Beginning with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, Microsoft has been slowly integrating PowerShell into all of its enterprise products. Many products, including Exchange, use PowerShell exclusively, with administration GUIs as mere front ends to PowerShell.
Despite all of PowerShell’s flexibility and power, what was sorely lacking at the product’s introduction was a quality IDE. PowerShell is an object-based language that offers advanced scripting, but writing scripts in Notepad or another text editor quickly becomes tedious. Fortunately, several third-party companies stepped up to provide IDEs for PowerShell. And with the release of PowerShell 2.0, Microsoft even included an IDE of its own, the Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE).
I recently took a look at PowerShell Plus 4.0 from Idera to see whether it’s a worthwhile addition to an IT professional’s toolkit. Idera offers a fully functional 30-day trial of PowerShell Plus, with one small caveat: You have to provide some personal information, including your email address, before the company will provide the download link. Idera uses your email address to send you the download link, but the company also signs you up for some follow-up newsletters. Although it was easy to unsubscribe myself from these newsletters, I wasn’t told in advance that I would receive them.
Despite this initial annoyance, the product downloaded quickly and installed without any issues on my Windows 7 Professional test system. Eager to say goodbye to my days of using Notepad to work on PowerShell scripts, I fired up the application and was greeted with an initial setup wizard.
The setup wizard first examined the script execution policy in place for my PowerShell scripts and found it to be set to the default value. The wizard suggested changing the policy to Remote Signed and offered to make the change for me. In addition, the wizard included the other possible settings for the policy and offered an explanation of each. PowerShell Plus includes the ability to email your PowerShell scripts directly from within the application, which is a nice touch. My only complaint is that the email setup requires an SMTP server to be available, something that I didn’t have on my test network. Because there was no way to skip this section of the wizard, I had to spend time entering bogus values just to move through this portion of the setup.
As soon as I completed the wizard, I was able to easily navigate the software. As Figure 1 shows, Idera uses the Fluent interface that Microsoft introduced in Office 2007, which makes it a breeze to find features. The software was very inviting, and it included a selection of scripts in various script libraries. I was able to add my own scripts to a personal library and modify the scripts that were included. In speaking with Idera, I confirmed that this was by design—the included scripts are meant to get you started, not to be a complete solution. These starter scripts, combined with the product’s Interactive Learning Center, make the software a compelling alternative to the free ISE that’s included with PowerShell 2.0, especially if you’re new to writing PowerShell scripts or just new to PowerShell in general.
Figure 1: The PowerShell Plus 4.0 GUI
The IDE includes features that anyone who has used Visual Studio will feel at home with, such as color coding, tab completion, debugging, code examples, and IntelliSense, a feature that, disappointingly, Microsoft didn’t include in the PowerShell 2.0 ISE. These features stand alongside standard editor staples such as undo, redo, and find and replace. One of the IDE’s tabs is an actual PowerShell console. This is where you can run any scripts you create, or where you can run a PowerShell one-liner. Being able to see your scripts run in real time, and having a full PowerShell console window that can be manipulated within the IDE, is very welcome.
Overall, I was impressed with PowerShell Plus and would recommend it. I found the software to be useful and worth the modest price, especially for anyone who spends a fair amount of time working with PowerShell or who wants to become more proficient at it. Idera also offers a free license to anyone who is a Microsoft MVP, which is a nice way for the company to give back to the PowerShell community. Even if you’re currently happy with the PowerShell 2.0 ISE and are on the fence about trying PowerShell Plus, I encourage you to give it a trial run. The additional features Idera includes in PowerShell Plus might just compel you to switch.
PowerShell Plus 4.0