About Special Characters

Short description

Describes the special characters that you can use to control how PowerShell interprets the next character in a command or parameter.

Long description

PowerShell supports a set of special character sequences that are used to represent characters that aren't part of the standard character set.

PowerShell's special characters are only interpreted when they're enclosed in double-quoted (") strings. Special characters begin with the backtick character, known as the grave accent (ASCII 96), and are case-sensitive.

PowerShell recognizes these special characters:

Character Description
`0 Null
`a Alert
`b Backspace
`e Escape
`f Form feed
`n New line
`r Carriage return
`t Horizontal tab
`u{x} Unicode escape sequence
`v Vertical tab
--% Stop parsing

Null (`0)

The null (`0) character appears as an empty space in PowerShell output. This functionality allows you to use PowerShell to read and process text files that use null characters, such as string termination or record termination indicators. The null special character isn't equivalent to the $null variable, which stores a null value.

Alert (`a)

The alert (`a) character sends a beep signal to the computer's speaker. You can use this character to warn a user about an impending action. The following example sends two beep signals to the local computer's speaker.

for ($i = 0; $i -le 1; $i++){"`a"}

Backspace (`b)

The backspace (`b) character moves the cursor back one character, but it doesn't delete any characters.

The example writes the word backup and then moves the cursor back twice. Then, at the new position, writes a space followed by the word out.

"backup`b`b out"
back out

Escape (`e)

The escape (`e) character is most commonly used to specify a virtual terminal sequence (ANSI escape sequence) that modifies the color of text and other text attributes such as bolding and underlining. These sequences can also be used for cursor positioning and scrolling. The PowerShell host must support virtual terminal sequences. This can be checked on PowerShell v5 and higher with the boolean property $Host.UI.SupportsVirtualTerminal.

For more information about ANSI escape sequences, see ANSI_escape_code.

The following example outputs text with a green foreground color.

$fgColor = 32 # green
"`e[${fgColor}mGreen text`e[0m"
Green text

Form feed (`f)

The form feed (`f) character is a print instruction that ejects the current page and continues printing on the next page. The form feed character only affects printed documents. It doesn't affect screen output.

New line (`n)

The new line (`n) character inserts a line break immediately after the character.

This example shows how to use the new line character to create line breaks in a Write-Host command.

"There are two line breaks to create a blank line`n`nbetween the words."
There are two line breaks to create a blank line

between the words.

Carriage return (`r)

The carriage return (`r) character eliminates the entire line before the character's insertion point. The carriage returns functions as though the prior text were on a different line.

In this example, the text before the carriage return is removed from the output.

Write-Host "Let's not move`rDelete everything before this point."
Delete everything before this point.

Horizontal tab (`t)

The horizontal tab (`t) character advances to the next tab stop and continues writing at that point. By default, the PowerShell console has a tab stop at every eighth space.

This example inserts two tabs between each column.

Column1         Column2         Column3

Unicode character (`u{x})

The Unicode escape sequence (`u{x}) allows you to specify any Unicode character by the hexadecimal representation of its code point. This includes Unicode characters above the Basic Multilingual Plane (> 0xFFFF) which includes emoji characters such as the thumbs up (`u{1F44D}) character. The Unicode escape sequence requires at least one hexidecimal digit and supports up to six hexidecimal digits. The maximum hexidecimal value for the sequence is 10FFFF.

This example outputs the up down arrow (↕) symbol.


Vertical tab (`v)

The horizontal tab (`v) character advances to the next vertical tab stop and writes all subsequent output beginning at that point. The vertical tab character only affects printed documents. It doesn't affect screen output.

Stop parsing (--%)

The stop-parsing (--%) symbol prevents PowerShell from interpreting arguments in program calls as PowerShell commands and expressions.

Place the stop-parsing symbol after the program name and before program arguments that might cause errors.

In this example, the Icacls command uses the stop-parsing symbol.

icacls X:\VMS --% /grant Dom\HVAdmin:(CI)(OI)F

PowerShell sends the following command to Icacls.

X:\VMS /grant Dom\HVAdmin:(CI)(OI)F

For more information about the stop-parsing symbol, see about_Parsing.

See also