Do Scripters Dream of Magenta-Colored Text?

Display Output in Color Using Windows PowerShell

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To tell you the truth we don’t know what scripters dream about and we’re not so sure that we want to know. We’re willing to bet, however, that any time scripters dream they dream in color.

How do we know that? That’s easy: after all, about the only time scripters can see colors is in their dreams. To paraphrase Henry Ford, when it comes to using Wscript.Echo to echo data back to the command window, scripters can choose any color they want … as long as it’s white text on a black background.

Note. Yes, or whatever colors you’ve set as your command window defaults. But you know what we mean.

In other words, it’s a big, bright, beautiful, and multi-colored world … as long as you’re not writing system administration scripts. Here’s a riddle for you: what’s black and white with no red (or any other color) all over? You got it: data echoed back to the command window.

Note. OK, fine: we’ll also accept a zebra. And a panda bear. But that wasn’t really what we were looking for.

One thing that isn’t black and white with no red all over is the new Windows PowerShell. Have you ever fantasized about reporting back data using magenta-colored text? (Don’t feel bad: we wouldn’t want to admit to that, either.) Well, don’t just dream about it, do it:

Before you ask, no, this isn’t trick photography or Scripting Guy special effects: that’s magenta-colored script output. And here’s how we did it:

$strComputer = "."

$colItems = get-wmiobject -class "Win32_Process" -namespace "root\CIMV2" `
-computername $strComputer | write-output

foreach ($objItem in $colItems) {
      write-host $objItem.Name, $objItem.WorkingSetSize -foregroundcolor "magenta"

Note. In Windows PowerShell the grave accent character (`) is used to indicate a line break. In that respect it is equivalent to the underscore character (_) in WSH and VBScript.

We won’t discuss most of the code shown in this article; if you’d like to know more about accessing WMI data using Windows PowerShell take a peek at Accessing WMI from the Windows PowerShell , which explains the ins and outs of using Windows PowerShell to get to WMI data. For now we’re going to focus exclusively on write-host, the Cmdlet used to write data to the command window. Write-host is similar to Wscript.Echo: you simply call write-host followed by the data you want to echo back. For example, here’s a very simple script that echoes back the results of the equation 2 + 2:

write-host (2 + 2)

Note. We won’t keep you in suspense: the answer is 4.

Granted, that’s probably not the most exciting thing you’ve ever seen. But would you still feel that way if the result of that equation was displayed in magenta text? Impossible, you say? Well, then fire up your copy of Windows PowerShell and type in the following:

write-host (2 + 2) -foreground "magenta"

Told you.

As it turns out, the –foregroundcolor parameter enables you to change the color of the text being output by write-host. As you saw in the first script we showed you, we were able to get magenta-colored text just by adding the –foregroundcolor parameter and specifying “magenta” as the color:

write-host $objItem.Name, $objItem.WorkingSetSize -foregroundcolor "magenta"

Nice, huh? And don’t worry: if you don’t like magenta you have other colors at your disposal. In fact, you can set the foreground color and/or the background color to any of the following:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Cyan
  • DarkBlue
  • DarkCyan
  • DarkGray
  • DarkGreen
  • DarkMagenta
  • DarkRed
  • DarkYellow
  • Gray
  • Green
  • Magenta
  • Red
  • White
  • Yellow

What’s that? Did we say “and/or the background color?” As a matter of fact, we did: you can use the –backgroundcolor parameter to set the background color of the output. For example, here’s a Windows PowerShell script that displays output using magenta-colored text on a yellow background:

$strComputer = "."

$colItems = get-wmiobject -class "Win32_Process" -namespace "root\CIMV2" `
-computername $strComputer | write-output

foreach ($objItem in $colItems) {
      write-host  $objItem.Name, $objItem.WorkingSetSize `
      -foregroundcolor "magenta" -backgroundcolor "yellow"

And here’s what the command window looks like after you run the script:

OK, so now you know why none of the Scripting Guys made it into art school. But you get the idea.

Here’s a better use of color. This script retrieves a list of processes and then reports back the name and working set size for each one. The added twist? If a process has a working set size greater than 3,000,000 bytes the information for that process is displayed using magenta text; otherwise the process information is displayed using white text. Here’s the script:

$strComputer = "."

$colItems = get-wmiobject -class "Win32_Process" -namespace "root\CIMV2" `
-computername $strComputer | write-output

foreach ($objItem in $colItems) {
      if ($objItem.WorkingSetSize -gt 3000000) {
      write-host  $objItem.Name, $objItem.WorkingSetSize -foregroundcolor "magenta" }
     else {write-host  $objItem.Name, $objItem.WorkingSetSize}

And this is what the output looks like:

Needless to say, this makes it easy for you to just glance at the command window and pick out the processes with the largest working set sizes.

And no, you’re not dreaming: it’s all real. Henry Ford would be so jealous.