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Good command-line shell for Windows?

I'm a long-time user of 4NT (, a drop-in replacement for Microsoft's cmd.exe which has lots more features.  It certainly gets the job done, but it's starting to feel a bit crusty (and cmd.exe feels significantly more so), so I'm looking for alternatives.

Ideally I'd like something that runs in real window, not a console window, so I can change to any font, use normal cut & paste, and so on.  jpsoft makes a gui front-end for 4NT called Take Command, but it doesn't feel right.  jpsoft has spent much too much time on fancy batch file features, which are irrelevant when you have Perl or Python.

I've also looked at using bash from the UNIX world, but it's still a console application.  I'd be in heaven if I had something like the terminal window from OS X.

Any alternatives worth looking at?  Or are there is there a general replacement for the Windows console box that's not so damn restrictive and ugly?


Tuesday, March 9, 2004

I use Cygwin's rxvt.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

If you install X with Cygwin, you can  choose from the various X based terminal applications.

I believe you can even have it install the KDE libraries so you can use the Konsole application, which is an excellent terminal.  A ton of software to install just to get a decent terminal, but having a decent terminal is worth it.

Oren Miller
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

I second cygwin/bash - plus you'll get tons of nice tools (sed, awk, grep, tail, less, which, in short, the complete gnu toolchain.

Mark Tetrode
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

At work a buddy uses cygwin without X, and uses the free Putty terminal app to SSH in to cygwin's SSH server. Gets you bash and friends in a windows-friendly window. Quite nice, I must say.

Mike Swieton
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Under Windows XP I use COMMAND.COM from DOS 5.0 hacked so it starts without complaining that the DOS version is not correct.

If it's good enough for me, it's good enough for me.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Checkout you might find something there

Code Monkey
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

cygwin. Install X windows. Install KDE. I've done it on windows. I've got cut/paste in console whether bash or cmd ... I don't run Xwindows as I don't need it. You can do Xemacs for windows as well and run a shell in emacs which is always handy imho. has some info.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

I wholeheartedly second the recommendation for cygwin.  Not only can you get great and better alternatives to cmd.exe, you can get a pile of other amazingly handy tools and utilities.  As a mostly Linux user, I'll arrogantly state that in my not-so-humble opinion and Win box just isn't useful without cygwin :-)

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

You are absolutely sure that cmd.exe doesn't do what you want? Have you tried "hh ntcmds.chm"? Did you install the "Tweak U" Power Toy and check the Command Line options?

I've been using 4DOS years ago but almost all it offered is already built into Windows XP. The problem is, few people know that.

Chris Nahr
Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Can you get cmd.exe to run in a nice, standard window under XP or does it still run in an ugly little console window that can't use arbitrary fonts?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I don't want to sound angry/condescending, but what do you use the enhanced scripting for?

I have a batch file set up to run backups on command, but I honestly can't think of what you'd use most of the rest of the command-line to do.  Maybe tell me the last five things you did with a command-line?  I'd be honestly interested to hear, and maybe you can start a (separate) interesting topic.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I don't use batch files for scripting.  I use Perl or Python for most of my scripting needs.

Generally, I prefer using the command line because:

1. It's much easier to run little tools and inspect the output from a command window.  I write Perl scripts to process files all the time.

2. I find it easier to do many file manipulation tasks from a command line.  Explorer involves too much pointing and clicking and searching through lists of files.

Now really, Microsoft's cmd.exe is fine for this stuff.  It's tons better than the old MS-DOS shell of yore.  But I've found that 4NT has enough little usability niceties that I prefer it, such as being able to display the prompt in a different color and having generally better options for most commands.  Really, though, it is hard to justify $70 for these benefits if you're not an old user.  JP Software is in a lot of trouble, I think.

Now mostly what I'd like is to get rid of an ugly console window with its non-standard cutting and pasting and limited font selection, and just be able to use a standard graphical window, as is the case with xterm under UNIX and the terminal window under OS X.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

"Can you get cmd.exe to run in a nice, standard window under XP or does it still run in an ugly little console window that can't use arbitrary fonts?"

No, you only have to use the ugly OEM font if you're actually using DOS programs that expect OEM code pages (the fonts with the smiley faces, line-drawing characters etc.).

Otherwise, you can use Lucida Console at arbitrary sizes. No other choices but Lucida Console is a very well-designed TrueType font so I don't mind that.

Chris Nahr
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

See if you can get yourself into the Longhorn Command Shell Beta (aka Monad). I have seen the future of the command line, and it is Monad...

Friday, March 19, 2004

Cygwin/bash, just what I needed. Here's a list of my last 5 commands.

sqlplus "/as sysdba"
lsnrctl status
less <insert filename here>
shutdown immediate


Mark Gold
Tuesday, March 23, 2004

I also program in Perl and I create scripts that process files, so I need to analyze input files, write the script, analyze the output file, look at various outher files etc.

No way a shell would enable me to work as fast as I can with Dos Navigator (the "Dos" in it has long ceased to mean the old "DOS").

Dos Navigator has a console window which I can type commands in. Then, I press Ctrl+Tab to switch to the file manager window, and there I have all the files I need to look in, with syntax highlight and so on.

I've been using Dos Navigator since 1994 and it's the first thing I download and install on a new computer I have to work with for more than one hour.

Besides, it can compare directories, find in files, copy/move/delete/view/edit files, it has a calculator, ASCII table, calendar and so on. It's like Windows Commander, but when you run something from the command line, you won't end up with a command shell window popping up and disappearing. The output will stay there, in DN's console window (just pres ESC to toggle).

Dan Dascalescu -
Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Have a look at WinOne. It is not a console program and includes many of the things you are asking for here.
Cost is only $US19.95

Lucien Cinc
Saturday, June 19, 2004

I want to be able to run commands like in the command.exe of WinXP, however with the nice features of a good shell using cygwin.  However now that I have installed cygwin, I am unable to reach my
outside-of-cygwin directories!  Example:
I have a WinXP folder with the path C:\Documents and Settings\myName\Desktop\myFolder
I want to list the files in this folder, from within cygwin.  However, from my cygwin I am unable to change directories into this directory!  Is it possible to do what I want?  (and if so, what do I need to do)

Different Shell
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

I figured it out (answer at
under 'How can I access other drives?')

Thanks anyways

better shells
Wednesday, June 30, 2004

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