When I do a review, I always try to explore an angle on a product that hasn’t been taken before—so it would be pointless for me to say that Quest’s PowerGUI Pro is a great tool for systems administrators who want to get started using PowerShell (even though it is). Instead, I approached this product from the other side, asking myself, “What if I were already a PowerShell rock star? What benefit would PowerGUI provide?”

PowerGUI’s requirements are fairly minimal: 1GHz or better processor, 1GB of RAM, and any OS configuration that supports PowerShell 2.0. Other prerequisites depend on what you want to do with the product. For example, if you want to manage Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, you must have Exchange Management Shell (EMS) installed.

Assuming that you already know PowerShell inside and out, let’s take a look at what PowerGUI Pro can do for you. PowerGUI is a graphical wrapper for your PowerShell scripts. If your organization is anything like mine, there’s one lone PowerShell guy in the whole company (i.e., me) who is required to create scripts for procedures and is tasked with encouraging adoption of these methods. In such a scenario, if the people whom you need to use the scripts have PowerGUI installed, you can easily plug in your script and in a few minutes have a GUI front end for it.

The other side of PowerGUI Pro is the PowerGUI Pro Script Editor. This script editor is a huge improvement over the Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE) that ships with PowerShell 2.0. The inline auto-suggestion (think IntelliSense) of cmdlets and properties is top-notch, and there’s even an autosave feature.

Usually, I wouldn’t be excited about autosave, but I was recently working on a rather large script (more than 900 lines) and left my desk for a few minutes, at which point Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager’s (SCCM’s) automatic updates launched and rebooted my machine—which caused me to lose an entire day’s work. When the same situation occurred after I installed PowerGUI Pro, the software’s autosave did its job beautifully.

PowerGUI also includes several small but intuitive features that make the PowerGUI Pro Script Editor seem more like a complete development environment than a scripting tool. Multi-line commenting, the ability to select from and insert PowerShell and Visual Basic (VB) snippets, and built-in mouse-over help for cmdlets are features that have saved me an average of 45 minutes per day. Debugging is also available, as is a list of your variables.

When you install and run PowerGUI, you’ll notice that the product is already prepopulated with some nodes. As Figure 1 shows, PowerGUI includes support for Active Directory (AD) and Exchange by default. PowerGUI has a large and active online community, and there are PowerPacks (add-ons for PowerGUI that the online community has created) for just about every PowerShell-enabled product you can imagine, as well as some products that don’t have a native PowerShell environment.

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Figure 1: Preinstalled PowerGUI Pro nodes (full size)

PowerGUI Pro has an online price of $199. In a business environment, this tool is well worth its price. Even in these cost-cutting times, justifying the cost of PowerGUI is easy. My reasoning is that even though I can use PowerShell to eliminate much of the cost of custom development for certain applications internally, PowerGUI gives my custom scripts the look and feel necessary to make users comfortable using them.

PowerGUI Pro 2.4
PROS: Cost-effective; easy to install and use; removes barriers to implementing in-house PowerShell solutions
CONS: None to speak of
RATING: 4 out of 5
PRICE: $199 per installation
RECOMMENDATION: Get it, and use it. I've become addicted to PowerGUI Pro, especially the PowerGUI Script Editor
CONTACT: Quest • 800-306-9329 • www.quest.com