Using Format Commands to Change Output View

PowerShell has a set of cmdlets that allow you to control how properties are displayed for particular objects. The names of all the cmdlets begin with the verb Format. They let you select which properties you want to show.

Get-Command -Verb Format -Module Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
CommandType     Name               Version    Source
-----------     ----               -------    ------
Cmdlet          Format-Custom      6.1.0.0    Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          Format-Hex         6.1.0.0    Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          Format-List        6.1.0.0    Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          Format-Table       6.1.0.0    Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          Format-Wide        6.1.0.0    Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility

This article describes the Format-Wide, Format-List, and Format-Table cmdlets.

Each object type in PowerShell has default properties that are used when you don't specify which properties to display. Each cmdlet also uses the same Property parameter to specify which properties you want to display. Because Format-Wide only shows a single property, its Property parameter only takes a single value, but the property parameters of Format-List and Format-Table accept a list of property names.

In this example, the default output of Get-Process cmdlet shows that we have two instances of Internet Explorer running.

Get-Process -Name iexplore

The default format for Process objects displays the properties shown here:

 NPM(K)    PM(M)      WS(M)     CPU(s)      Id  SI ProcessName
 ------    -----      -----     ------      --  -- -----------
     32    25.52      10.25      13.11   12808   1 iexplore
     52    11.46      26.46       3.55   21748   1 iexplore

Using Format-Wide for Single-Item Output

The Format-Wide cmdlet, by default, displays only the default property of an object. The information associated with each object is displayed in a single column:

Get-Command -Verb Format | Format-Wide
Format-Custom          Format-Hex
Format-List            Format-Table
Format-Wide

You can also specify a non-default property:

Get-Command -Verb Format | Format-Wide -Property Noun
Custom                 Hex
List                   Table
Wide

Controlling Format-Wide Display with Column

With the Format-Wide cmdlet, you can only display a single property at a time. This makes it useful for displaying large lists in multiple columns.

Get-Command -Verb Format | Format-Wide -Property Noun -Column 3
Custom                 Hex                  List
Table                  Wide

Using Format-List for a List View

The Format-List cmdlet displays an object in the form of a listing, with each property labeled and displayed on a separate line:

Get-Process -Name iexplore | Format-List
Id      : 12808
Handles : 578
CPU     : 13.140625
SI      : 1
Name    : iexplore

Id      : 21748
Handles : 641
CPU     : 3.59375
SI      : 1
Name    : iexplore

You can specify as many properties as you want:

Get-Process -Name iexplore | Format-List -Property ProcessName,FileVersion,StartTime,Id
ProcessName : iexplore
FileVersion : 11.00.18362.1 (WinBuild.160101.0800)
StartTime   : 10/22/2019 11:23:58 AM
Id          : 12808

ProcessName : iexplore
FileVersion : 11.00.18362.1 (WinBuild.160101.0800)
StartTime   : 10/22/2019 11:23:57 AM
Id          : 21748

Getting Detailed Information by Using Format-List with Wildcards

The Format-List cmdlet lets you use a wildcard as the value of its Property parameter. This lets you display detailed information. Often, objects include more information than you need, which is why PowerShell doesn't show all property values by default. To show all of properties of an object, use the Format-List -Property * command. The following command generates over 60 lines of output for a single process:

Get-Process -Name iexplore | Format-List -Property *

Although the Format-List command is useful for showing detail, if you want an overview of output that includes many items, a simpler tabular view is often more useful.

Using Format-Table for Tabular Output

If you use the Format-Table cmdlet with no property names specified to format the output of the Get-Process command, you get exactly the same output as you do without a Format cmdlet. By default, PowerShell displays Process objects in a tabular format.

Get-Service -Name win* | Format-Table
Status   Name               DisplayName
------   ----               -----------
Running  WinDefend          Windows Defender Antivirus Service
Running  WinHttpAutoProx... WinHTTP Web Proxy Auto-Discovery Se...
Running  Winmgmt            Windows Management Instrumentation
Running  WinRM              Windows Remote Management (WS-Manag...

Improving Format-Table Output (AutoSize)

Although a tabular view is useful for displaying lots of information, it may be difficult to interpret if the display is too narrow for the data. In the previous example, the output is truncated. If you specify the AutoSize parameter when you run the Format-Table command, PowerShell calculates column widths based on the actual data displayed. This makes the columns readable.

Get-Service -Name win* | Format-Table -AutoSize
Status  Name                DisplayName
------  ----                -----------
Running WinDefend           Windows Defender Antivirus Service
Running WinHttpAutoProxySvc WinHTTP Web Proxy Auto-Discovery Service
Running Winmgmt             Windows Management Instrumentation
Running WinRM               Windows Remote Management (WS-Management)

The Format-Table cmdlet might still truncate data, but it only truncates at the end of the screen. Properties, other than the last one displayed, are given as much size as they need for their longest data element to display correctly.

Get-Service -Name win* | Format-Table -Property Name,Status,StartType,DisplayName,DependentServices -AutoSize
Name                 Status StartType DisplayName                               DependentServi
                                                                                ces
----                 ------ --------- -----------                               --------------
WinDefend           Running Automatic Windows Defender Antivirus Service        {}
WinHttpAutoProxySvc Running    Manual WinHTTP Web Proxy Auto-Discovery Service  {NcaSvc, iphl…
Winmgmt             Running Automatic Windows Management Instrumentation        {vmms, TPHKLO…
WinRM               Running Automatic Windows Remote Management (WS-Management) {}

The Format-Table command assumes that properties are listed in order of importance. So it attempts to fully display the properties nearest the beginning. If the Format-Table command can't display all the properties, it removes some columns from the display. You can see this behavior in the DependentServices property previous example.

Wrapping Format-Table Output in Columns (Wrap)

You can force lengthy Format-Table data to wrap within its display column by using the Wrap parameter. Using the Wrap parameter may not do what you expect, since it uses default settings if you don't also specify AutoSize:

Get-Service -Name win* | Format-Table -Property Name,Status,StartType,DisplayName,DependentServices -Wrap
Name                 Status StartType DisplayName                               DependentServi
                                                                                ces
----                 ------ --------- -----------                               --------------
WinDefend           Running Automatic Windows Defender Antivirus Service        {}
WinHttpAutoProxySvc Running    Manual WinHTTP Web Proxy Auto-Discovery Service  {NcaSvc,
                                                                                iphlpsvc}
Winmgmt             Running Automatic Windows Management Instrumentation        {vmms,
                                                                                TPHKLOAD,
                                                                                SUService,
                                                                                smstsmgr…}
WinRM               Running Automatic Windows Remote Management (WS-Management) {}

Using the Wrap parameter by itself doesn't slow down processing very much. However, using AutoSize to format a recursive file listing of a large directory structure can take a long time and use lots of memory before displaying the first output items.

If you aren't concerned about system load, then AutoSize works well with the Wrap parameter. The initial columns still use as much width as needed to display items on one line, but the final column is wrapped, if necessary.

Note

Some columns may not be displayed when you specify the widest columns first. For best results, specify the smallest data elements first.

In the following example, we specify the widest properties first.

Get-Process -Name iexplore | Format-Table -Wrap -AutoSize -Property FileVersion,Path,Name,Id

Even with wrapping, the final Id column is omitted:

FileVersion                          Path                                                  Nam
                                                                                           e
-----------                          ----                                                  ---
11.00.18362.1 (WinBuild.160101.0800) C:\Program Files (x86)\Internet Explorer\IEXPLORE.EXE iex
                                                                                           plo
                                                                                           re
11.00.18362.1 (WinBuild.160101.0800) C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe       iex
                                                                                           plo
                                                                                           re

Organizing Table Output (-GroupBy)

Another useful parameter for tabular output control is GroupBy. Longer tabular listings in particular may be hard to compare. The GroupBy parameter groups output based on a property value. For example, we can group services by StartType for easier inspection, omitting the StartType value from the property listing:

Get-Service -Name win* | Sort-Object StartType | Format-Table -GroupBy StartType
   StartType: Automatic
Status   Name               DisplayName
------   ----               -----------
Running  WinDefend          Windows Defender Antivirus Service
Running  Winmgmt            Windows Management Instrumentation
Running  WinRM              Windows Remote Management (WS-Managem…

   StartType: Manual
Status   Name               DisplayName
------   ----               -----------
Running  WinHttpAutoProxyS… WinHTTP Web Proxy Auto-Discovery Serv…