Book Review: Windows PowerShell Pocket Reference

While attending the IT Pro week of image TechEd 2008, I won my pick of a book from a table of 30 or so to choose from.  I noticed a few copies of Lee Holmes‘ new PowerShell book called ‘Windows PowerShell Pocket Reference‘ tucked in the middle and decided to pick one up.  Sure, it would only have cost me $12.99 Cdn to buy it and the other books I had to choose from were a $60 value or more, but I’m a Poshoholic, what else can I say?

To put it simply, I’m thrilled that I decided to pick up this book off the table.  Good things come in small packages.  I’ve only had Lee’s book for a little over a week and it has already provided me with enough value that I would even be satisfied if I had paid more than two times the list price.  Here are a few key reasons why I just love this book:

  1. It’s literally a pocket book, about the size of a short novel.  It’s lightweight and doesn’t take much space in my laptop bag, so I’ll be carrying this book with me everywhere for quite a while.
  2. It only briefly (19 short pages) introduces PowerShell and the rest is all meaty reference material that complements the documentation that is baked into PowerShell very nicely.
  3. Within 1 week I’ve already been able to use this book to quickly look up some things that either aren’t included in the baked in documentation or that aren’t detailed enough in the baked in documentation, and I’ve already discovered a few things that I wasn’t aware of that I could do with PowerShell because of this book.
  4. I can find what I’m looking for in the book very quickly by just flipping through the pages.

I should note that you shouldn’t look to this book to give you all the help you need on every cmdlet.  There’s no need for that because the PowerShell documentation already has lots of information on that front, and there are already a number of books that cover most cmdlets in detail.  But if you’re like me you  don’t want that information in a book like this anyway, because that would make it too heavy and reduce its usefulness as a quick reference.  If you are looking for fast access to cool things like PowerShell regular expression syntax, statements, operators, .NET string formatting options, variables, and details on certain really useful cmdlets like Add-Member and the Format-* cmdlets and useful .NET and WMI classes, then this book is for you.

Right now this is absolutely my favorite book format.  I don’t have time to do very much reading these days, and this book is great in that regard because it cuts right to the chase and gives me what I want in very little time, which fits my schedule quite nicely.  I’d love to have a book in a similar format for using PowerShell to manage and automate Exchange 2007, System Center Operations Manager 2007, System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2007/8, SQL Server 2008, or any other platform that has PowerShell support.  Skip the introductory portion (or minimize it), throw out all of the unnecessary details, and give me the meat in a small package that I can carry with me.  Modularity in books like you can find in well written software.  Sure, you won’t cover everything, but it should cover enough so that I’ll get valuable information that I can use in the little time that I have, and it should be portable.  That’s what I’m after

Aside: Ever see Japanese technical books?  They are much smaller than what we find here in North America.  Everything is still made too big over here, books included.

If you’re in the market for a new PowerShell book and you already use PowerShell, I seriously recommend you take a look at this book.  If you’re new to PowerShell and plan to use it a lot I think it’s worthwhile for you too, but if you like to learn directly from books with lots of details and descriptive examples you may want another book as well.  Then you can keep this book with you and leave the heavier one in your office.

Kirk out.

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