Review: PowerShell Plus is a free IDE for PowerShell users
By Ian Harac
At a Glance
Context sensitive editor
Few advanced editing functions
Cannot customize auto-format
PowerShell Plus is a very useful tool for anyone using PowerShell and not already strongly invested in a development environment. Now that it’s free, it’s even more appealing.
PowerShell Plus is an IDE (Interactive Development Environment) for PowerShell, which is Microsoft’s high-end scripting/batch processing language. As such, it is focused on the needs of the network admins, DBAs, and so forth, who regularly use PowerShell, as opposed to a more generic IDE such as Eclipse. Idera has released PowerShell Plus—formerly a $200 commercial program—as freeware, with no feature limits, upsells, or other gotchas that sometimes accompany a pay-to-free conversion.
PowerShell Plus offers a clean, easy-to-understand interface that adheres to standard Windows guidelines. There is a good deal of flexibility in which of the many panes and tabs are displayed, and this can be set on a tab-by-tab basis: Each tab open in the main window has its own set of configured controls, so you see exactly what you want to see for each document you edit, within some limits.
Setup and installation are incredibly painless. I’m used to spending some time configuring paths and permissions before I can get a development environment running smoothly, but PowerShell Plus was the epitome of plug-and-play. Granted, I configured it for single-user work and did not have to deal with some of the enterprise-level features, but it was among the easiest installations I’ve ever performed on a program of this type.
The function set of PowerShell Plus is solid. All of the expected development features are there, such as multiple editing tabs, integrated debugging, the ability to write extensions to the tool itself using PowerShell, syntax highlight, code completion, and so on. The editor lacks the overwhelming bells and whistles seen in some tools, such as UltraEdit, but it does what it has to do. There are a few odd quirks—although it has an automatic formatter (to get all the braces and indentation lined up), the user can’t define the rules used to format; if you don’t like PowerShell Plus’s code style, that’s that. Another feature I like in an IDE, conditional breakpoints, is not included in this release, but is scheduled to come in the next major release early next year. A free product which is updated with new functionality, also free, is a good buy.
For team development, PowerShell Plus supports several source control systems, including Visual SourceSafe and Team Foundation Server. Likewise, code signing is supporting, allowing users to easily sign code, and to control the execution of unsigned code.
In addition to the usual documentation for the IDE itself, PowerShell Plus includes a link to download a 500+ page PDF that is a teaching guide to the PowerShell language. That is a nice bonus.
A user with an already-configured IDE that provides them all the power and tools they need may or may not find PowerShell Plus offers them either more or better functionality. Since it’s free, there’s little to lose in giving it a spin. Users not already committed to an IDE, or who are dealing with PowerShell via a text editor instead of a development environment, will likely find it a significant improvement.
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