• ARTICLES
SEARCH

How-To Geek

The Command Prompt is Outdated: 2 Command Prompt Replacements for Windows

image

The Command Prompt window included with Windows is outdated. The command line itself isn’t outdated – the Command Prompt just lacks modern features like tabs, transparency, support for other shells, easy selection of text, and other modern Windows features.

If you spend any time at all with the Command Prompt, you’ll want to check out one of these two open-source Command Prompt replacements that improves on the original Command Prompt.

ConEmu

ConEmu, also known as ConEmu-Maximus5, is the latest entry in the battle of the Windows consoles. It’s packed with options and is extremely customizable.

The default screen shows a status bar packed with information and a tab bar. You can also enable transparency for some eye candy.

image

If you prefer not to use real transparency, you can set a custom background image (sort of like a wallpaper) for your console. ConEmu also has the ability to function as a Quake-style console that slides down from the top of your screen when activated.

image

From the Tasks pane in ConEmu’s settings, you can create jump-list entries for the Windows 7 or 8 taskbar that allow you to easily launch frequently used commands and alternative shells, such as PowerShell. You can also embed some simple GUI applications in a ConEmu tab. For example, you can have a PuTTY SSH console run in a ConEmu tab. Just use the putty.exe -new_console argument.

image

ConEmu even shows a progress bar on its taskbar entry when possible, such as when using the chkdsk command.

image

Whatever option you’re looking for, you’ll probably find it in ConEmu’s extensive settings. For example, you can specify different settings based on what application is running in the ConEmu window.

image

ConEmu also integrates with Far Manager, a text-based file manager similar to Norton Commander. You can even drag and drop files within the text-mode file manager.

Console2

Console2 is less configurable than ConEmu, but still manages to pack in important features such as tabs and the ability to run a different shell in each tab. For example, with either program, you could have a standard Command Prompt shell, an elevated console, and a PowerShell console open – all at the same time in the same window. You can easily create new tabs of any type from within the program itself without having to dig through your start menu.

image

Note that this feature isn’t configured by default and you’ll have to add other entries, such as PowerShell, yourself.

Console2’s settings window is much less extensive than ConEmu’s, but Console2 is still a significant improvement over the Command Prompt.

image

As with ConEmu, you can set a custom background or use real window transparency. Each type of console tab can have its own unique background image or you can just use your desktop wallpaper with a custom tint. Tabs themselves can be renamed and otherwise customized.

image


These applications both soundly beat out the default command prompt. If you use the command line on Windows, the ability to have tabs, multiple different shells in the same window, and other features can improve your productivity. These applications aren’t just eye candy – although they offer eye candy, too.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 11/29/12

Comments (37)

  1. Phillip Brown

    I use a lot of different computers at work, moving between systems in various labs, so I try to keep a set of mobile utilities on my thumb drive that I can use without having to install applications. Is there a command prompt replacement that will run from a thumb drive?

  2. JP

    I have looked at cmd alternatives, two reasons I haven’t. First old habits die hard. With Win7 adding some functions (robocopy, schtasks, etc) that XP didn’t have or had to copy those exes into the Sys32 has helped keep me locked in. The other reason is I am reluctant to move because I’m in a split roll as a Sys & App admin and I frequently have to cover development for cmd scripting. My concern that a third party cmd has functions or options that might not be compatible when the scripts are deployed to a Win2003 environment.

    I agree that the default cmd is dated, but I have a third option that I have been using for over a year now that has worked for me. I started with install Cygwin-BASH shell to give me the flexibility of BASH in a Windows environment. Then created a user profile PATH environment variable and added the Cygwin program file path. After reboot I can grep, ls, chmod, all BASH functions from Windows bland cmd.

  3. Al

    Phillip,

    PortableApps has one that might work for you.

    http://portableapps.com/apps/utilities/command_prompt_portable

  4. Minimallounge

    What about “NirCmd”?

  5. Darakus

    Powershell has alias to all the cmd commands, its built into windows and it has an integrated object-oriented scripting language…Why would you need one of these, maybe I’m missing something.

  6. George

    I can’t believe anybody who uses the DOS box would care about transparency or wallpapers.

  7. Tim S

    I can’t believe anybody thinks they are DOS boxes..

    *chortle*

  8. Sudo Bash

    I still use xterm in Linux rather than gnome-terminal etc. I don’t want all the tabs. I can tile multiple windows, use screen, or split the window.

    Transparency? That just makes them ever so much harder to read.

    @JP
    +1 for using a proper shell. I can’t say that BASH integrates well with Windows, but anything is better than that DOS era thing.

  9. TsarNikky

    The command prompt may be outdated, but it far from being dead. There are many occasions when nothing but a command line will do the necessary tasks. While Microsoft may think it has all the answers and the only way to do something, it is extreme arrogance on their part. So…long live the command line!

  10. DanTheMan

    I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned Take Command from JPSoft. I’ve used it for probably 20 years and it’s great. Not having used the other command prompts I’m not qualified to make comparisons, but looking over the material presented it certainly seems to be competitive.

  11. bedlamb

    Off topic, but still related to the article…
    “Eye Candy” meant something completely different when I was growing up.

  12. ron

    “Total Commander” from http://www.ghisler.com/ is the best replacement for the Command Prompt that I’ve ever seen.

    I’ve been using it for nearly 20 years.

  13. Kyle

    I have always been a fan of PowerCmd.

  14. Maximus

    @Phillip Brown

    Both Console2 and ConEmu are portable “from the box”. Just note that you need to create (manually) ConEmu.xml file in ConEmu folder.

  15. Rabo

    what kind of things do people use cmd for anyways? it’s always been faster for me to just click an icon instead of type it out…

  16. TechnoGeek

    @Rabo:
    There are actually quite a few uses. One of my favorites is the icacls command (permissions setting) and mklink (symbolic and hardlink creation.) mklink’s functionality isn’t available via a windows GUI, and setting permissions is an absolute PAIN in windows explorer… anyway, the point is that some advanced manipulation of files and data, along with some diagnostics tools, work better with a commandline.

  17. Rabo

    @technogeek Thanks, most people just say “launch apps”…which would mean that they can type out C:\users\imnottellingyoumyname\appdata\roaming\.minecraft\minecraft.exe faster than putting their hand on a mous and clicking a button.

  18. Kevin Dalton

    What I use cmd for is when Windows Update goes wrong I reset it by using cmd, right-click and Run As Administrator and then type net stop wuauserv then, net start wuauserv and then exit. Windows Update works very well after using this tip.
    It also empties the prefetch files, but I think you knew this already.

  19. prndll

    Most people don’t even realize the command prompt exists. But, it has SO many uses. Not the least of which is batch files. Batch programming can get alot of things done in a very short amount of time. Try creating hundreds of directories within a few seconds any other way. In less than a second, file folders can be created for each month of the year. That’s not even to mention certain networking capabilities and control over directory attributes. I’ve always enjoyed using the command prompt to read the contents of .txt files into variables for other things. My experience with BASH is there but is limited. I see the removal of the command prompt as a removal of power away from the user. Before much longer, we will see a point where older computers will seem to do “the impossible” when compared to the “latest and greatest” of the next generation of users. Sure, there are replacements. But I have to wonder about vulnerabilities. Command line to just as (if not more) powerful than the registry.

    On a side note, command prompt wallpaper is kinda cool but is also kinda useless. I could live without it.

  20. sandy

    very good exploration of the concept, thanks guys meking others well versed with the old good CMD and alternatives..

  21. pbug56

    I’d love to have DCL – Digital Command Language in a command window in Windows! DCL was highly scrip-table and eminently logical and easy to understand, and very powerful. It was quite mature coming down from RSTS/E through VAX/VMS to Open/VMS. And keep in mind that the Windows NT kernel was derived from VMS.

  22. Edward Beckett

    ConEmu Is Fantastic … and even better when used in tandem with Far Manager.

    I’ve got tasks set up for bash, git-bash, minGw, PowerShell, VS comspec and Windows SDK all in one term emulator … you can even invoke gui apps inside it .. firefox, chrome whatever …

    Great tool …

  23. Theodore

    The command prompt has hundreds of uses in search routines as well as batch files. Using the timer mechanism, it will begin routines on dates and times which require no human intervention. The MOVE and XCOPY cammands shuttle files around, delete outdated files, and make new directories automatically. Thesebatch routines require no human intervention and would require no extra time sitting in front of a computer screen.

  24. Theodore

    To all cmd prompt users:

    Is there any way to enlarge the EDIT screen when you compose new Batch Files ?? The current EDIT screen is way too small. Any tips would be appreciated … Theodore

  25. prndll

    @Theodore
    “…EDIT screen is way too small.”
    Edit your batch files with notepad. So I’m not sure what you mean.
    ———————————————————–
    I neglected to mention the ability to create directories/folders using VBScript. But, the topic is command line.

  26. Stephen - NYC

    @pbug56, 3 cheers for VMS!!!! The holy grail these days is for VMS in a laptop configuration. Not with an emulator, but running native.
    How old am I? I started working at Manny Hanny in RSTS/E BASIC doing programming. Next was FORTRAN on RSX/11. Both on PDP 11/70′s. Wow, was VMS on the VAX a step up.
    Thanks for letting me reminisce.

  27. john lee

    take command or 4nt as it used to be called is far more mature, tho’ not freeware. J

  28. Jim

    To clarify these don’t REPLACE cmd.exe – just enhance it. Once of the nice things I like about both is you can define multiple shells – so you can setup cmd.exe, powershell, the github shell, etc and call up each in a different tab.

    I also just found Clink (http://code.google.com/p/clink/) which gives you a persistent history for cmd.exe.

  29. Keith

    What’s outdated, are headlines claiming the cmd line is outdated.

    HTG, go bash some other OS.

    Yeah. I know what I did there.

  30. Scott

    When you are working in an environment that has numerous servers, switches, or app platforms that you or your teams access/update/manage/push code from a shell or cli, defining a common set of different ‘wallpapers’ or ‘color tint’ backgrounds for each makes it easier to quickly identify which one you’re working with. It also can reduce errors due to mistakes made by bleary eyed, sleep deprived sysadmins, developers & change managers. If your teams access all customer facing systems with predefined shells using a red tinted background, it is less likely that someone will accidentally push alpha-level code to a production-level machine from a red tinted cli/shell window. YMMV

  31. mike

    The command prompt window keeps popping up frequently by itself. It is quite annoying. How do I get it to stop? Thanks

  32. Ron

    @TechnoGeek There is a way to make links in the gui, using Link Shell Extension
    http://schinagl.priv.at/nt/hardlinkshellext/hardlinkshellext.html

  33. gyffes

    I’d love a bit of a walkthrough on Cygwin. Is there a Windows-version of FISh (Friendly Interactive Shell)?

  34. Matthew Bennett

    Phillip Brown,

    You can run Console2 from a thumb drive the install for it is really just a zip of the windows binary exe. It will run without being “installed”.

  35. Matthew Bennett

    If you’re a cygwin user you can create a shortcut that will bring you a great bash console for windows.
    There are quite a few options to choose from (HTG has a great write up about cygwin). Here is my setup:

    %PATH_TO_INSTALL_FOLDER%\cygwin\bin\rxvt.exe -display :0 -fg “yellow” -bg “black” -sr -g 100×60 -sl 1000 -fn “Lucida Console” -title “RXVT Bash” -tn rxvt-cygwin-native -e /bin/bash –login

  36. Braden

    PowerCmd is where it’s at.

  37. oldtimer

    Why does every one want to kill their grandfather? C :/ has been around since day 1. You dont have to spend all your time with him. Just wish him a long life and acknowlege his contribution to the many generations of DOS that preceded Windows. Then think of the 20 years or so of mainframes before the PC that didnt have graphics and a command line was all that existed. They worked well. Welcome the future but remember the past. (IT may return to bire you in the posterior.)

Get Free Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 134,000 newsletter readers

Email:

Go check your email!