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 using separate buffers. 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 section there are 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 Prompt window. The second -Insert Mode - has the same function as the Insert keyboard key: the cursor inserts a character at its current position, forcing all characters past it one position further. By default Insert Mode is disabled and the cursor, when typing, overwrites any text that is present in the current location.
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.
You can then paste the selected text in any other program.
How to Adjust the Font Used by the Command Prompt
In the Font tab you can select the size and Font used by the Command Prompt window. Also, you can use the window preview to see the effect of your settings before applying them.
The Size list displays several values for how wide and high each character is. Then, in the Font list you can select one of the three available fonts.
How to Change the Command Prompt Window Layout & Size
The Layout tab has three sections where you can configure the size of the Command Prompt window. The available options are as follows:
- Screen Buffer Size - use it to configure how many characters are displayed on a line in the Command Prompt window, by adjusting the Width value. The number of lines that are stored in memory, are adjusted using Height value;
- Window Size - use it to select the Width and Height of the Command Prompt window;
- Window Position - enables you to configure the Command Prompt's window distance from the left and top edges of the screen. This can be done only if the "Let System Position Window" box is not checked;
- Let System Position Window - if it's checked, you won't be able to configure the window position settings but you can drag and drop, or resize the Command Prompt window with the mouse.
Next, let's take a look at the final tab.
How to Set the Window Colors for the Command Prompt
The Colors tab is all about customizing the colors used by the Command Prompt. There are four items that can be customized:
- Screen Text - use it to set the color of the text, in the Command Prompt window;
- Screen Background - use it to choose the background color of the Command Prompt window;
- Popup Text - use it to set the color of the text displayed in pop-up windows triggered by the Command Prompt;
- Popup Background - use it to set the background color of the pop-up windows triggered by the Command Prompt.
When you are done making your settings, click OK to apply them.
As you can see from this guide, there are plenty of customization options that allow you to make the Command Prompt friendlier than it seems at first sight. If you are looking for other useful tips about the Command Prompt, don't hesitate to read the articles recommended below.