Friday Fun Text to HTML

htmlI love being able to create HTML documents from PowerShell commands. The Convertto-HTML cmdlet will happily turn any object into an HTML table using whatever properties you specify. Plus you can do all sorts of fancy things such as embedding a style sheet in the header, creating HTML fragments and inserting additional HTML elements. Today’s Friday Fun takes ConvertTo-HTML a bit further. As always what I have isn’t necessarily a production-worthy script but hopefully it will serve as a learning tool.

My idea was to take a text file such as a script and turn it into an HTML document using alternate shaded rows for the style. I already had a style header from some other scripts so that part was easy. My first attempt was to simply get the content of the file and convert to HTML.

But there is a problem which you’ll see if you try this at home. ConvertTo-HTML is looking for a set of object properties, and the the contents of a file don’t have any. Or to put it another way, I need to turn the contents of the file into an object. Since I knew I wanted to include the line number, I figured I could use the [pscustomobject] type that was introduced in PowerShell 3.0.

When run, I each line is turned into a custom object with a property for the Line number and a property for the value of each line. Normally, you would want to give your property a name, but in this case I don’t want a property name so I’m using a blank. You’ll see why eventually. Now I can pipe this to ConvertTo-HTML and get the output I’m expecting. That’s the crux of the script. Here’s the complete function, ConvertTo-HTMLListing

This function takes a file name and turns the text contents into an HTML document.


The function includes an embedded style sheet which is what allows me to use different fonts for the different sections as well as the alternating rows. The only other “trick” is that I’m replacing spaces in the original text with the HTML equivalent.

This is why it is helpful for PowerShell cmdlets to only do one thing. If ConvertTo-HTML automatically wrote to a file I’d have to jump through more hoops. But it doesn’t. This function as well only writes the HTML to the pipeline. You will still need to pipe it to Out-File to save. There are some examples in the comment-based help.

You’ll notice in the output that the table has a header for the line number and nothing for the line of text. That’s why I used a space for the property name in my pscustomobject.

The only other features I have are the options to skip blank lines and line numbers.

Now before you start saying, “Yeah but what about…”, I know there are other techniques and ISE add-ons to turn scripts into complete and colorized HTML files. You can also simply open the file in a browser as well and have it displayed as text. My function is really aimed as a teaching tool, although it could be kind of cool to have an HTML based library of your PowerShell scripts.

So was this fun? Did you learn something new? If not, there’s always next week. Enjoy your weekend.

It’s Not About the Bucket

icebucketLike the rest of the Internet I’ve been watching the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Yes, they are fun to watch. My 17 yr old son and his friend did a great one involving his truck. While noboby had “nominated” me, I had been thinking about pro-actively taking the challenge and calling people out. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while a wildly successful fundraiser for the ALS Association, the challenge has taken on a life of its own and now seems to as much about the person taking the challenge as it is about fundraising. I didn’t want to be just another person saying, “Look at me.” I’ve read a number of articles and commentaries about this challenge, many lamenting that the challenge is overshadowing the cause. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud everyone who took the challenge and especially those who contributed financially as well. But at this point I think the meme is at its end.

So, I decided to simply make a $100 donation to the ALS Association. Primarily because I believe in their cause. I have known a few families devastated by this disease so my inspiration is them and not some artificial need to feel like I belong to a special club. The reason I am even posting this is because even though I am skipping the ice, I am still issuing a challenge to the PowerShell community to step up and join me. If you want to do the ice bucket thing and get specific people involved, then by all means do so. But the true aim of this challenge, which I don’t want to get lost, is to raise money for a worthy cause.

You can learn more about the association and make an online donation at

A Timely PowerShell Prompt

021913_2047_WordTest1.pngDuring the course of writing a few scripts that refresh a specific part of the console, such as the recent Read-Host alternative, I realized that flashing colors wasn’t always necessary. The fact that I could update the same space on the screen meant I could write the same content with minor changes and it would look like the the screen as “flipping”. Essentially I was thinking of a clock.

So I thought it might be handy to have a clock as part of my PowerShell prompt. PowerShell has a built-in function called Prompt but you can replace it with your own version. The function will only last for as long as your PowerShell session so if you don’t like it, exit and restart PowerShell.

This is for the most part the basic function that shows PS and your current location. This prompt function will not work properly in the PowerShell ISE. The magic happens by always setting the cursor to the same coordinates in the PowerShell shell console. I use the same type of While loop I used in my other functions, only this time I’m waiting for the user to press any key, which would indicate the start of typing a command. Once that has been detected, the looping stops and the time ceases to be refreshed in the prompt.

You really need to see this live but here’s a screenshot example.

Then I thought it might be helpful to have the clock stand out so I added a little color.


The only issue I’ve found with these prompts, is that if you need to scroll in the console window, you’ll need to press the spacebar or type something so that the clock stops refreshing. Otherwise you are scrolling while PowerShell is trying to write to the console.

Instead of clock you could use a countdown timer. Or perhaps some sort of performance counter. For a prompt though, you need to make sure you can get and display the information in a few hundred milliseconds, otherwise the prompt will feel sluggish and unresponsive.

Enjoy and let me know where this leads you.

Advice, solutions, tips and more for the lonely Windows administrator with too much to do and not enough time.

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