Chapter 6. The Command Prompt

The point and click g raphical user interface (GUI) revolutionized the way we use computers, eliminating the need to remember cryptic commands and type them at an unfriendly prompt. However, as users become more advanced, they often rediscover the older command prompt interface and learn to appreciate how quickly and efficiently certain tasks can still be performed.

Microsoft certainly hasn’t forgotten Windows’ roots in the command prompt, either, as it is still an integral part of Windows XP. As explained in the beginning of Chapter 4, many of the programs that come with Windows don’t have corresponding shortcuts in the Start menu, and therefore must be started with some form of the command prompt. Other applications, such as Notepad or Windows Explorer, have command-line parameters , special options that can be specified only if the program is started from the command prompt. And then there are programs, such as Telnet, that are still entirely command-line based.

Understanding the command prompt in all of its forms is not only helpful in getting a better idea of how Windows works, but can open up new ways of accomplishing tasks that would otherwise require repetitive pointing and clicking. Disk Operating System (DOS) was the command-line-only OS run by early PCs, and Windows was merely an application that ran on top of DOS. Windows NT, the predecessor to Windows XP, was Microsoft’s first version of Windows that did not rely on DOS. However, in Windows ...

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