September 20, 2006

Custom Windows CMD Prompt

I figured I would add this for the windows users out there who spend their fair share fo time in the cmd prompt.  There is a certain format I’m accusomted to on all my machines.  They show me who I am, the machine I’m on, the dir I’m in, and the time of the last commands completion.  So i set out using some of the inspiration I found in the Hansel Mintutes podcast which I suggest everyone listen to.  There is a lot of MS fanboy action but there are also a lot of valuable productivity tips so you take the good and try to ignore the bad.

I would give credit to the show they talked about altering the prompt but I don’t remember and couldn’t find it using their website and all it took for me was knowing it could be done and I quickly figured out how to do it on my own using methods.  First I had to figure out what commands where available to the prompt.  Easy enough there is a command called prompt that allows you to view the options available.

#prompt /?
Changes the cmd.exe command prompt.

PROMPT [text]

  text    Specifies a new command prompt.

Prompt can be made up of normal characters and the following special codes:

  $A   & (Ampersand)
  $B   | (pipe)
  $C   ( (Left parenthesis)
  $D   Current date
  $E   Escape code (ASCII code 27)
  $F   ) (Right parenthesis)
  $G   > (greater-than sign)
  $H   Backspace (erases previous character)
  $L   < (less-than sign)
  $N   Current drive
  $P   Current drive and path
  $Q   = (equal sign)
  $S     (space)
  $T   Current time
  $V   Windows XP version number
  $_   Carriage return and linefeed
  $$   $ (dollar sign)

If Command Extensions are enabled the PROMPT command supports
the following additional formatting characters:

  $+   zero or more plus sign (+) characters depending upon the
       depth of the PUSHD directory stack, one character for each
       level pushed.

  $M   Displays the remote name associated with the current drive
       letter or the empty string if current drive is not a network

If Command Extensions are enabled the PROMPT command supports the following additional formatting characters:

It’s a good starting point to look at.  Next I had to look at the environment and see what options I had available there.  Using the set command with no options gave me everything I needed there.


This gave me pretty much everything I needed with one little annoyance.  I’m all about accurate timing but to the hundredth of a second is a bit extreme for me.  So I started playing around trying to figure out a way to get the time sans the extras when I discovered something not in the documentation $h.  What $h does is delete the previous character.  So I placed $h$h$h in the line and came up with the following solution.

set PROMPT=[%USERNAME%@%COMPUTERNAME%$b$p] [$t$h$h$h]$_#

Making this a permanent change is easy enough once you have it the way you want it press windows key and pause.  Then go to Advanced and check Environment Variables.  There you will find two sets of variables User and System.  I wanted the settings to be just for me on this system so I set them to user.  You could set them to system and they will replace everyone’s prompt with the custom one you defined.

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