NT's Command Prompt Window

It's capable of more than you think

The Windows NT Command Prompt window isn't just the unsophisticated character-based screen that it appears to be—it's customizable, user-friendly, and contains capabilities you might be unaware of. This month, I share tips for using the Command Prompt window.

10. Display the Command Prompt window as a window rather than a full screen. The window display lets you continue to view your desktop, and it lets you easily move and resize the window. Click the program icon in the window's upper left corner, and select Properties. On the Options tab in the Properties dialog box, change Full Screen to Window.

9. Change the foreground and background colors. If you're tired of the Command Prompt window's default white-on-black display, you can liven up your screen on the Colors tab in the Properties dialog box.

8. Use the up and down arrow keys to scroll through a list of past commands. This capability is handy if you want to repeat a command several times. The Command History buffer saves every command you enter on the command line. The up arrow key moves through the buffer from the most recent command to the oldest command; the down arrow key moves in the opposite direction. You can also use F8 to display previous commands.

7. Use the right arrow key to retrieve the contents of the Command History buffer one character at a time. This capability is useful if you want to reexecute your previous command with minor changes.

6. Use F7 to display and execute previous commands. If you don't want to scroll through the list of commands one at a time, press F7 to access a pop-up window that displays the Command History buffer's contents. To execute any of the displayed commands, position your cursor over the desired command and press Enter. You might notice that the buffer numbers each command. If you know the number of the command you need, press F9 to initiate a prompt for the command number.

5. Increase the Command History buffer's size. By default, NT limits the buffer to 50 commands. If you need to keep track of more commands, open the Properties dialog box and increase the Buffer Size value on the Options tab.

4. Enable command completion in the Registry. Command completion lets the command processor help you complete pathnames you use in the Command Prompt window. To set the command completion character to the Tab key, change the value of HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\ Command Processor\CompletionChar to 9.

3. Use QuickEdit to copy commands with your mouse. Select QuickEdit Mode on the Options tab in the Properties dialog box. When you enable QuickEdit, a block cursor appears where you click the mouse pointer. To select blocks of text, click and drag the mouse. Use the Edit options in the Command Prompt window's menu to complete the copy operation.

2. Increase the Command Prompt window's height. Are you tired of watching your commands' output scroll off that little 25-line text window? On the Layout tab in the Properties dialog box, set Window Size Height to a larger value. I found 50 lines to be a reasonable screen size.

1. Increase the Command Prompt window's buffer size. By default, NT sets the screen buffer size to the same value—25 lines—as the default screen height. If you pick a larger number (e.g., 200), you'll never have to watch your command output spill off into the bit bucket. When you set the screen buffer to a value larger than the window size, a scroll bar on the window's right side lets you scroll through previous output.

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