Here's an indispensable add-on for administrators who spend an appreciable amount of time in the command line but also need better integration between the command line and Explorer itself. The first thing I do with any installation of Windows—whether on a desktop or a server—is add some kind of shell extension to allow a command prompt to be opened in any folder simply by right-clicking on it.
It's a huge timesaver, since I often need to run something from the command line in a buried folder, and it's a hassle to run cmd from the Start button and then drill down manually to the directory in question. Having a way to get to the command prompt from a given folder is a nice option.
But like everyone, I'm always looking for a better way. Enter the Command Prompt Explorer Bar. This free add-on for Explorer was written by programmer Pavel Zolnikov and is offered through the online treasure trove of the Code Repository.
If you spend any appreciable amount of time in the command line but also need better integration between the command line and Explorer itself, this is an indispensable add-on.
Once you've installed it, you can open any Explorer window, then press Ctrl-M to open a "band" in the lower half of the Explorer window. This band contains a command-prompt window which is exactly the same, functionally, as the one you invoke when you type cmd, but with some extras.
For one, it's integrated directly into the same window, so it doesn't get buried under other windows if you have to switch away. Zolnikov has also integrated some common tools directly into the window to minimize the amount of key-bashing you'll have to do.
A series of buttons to the left of the command window includes:
- a drop-down for invoking the context menu for the command window itself (such as the copy/paste functions);
- a button to jump to the directory currently being explored in the top pane;
- a button to clear the command-prompt window;
- a button to paste the names of all selected folder items into the command line;
- a drop-down for inserting commonly-used command-line, .NET and scripting actions; and
- a couple of window-manipulation buttons.
You can also close the command window by clicking the "X" icon on the strip.
The binaries and the source code are both available, although to download either one you'll need to register. (It's free). The program requires the .NET 1.1 libraries to run, so it should work as is in Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP Service Pack 2.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.
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