Accessing about topics in VB.NET

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Accessing about topics
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Earlier in this chapter, I mentioned that PowerShell s help system includes information on background topics, as well as help for specific cmdlets. These background topics are often called about topics, because their filenames all start with about_. You may also recall from earlier in this chapter that all cmdlets support a set of common parameters. How do you think you could learn more about those common parameters Before you read ahead, see if you can list the common parameters by using the help system.
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I would start by using wildcards. Because the word common has been used repeatedly here in the book, that s probably a good keyword to start with:
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Help *common*
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It s such a good keyword, in fact, that it will match only one help topic: About_common_parameters. That topic will display automatically because it s the
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Using the help system
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only match. Paging through the file a bit, you ll find a list of the eight common parameters:
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The file says that there are two additional risk mitigation parameters, but those aren t supported by every single cmdlet. The about topics in the help system are tremendously important, but because they re not related to a specific cmdlet, they can be easy to overlook. Try running help about* for a list of all of them, and you might be surprised at how much extra documentation is hidden away inside the shell. There are several third-party scripts and applications that can make PowerShell s help easier to access. At http://mng.bz/5w8E, you ll find a PowerShell script that constructs a graphical browser that lists all of the available help topics. At http:// www.primaltools.com/downloads/communitytools/ you ll find a dedicated Windows application that does much the same thing. If you re an iPhone or iPad or iPod touch user, there s an application called iPowerShell that provides handy access to the help files that come with PowerShell v2, Exchange Server, and a few other products. Log on to http://download.microsoft.com and enter PowerShell Help as a search term, and you ll find a downloadable Windows Help File that includes the help (including the about topics) that comes with PowerShell.
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Accessing online help
PowerShell s help files were written by mere human beings, which means they re not, unfortunately, error-free. Updating the help files can be tough, because they re technically part of the operating system. Microsoft won t issue a hotfix for typos, and it s tough to even get that kind of non-critical content into a service pack. What Microsoft can do, however, is update a website. The -online parameter of PowerShell s help command will attempt to open the web-based help for a given command:
Help Get-EventLog -online
The help is hosted on Microsoft s TechNet website, and it s always going to be more up to date than what s installed with PowerShell itself. So if you think you ve spotted an error in an example or in the syntax, try viewing the online version of the help. Not every single cmdlet in the universe has online help; it s up to each product team (like
the Exchange team, the SQL Server team, the SharePoint team, and so forth) to provide that help. But when it s available, it s a nice companion to what s built in.
Hopefully, this chapter has conveyed the importance of mastering the help system in PowerShell. Now it s time to hone your skills by completing the following tasks. Keep in mind that sample answers can be found on MoreLunches.com. Look for italicized words in these tasks, and use them as clues to complete that task.
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Can you find any cmdlets capable of converting other cmdlets output into HTML Are there any cmdlets that can redirect output into a file, or to a printer How many cmdlets are available for working with processes (Hint: Remember that cmdlets all use a singular noun.) What cmdlet might you use to write to an event log You ve learned that aliases are nicknames for cmdlets; what cmdlets are available to create, modify, export, or import aliases Is there a way to keep a transcript of everything you type in the shell, and save that transcript to a text file It can take a long time to retrieve all of the entries from the Security event log. How can you get just the 100 most recent entries Is there a way to retrieve a list of the services that are installed on a remote computer Is there a way to see what processes are running on a remote computer Examine the help file for the Out-File cmdlet. The files created by this cmdlet default to a width of how many characters Is there a parameter that would enable you to change that width By default, Out-File will overwrite any existing file that has the same filename as what you specify. Is there a parameter that would prevent the cmdlet from overwriting an existing file How could you see a list of all aliases defined in PowerShell Using both an alias and abbreviated parameter names, what is the shortest command line you could type to retrieve a list of running processes from a computer named Server1 How many cmdlets are available that can deal with generic objects (Hint: Remember to use a singular noun like object rather than a plural one like objects ). This chapter briefly mentioned arrays. What help topic could tell you more about them
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