Running show-command to discover cmdlets

PowerShell Team

This blog post applies to the Windows PowerShell Version 3.0. 

Problem: How can I find out what cmdlets are available for a given task? 

Finding cmdlets in the traditional way

 If you know the basics of get-command, feel free to skip this section.

If you are searching for a cmdlet to add a printer, you could star with something like:


PS C:\Users\mspuser> get-command *printer*

CommandType    Name                   ModuleName

———–    —-                   ———-

Function       Add-Printer            PrintManagement

Function       Add-PrinterDriver      PrintManagement

Function       Add-PrinterPort        PrintManagement

Function       Get-Printer            PrintManagement

Function       Get-PrinterDriver      PrintManagement

Function       Get-PrinterPort        PrintManagement

Function       Get-PrinterProperty    PrintManagement

Function       Remove-Printer         PrintManagement

Function       Remove-PrinterDriver   PrintManagement

Function       Remove-PrinterPort     PrintManagement

Function       Rename-Printer         PrintManagement

Function       Set-Printer            PrintManagement

Function       Set-PrinterProperty    PrintManagement

Cmdlet         Out-Printer            Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility


Notice the choice of the noun “printer”, as opposed to the verb “add”. “Add” could be adding anything, so reducing the scope to “printer” allows for a more precise initial search.

For this simple case of adding a printer, it is very possible that the first guess would be “add-printer”, but the verb is not always as simple to guess. Also, it is nice to look around and see what other printer related cmdlets are available. Chances are one task leads to another and we will need another cmdlet soon like get-printer to see that the printer we added is there.

The first * in *printer* allows finding cmdlets with any verb or noun prefix. By “noun prefix” I mean the cmdlet developers could have called them SystemPrinters, PSPrinters, or other name. The second * allows for any noun suffix like “Driver” and “Property” in the list above.

After looking at the list, we might conclude that we are not interested in “PrinterDriver” or “PrinterPort” so that the second * made our search less precise. We can issue the command again without the second * for less results but, for the generic case of searching for any other noun, using both * will guarantee we will not miss anything.

After you found the cmdlet, you can explorer it a bit further with one of the following:

     get-help add-printer  

     get-command add-printer 

Finding cmdlets with show-cmdlet

We saw in Running show-command for a cmdlet, how to use show-command for a specific cmdlet. If you run just “show-command” this is what you get:

Image 5554 a


  •  A “Module” is a set of cmdlets for a given domain. In this window you can see cmdlets from all modules, but you might filter the results to a specific module, in the “Modules” drop down.


If then you type “printer” under Name, you have:

Image 1616 a

 Notice that *printer* is implicit. If the cmdlet contains printer, you will see it.

 If you had typed printers, you would see the same list, because the search results also include the singular form of what you typed.

 When you click the Add-Printer cmdlet you get the window on the left below, and after you click “Show-Details” you get the window on the right:

Image 1667 a

Show-command allows for a simpler way to find a cmdlet and then to get more details about it such as parameters and help (question mark button). It is a simpler route from thinking about a task to finding out how to accomplish it.


  • The “Add-Printer” section of the window is the same we would see if we had typed “show-command add-printer” and that part is explored a bit more in Running show-command for a cmdlet.
  • The same window as the one displayed for “show-command” is also embedded in “PowerShell ISE” by default and can be seen in the “View – Show Command Add-on” menu when not present. To start ISE, type ise in a PowerShell console and press Enter.
  • If the cmdlet module is already imported, you will not see the “Show Details” button.
  • For a cmdlet belonging to a module that was not yet imported, we had 2 alternatives: starting to load the module as soon as Add-Printer is selected, or using the intermediary “Show Details” text you see on the left. We decided for the intermediate step to give the user a chance to understand a module is going to be imported and explicitly choose to do that. We were not comfortable with the idea of selecting list items with mouse or keyboard resulting in modules being loaded implicitly.


Lucio Silveira [MSFT]


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