Do you have repetitive tasks you’d like to automate or manage, but not the time or know-how to code a solution from scratch? Powershell might be just what you’re looking for. Designed to help automate activities, it is a cross-platform shell and scripting language developed by Microsoft.
With Powershell, you can use the command line or scripting language to have point-and-click activities executed and managed. It’s fairly easy to use and yet extremely powerful. So, where do you begin?
Knowing how to get started will ensure you achieve your goals in the shortest amount of time possible. Following is a list of more than 20 resources that can teach you how to use PowerShell, unlocking new capabilities as you go.
Let’s get started.
Ed Wilson’s Introductory Pieces
If you are on the fence about learning Powershell — perhaps because you haven’t seen it in action or you’re being asked to use it by a client or colleague — Ed Wilson’s “Why Learn Powershell?” will help clear your mind of doubts so you can focus on the real value that this program offers.
Ed Wilson, who also offers a host of other Powershell resources on his website and YouTube channel, walks through a number of specific scenarios for which you should (or shouldn’t) learn Powershell. It’s a great starting point if you’re trying to convince yourself that Powershell is worth your time, or if you are still unclear about what it does. Find it here.
Other resources from Ed Wilson include:
The Official Powershell Glossary
Whenever you’re trying to learn a new platform or language like Powershell, it can be frustrating to feel like, even if you could understand the concepts, some new terms are standing in your way. That’s why — perhaps — the first place you should look to for help with building your Powershell knowledge is Microsoft’s official glossary of Powershell terms.
Within the glossary, you’ll learn the difference between program-specific terminologies, such as “PowerShell drive” and “PowerShell command.” You will also come to understand the difference between pipelines, workflows, modules, and transactions as they apply to the Powershell platform. Find it here.
Microsoft’s Discovery Documentation
Even if you think you know the basics of Powershell, exploring the official documentation is a wise idea. Specifically, the Discovery documentation can introduce you to the fundamental concepts behind Powershell and help you understand whether your intended use case is viable using this platform.
In this introduction, you’ll find that Microsoft offers expansive resources, including sample scripts, deployment examples, a catalog of modules, and more. Find it here.
The most important topics include:
The GitHub Quickstart Guide
If you’re the kind of person who just wants to jump right in and start using Powershell right away, you’ll probably appreciate the approach of the GitHub guide. This guide promises to help you install and start using Powershell in 30 minutes or less.
Given the thinned-down, laser-focused structure, you’ll likely find that GitHub can get you up and running faster than Microsoft’s documentation, which is great if you simply want to get hands-on now and return for more detailed information later. GitHub’s straightforward approach is also far less overwhelming than Microsoft’s catalog of documentation, so it’s ideal for complete beginners.
This guide will take you through the installation process for any operating system, plus you’ll find additional resources for editing, debugging, and testing within Powershell. There’s also a Map Book for users experienced with using Bash. Find it here.
Tobias Weltner’s Whitepaper on Powershell
This one is for people who prefer not to jump around from resource to resource and just want one comprehensive source to get them going with Powershell. Tobias Weltner’s 20-chapter whitepaper is spread over three volumes to help you learn the basics as well as all the crucial elements and skills you need to master to become a Powershell pro.
Beyond the fundamentals, this whitepaper covers the expressions, file system, processes, services, logs, and management concepts that go hand-in-hand with using Powershell. Weltner also explains adjacent topics, such as loading .NET libraries and using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), which makes this whitepaper as suitable for experienced devs as it is for beginners who are ready to embark on a rigorous learning path.
Still, stacking this whitepaper with some additional resources (especially videos and courses that present information in a different format) can help accelerate the learning.
So, if you’re trying to get up and running as quickly as possible, consider using the official documentation linked to above to at least get through the installation process and start exploring the platform before you sit down to read this in-depth resource. Find it here.
Learn by Doing With PSKoans
For a more hands-on learning experience, explore The Powershell Koans (PSKoans). Each Koan represents a question or test in which you are presented with a failed result and must correct it by answering the question or fixing the code.
The great thing about this interactive learning tool is that it begins very simply, allowing beginners to get a grip on implementing their fundamental Powershell knowledge and learn more advanced concepts as they go along. Even if you have never interacted with Powershell before, any background you have in development could mean that you’re solving problems and using the program in no time.
You’ll find this approach to be especially valuable if you tend to learn better by doing than by reading or listening. Given the structure, it’s worth giving these koans a try no matter where you’re at in your Powershell journey. In the event that you can’t figure things out right away, you can revisit them after you’ve gone through some of the other resources on this list and you’ll already notice improvement happening. Find them here.
Powershell Video Tutorials
Whether or not you’ve gone through all of Microsoft’s official documentation, you’ll find multiple video series on the Microsoft site that offer new perspectives, visual examples, and tidbits of information that can be difficult to glean from step-by-step guides. Some take a more general approach to explain Powershell to beginners, while others delve into highly specific scenarios, like using Powershell Core with Azure.
No matter how far along you are on your Powershell journey, it’s worthwhile to go through the list of videos and see if any recent additions meet your needs. You can also search different content areas on this page by using the left sidebar to navigate to events or other resources regarding Powershell. Find it here.
The best video collections include:
LinkedIn Learning Courses
Previously known as Lynda.com, the LinkedIn Learning hub offers more than a dozen courses relating to Powershell. The great thing is that they’re taught by experts and offer a guided learning experience with multiple modules and activities or tests in between. The downside is that accessing them is not free.
A free trial is available if you want to give LinkedIn Learning a go and try out the Powershell tutorials (or any of the other hundreds of tutorials that have been published). However, many would say that LinkedIn’s courses are worth the money, if not for the exemplary training, then for the certificate that you can earn upon successful completion.
So, if you plan to use Powershell as part of your freelancing gig or it’s a necessary skill for your resume, it might be worthwhile to pursue a certified course such as one of these. Find them here.
The top courses include:
Relevant Microsoft Certifications
If you’ve decided that pursuing certification in Powershell would be valuable to your professional reputation, you might be sad to hear that Microsoft does not yet offer a standalone certification for Powershell itself. That’s why many developers turn to one of LinkedIn’s courses to get a certificate, while others opt for less-trusted (but free or more affordable) alternatives, like a Udemy certificate in the same area.
The trouble with Udemy and other sites is that anyone can publish a course and charge however much they want to for it. This can lead to unstandardized education and training that lacks direction, overlooks details, or takes one person’s perspective and biases and makes them sound factual without any opposing information.
So, while Udemy courses and other third-party resources can be valuable for casual learning, you may be better off going a different route. If you’re hoping to place a certificate on your resume, getting it from Microsoft directly will look the most professional and validate your knowledge in the most comprehensive and accurate manner. For these reasons, it’s worth looking into relevant Microsoft certifications for which the exams have sprinkled in Powershell questions. Find them here.
The top two certifications for Powershell users are:
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA)
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
The DevOps Collective
If you wish to take a deep dive into a specific topic or approach regarding Powershell, check to see if The DevOps Collective has a relevant eBook you can devour. The DevOps Collective is a nonprofit organization with a growing collection of books about Powershell. Some titles focus on error handling, while others explore HTML reporting, networking, and other topics.
One of the most overlooked titles is The Big Book of Powershell Gotchas, which gets into the little things that often stand in people’s way before they even realize something’s wrong. In other words, this book uncovers some of the most time-consuming “anti-patterns” where logical thinking and assumptions often send users down the wrong path.
Without this book, those assumptions can lead to a lot of wasted time and frustration. But as a reader, you’ll learn about them in advance so you can understand what makes the assumed line of thinking wrong, know the correct approach to take, and avoid the mistake altogether.
What does it cost? The best part about these eBooks is that you can name your own price based on your budget and how valuable you feel the information is. This means you can download all of the eBooks for free if you desire. You can also read a free sample first if you’re thinking about donating. Find it here.
The best eBooks to start with include:
Keep Learning Powershell
While it can be daunting to start anew with any emerging platform or language, Powershell has proven one thing already: It’s here to stay. With growing adoption across the corporate, freelance, and hobbyist worlds, Powershell holds great potential in helping us do the one thing everyone’s talking about most — automating our jobs.
With the help of Powershell, you can automate monotonous tasks both in your personal life and in your career with relative ease. Plus, once you’re confident enough to take on projects for others, you’ll discover that the real value of Powershell lies in its ability to supercharge DevOps projects and help your company or clients take their workflows to the next level.
So, if you’re worried about where to start, dive into any of these resources and just get going. Once you have a better understanding of how Powershell works and what it’s supposed to do, you’ll likely find that the enthusiasm to unlock more advanced capabilities is enough to keep you going all on its own.