The Art of Formatting in PowerShell: Presenting Data with Clarity

PowerShell offers a rich set of tools for formatting your command output, transforming raw data into clear and concise presentations. This blog post will delve into the essential formatting techniques, empowering you to display information in a user-friendly and informative way.

1. Select-Object Cmdlet: Choosing the Right Properties

The Select-Object cmdlet plays a crucial role in formatting. It allows you to specify which properties of an object you want to display, controlling the data included in the output.


Get-Process | Select-Object Name, CPU  # Display only process name and CPU usage
Get-Service | Select-Object -ExpandProperty Name  # Display only service names in a list

The first example retrieves process information but selects only the “Name” and “CPU” properties for display. The second example selects only the “Name” property of each service and expands it into a list, displaying just the service names.

2. Format-Table Cmdlet: Tabular Presentation for Readability

The Format-Table cmdlet presents objects in a tabular format, making it easier to read and compare multiple objects with similar properties.


Get-Process | Format-Table Name, CPU, Status  # Display processes in a table with headers
Get-Service | Where-Object {$_.Status -eq "Stopped"} | Format-Table Name, DisplayName  # Filter and format stopped services

The first example displays process information in a table with headers for “Name,” “CPU,” and “Status.” The second example filters for stopped services and then formats them in a table showing “Name” and “DisplayName” for clarity.

3. Format-List Cmdlet: Detailed View of Object Properties

The Format-List cmdlet displays all properties of an object in a list format. This is helpful for exploring the complete set of properties available for an object.


Get-Process -Name notepad | Format-List  # Display detailed information for the "notepad" process
Get-Service | Where-Object {$_.Name -like "*sql*"} | Format-List  # Get details of services with "sql" in their name

The first example retrieves information about the “notepad” process and displays all its properties in a list format. The second example filters for services containing “sql” in their names and then displays a detailed list of their properties.

4. Out-GridView Cmdlet: Interactive Grid View for Data Exploration

The Out-GridView cmdlet presents the output in an interactive grid view. This allows you to sort, resize columns, and filter data within the window itself.


Get-Process | Out-GridView  # Display processes in an interactive grid
Get-Service | Where-Object {$_.Status -eq "Running"} | Out-GridView  # Filter and display running services in a grid

Both examples showcase using Out-GridView to display the output in an interactive grid. You can click headers to sort data, resize columns for better viewing, and filter information within the grid itself.

5. Formatting Options within Cmdlets: Customizing Output

Many cmdlets offer built-in formatting options through parameters like Format or View. These options allow you to customize the appearance of the output further.


Get-Process | Format-List Name, CPU -Wide  # Display process details with wider columns
Get-Service | Select-Object Name, Status | Format-Table -AutoSize  # Adjust table columns to fit content automatically

The first example uses the -Wide parameter with Format-List to display process information with wider columns for better readability. The second example utilizes the -AutoSize parameter with Format-Table to automatically adjust the width of table columns to fit the content displayed.


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