Tutorial: Use a CSV file to make a graphical menu of PowerShell scripts

I’ve recently been working on a PowerShell module that uses a CSV file to create a custom menu of scripts.

It looks like this:

It hopefully helps to bridge the gap between engineers and automators, who write scripts useful to others, and service desk people and technicians, who may not be confident with the command line. PSScriptMenuGui allows PowerShell coders to put their scripts in a simple menu, usable by anyone.

It’s loosely inspired by (criminally similar to) something I made for a previous employer.

(The main difference is that this version starts instantly. The old version was so slow that I made an entertaining loading screen to fill the void. A good subject for a future blog post…)

If you’d like to dive straight in, please:

The rest of this blog post acts as a tutorial.

If you’d like to be guided through making your own menu, keep reading…

Step 0: System requirements

The module works on Windows only – sorry, rest of world!

Apart from that, it should run pretty much anywhere. It works on:

  • PowerShell for Windows 5.1 which comes with Windows 10.
  • PowerShell 7, currently available as a preview and due to be finished at the start of 2020.

It does not work on PowerShell Core 6. If you have this version, the easiest solution is to use PowerShell 5.1 as it is already on your PC.

Step 1: Install the module and make an example menu

Open a PowerShell prompt and:

# Navigate to where you want to work on your menu - in my case OneDrive:
cd $env:OneDrive
# Install the module:
Install-Module PSScriptMenuGui -Scope CurrentUser
# You may need read and agree to messages about updates and trust
# Make an example menu to get you going:
New-ScriptMenuGuiExample

You should see this:

VERBOSE: Copying example files to PSScriptMenuGui_example...

Step 2: Explore the example

Navigate to your PSScriptMenuGui_example folder and open PSScriptMenuGui.ps1. You should see a bit of boilerplate to ensure that the module is loaded, followed by this line which displays the menu:

Show-ScriptMenuGui -csvPath '.\example_data.csv' -Verbose

Try running the line in your PowerShell window. You should see the example menu from the GIF at the top of this post.

Now open example_data.csv. A text editor is fine but Excel is easier. You can see that every row in the CSV represents an item in the menu.

Step 3: Make it your own

Experiment with editing the CSV and running the Show-ScriptMenuGui command again to see your changes.

A few ideas:

  • Put one of your scripts in the folder and add it to the menu using Method powershell_file and Command .\filename_of_script.ps1.
  • Try including PowerShell commands in the CSV file. Use Method powershell_inline and Command Get-ComputerInfo. Run Show-ScriptMenuGui with -NoExit to stop the PowerShell window from closing.
  • Add a link to an external application. Use Method cmd and enter the path of the program in Command.

Step 4: Next steps

Step 5: Make a shortcut

When you’re happy with your menu, why not make a shortcut to it in File Explorer?

  1. Right click a blank area in a folder window or on your desktop.
  2. Select New → Shortcut
  3. Enter something like this as the location:
C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -WindowStyle Hidden -File "C:\full\path\PSScriptMenuGui_example\PSScriptMenuGui.ps1"

Add PowerShell-7 preview to Windows Terminal in 30 seconds

Edit: The stuff below doesn’t work any more. But this new stuff works.

Fun times in Windows land over the last few days with the release of new previews of Windows Terminal (v0.4) and PowerShell 7 (Preview 3).

To celebrate, here’s a simple script that you can copy-and-paste into a PowerShell window to add PowerShell 7 to Windows Terminal. (You can even use the Windows Terminal PowerShell terminal. Wow!)

The whole thing might take 30 seconds, which is a significant improvement on my last effort of 2 minutes. Why not take 1 minutes 30 seconds to make yourself a drink?

Pre-requisites:

  • PowerShell 7-preview x64 is installed
  • Windows Terminal v0.4 is installed and has been run

Here’s what it looks like:

Here’s the code:

$terminalFolderPath = "$env:LOCALAPPDATA\Packages\Microsoft.WindowsTerminal_8wekyb3d8bbwe\LocalState"
# Get Windows Terminal settings file
$settingsFilePath = Join-Path $terminalFolderPath 'profiles.json'
$json = Get-Content $settingsFilePath | ConvertFrom-Json
# Get profiles
$profiles = $json.profiles
# Make a copy of first profile and configure for PS7 x64
$ps7 = $profiles[0].psobject.Copy()
$ps7.name = 'PowerShell 7-preview (x64)'
$ps7.commandline = 'C:\Program Files\PowerShell\7-preview\pwsh.exe'
$ps7.guid = '{' + (New-Guid).ToString() + '}'
# Download and set icon
$pwsh7IconPath = Join-Path $terminalFolderPath 'pwsh7.ico'
Invoke-WebRequest -Uri 'https://raw.githubusercontent.com/weebsnore/Add-PS7ToWindowsTerminal/master/pwsh7.ico' -OutFile $pwsh7IconPath
$ps7.icon = $pwsh7IconPath
# Write updated settings file to disk
$json.profiles = $profiles + $ps7
$json | ConvertTo-Json | Out-File $settingsFilePath

And here it is on GitHub.

Get Task Manager list of Apps with PowerShell

Over the past couple of years I’ve been impressed by a series of small improvements to the Task Manager which have made it pretty great to use.

I recently noticed that you if you right click the column titles in the Processes tab and tick all the boxes, you rarely have to venture to the Details tab. (The most valuable column to add, in my opinion, is Command line.)

The Processes tab also attempts to lump items into a few categories: Apps, Background processes, Windows processes.

How does it do this?

Luckily, Raymond Chen briefly explains what’s going on in a blog post from 2017.

To take Apps as an example: If the process has a visible window, then Task Manager calls it an “App”

Can we do something similar with PowerShell?

Probably. Kinda.

Here’s my attempt:

Get-Process | Where-Object {$_.MainWindowTitle} | Select-Object Description

And the result:

You can see that I get processes that have a MainWindowTitle and display the process Description.

The results are similar but not identical: PowerShell shows some bits of Windows internals that are displayed elsewhere in Task Manager.

Can you get any closer?

Tip: avoid Wait-Debugger gotcha on Azure Functions

My biggest gotcha with Azure Functions is that you need to put Wait-Debugger in your script for local debugging, and it’s easy to forget to remove it when you deploy to Azure.

My last post talked about exploring Azure Functions’ environment, and I mentioned that you could compare the cloud version with its locally-run approximation.

Well, when you’re running your function locally, the variable $env:AZURE_FUNCTIONS_ENVIRONMENT is set to Development.

This means you can ensure that you never leave a function hanging at Wait-Debugger in the cloud by wrapping it like this:

if ($env:AZURE_FUNCTIONS_ENVIRONMENT -eq 'Development') {
    Wait-Debugger
}

Another solution is to wrap your debug command like this:

if ($Request.Query.Debug -eq 'True') {
    Wait-Debugger
}

And then invoke your function with &Debug=True when you want to debug it.

How do you handle this problem?

How to make your free Azure Linux VM actually free

Azure gives you a good amount of stuff free for 12 months when you sign up.

Quite tantalizing among these is a free Linux VM:

But if you make a B1S VM with the Ubuntu Server 18.04 LTS image, you start getting charged a trickle of cash for the disk. I amassed a bill of $1.26 before I noticed – quite shocking!

What’s up?

It turns out the 6 in P6 represents the size of the disk: 64 GB.

And the Ubuntu disk is only 30 GB. So you’re being charged for using too small a disk!

Luckily the fix is simple.

Start by creating your VM as normal:

Once it’s been provisioned, Stop (Deallocate) the VM:

Then open your VM in the Azure portal and navigate to Disks -> click disk name -> Configuration.

Set Size (GiB) to 64 and click Save.

Then start your VM back up. It should now be free of charge – and you’ll have a bit more space to play with.