Weekend Scripter: The Best Ways to Learn PowerShell

Doctor Scripto

Summary:  PowerShell MVP, Teresa Wilson, talks about the best ways to learn Windows PowerShell.

Microsoft Scripting Guy, Ed Wilson, is here. Today we have a guest post by Windows PowerShell MVP, Teresa Wilson, aka The Scripting Wife. I asked her to talk a little bit about how one goes about learning Windows PowerShell. Take it away, Scripting Wife…

Hello everyone,

Teresa Wilson here. From time-to-time, whether at TechEd, at a user group meeting, or even online, people ask me how to go about learning Windows PowerShell. In general, my answer it the same. So here goes…

Everyone learns in a different fashion, some by reading, some by listening, some by doing, and some by a combination of all of these. Personally, I like to hear an explanation, then have someone give me an example to follow. Then by trying it myself, I can apply what I have learned.

If you are an IT professional, you may have an idea of something you do in a repeated manner that could possibly be automated. You can use that as your goal, and learn how to write the Windows PowerShell script to accomplish it. Bear in mind (believe it or not) that Windows PowerShell is not always the best tool for the job.

One such example was a man who kept asking Ed and others to help him with his script to build an organizational chart for his company. I am not going to get into all the details, but the short and true answer is that Windows PowerShell is not the tool for this task. It might be possible, but the complexity of the script, along with the likelihood of (hopefully) limited script reuse, made such a proposition a huge pain. Simply fire up Visio, spend a few hours adding shapes and text, and voila! You are done. It would take more time than that to find the documentation for the Visio API—not to mention beginning to understand it.

There is no reason to spend hours of time and frustration trying to get Windows PowerShell to create an organizational chart. Just like you probably don’t want to use Windows PowerShell to write payroll checks. I do believe that attempting to get the formatting right would be way, way, way too hard. On the other hand, if your vendor happens to supply you with an Out-PayRollCheck cmdlet, then more Windows PowerShell to ya!

OK, enough of that. Let’s start with some basic ideas and places to go to learn Windows PowerShell.

1. Training series

If you like to listen to someone explaining or showing you how to accomplish a task, you can go to the Windows PowerShell Scripting page on the Script Center Learn tab and watch two series of training by Ed. As shown in the following screenshot, each series of Webcasts includes five episodes. One series is called the Windows PowerShell Essentials for the Busy Admin Series and the other series is Windows PowerShell: Learn it now before It’s an Emergency.

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2. Don Jones on You Tube

Windows PowerShell MVP, Don Jones, has a You Tube channel dedicated to learning. It is called Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches.

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3. Books

Books are a way to learn. Don Jones also wrote a book called Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches. It is an awesome book for learning to use Windows PowerShell. 

Ed wrote Windows PowerShell 3.0 First Steps, and Windows PowerShell team member, Lee Holmes, wrote Windows PowerShell Cookbook. These are only three of the several books available about Windows PowerShell.

4. The Hey, Scripting Guy! Blog

This #1 blog has lots of information, but for the beginner, I recommend that you start with some easy lessons that Ed demonstrates by using me as his student. The important thing to keep in mind is that the Scripting Wife posts build on each other—so start with the very first one and work your way forward from there: Scripting Wife series.

5. Events

There are also Windows PowerShell events that take place throughout the year where you can go and learn about Windows PowerShell in person. PowerShell User Groups include a virtual group, and some groups (such as Mississippi and a few others) have remote attendees. Also consider attending PowerShell Saturdays, the PowerShell Summit, and Ignite (formerly known as Microsoft TechEd). 

6. Community help

If you run in to issues, there are lots of sources to turn to for help. For example, on Twitter, follow @ScriptingWife and @ScriptingGuys and create a search filter for #PowerShell). If your question is short and clear, you will more than likely get a quick answer (although probably not from me or from the Scripting Guy).

There are also forums on PowerShell.org and TechNet that are devoted to Windows PowerShell, as well as the Official Scripting Guys Forum…not to mention the Scripting Guys Facebook site and the various Windows PowerShell groups mentioned there.

7. Online script examples

Many times, it is helpful to see an example. You can find thousands of sample scripts in the Script Center Repository and on PoshCode. In addition, there are add-ons for the Windows PowerShell ISE that make it convenient to find scripts: for more information, see Introducing Script Browser and Script Analyzer.

I hope this information will get you started on the path to learning Windows PowerShell. Have a scriptastic day!


I invite you to follow me on Twitter and Facebook. If you have any questions, send email to me at scripter@microsoft.com, or post your questions on the Official Scripting Guys Forum. See you tomorrow. Until then, peace.

Ed Wilson, Microsoft Scripting Guy


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