You can save yourself a lot of time with repetitive tasks by using the FOR command in a simple batch file or using it directly from the command line. The help for this little command can be a bit daunting, but once you've learned what it is doing you'll be able to figure out creative ways to use it.
The command can be broken down into a few parts to simplify it:
- The FOR command itself.
- The switch (i.e. /F, /D, /L) that tells the command how to behave.
- The variable it will use in a command.
- The file-set, set, string, etc., it will use to get the variable.
- And, finally the command it will do.
A simple scenario where you would use the FOR command is to copy files to several servers in a
domain. Instead of doing a manual copy you would do something like this:
FOR /f %i in (servers.txt) do (xcopy /ecify c:Source_files %ic$temp)
This example tells it to use the servers.txt file (that contains a list of servers) and make a
copy of all of the files contained in the Source_files folder to the temp folder on each server. To
use the FOR command in a batch program, specify %%variable instead of %variable. In the example, it
would be %%i instead of %i if used in a batch file.
This was first published in October 2004