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Learn to love the command line (maybe) with cmder

23 December 2013, Mike Williams

Many PC users need to access the Windows command prompt occasionally, but its awkward interface means this is rarely a happy experience. Line editing works differently, you can’t use the clipboard as normal, even the window won’t resize properly: it’s no great surprise that most people avoid the console just as much as they can.

You don’t have to put up with the standard Command Prompt, though. There are plenty of applications which can make your console life very much easier, and cmder is the perfect way to start trying them out.

Download the 3MB archive, unzip it, and you’re ready to go. Cmder is based on the portable ConEmu (a console emulator) and clink (a Bash-like line editor), so there’s no installation required: just double-click Cmder.bat and your extended command prompt appears right away.

New cmd tabs can be opened at any time (and launched as an administrator)

One benefit you’ll see immediately is that the command window now behaves much like any other application. Editing keys generally work as you’d expect (Home, End, Ctrl+Z to undo, say). You can actually paste text with Ctrl+V, rather than being forced to use the mouse. The window can be freely resized, too, without the usual annoying restrictions.

A new tabbed interface makes it easy to run multiple command line sessions at once. If you’re working in two folders, say, you don’t have to keep entering the full path name – just press Ctrl+T to open a new tab, and switch between them with a click. Tabs can easily be run as an administrator, or another user, and there are plenty of tab management options (you can detach a tab to run it as a separate window, for example).

Other neat keyboard shortcuts deliver anything from an easy way to jump up to the parent folder (Shift+Up), to dismissing cmder to the taskbar, and restoring it later (Ctrl+’). There’s a fully searchable command history, alias support and command completion, and it’s all supremely configurable.

Cmder doesn’t do very much itself, of course; most of these features are delivered by ConEmu and clink. If you don’t have those tools already, though, it’s a convenient way to try them out, and the package certainly makes the command line a much more comfortable and productive place to be.

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