Windows Command Line Links
I check the information on this page from time to time, but some of it may be out of date.
About this page
This page offers links to command line tools for Windows (this is not meant to discriminate against Linux and Unix users, but they are less in need for such information, I guess).
A command line tool according to my definition is a program that you start from the command line prompt, and that either returns to it without further interaction, or that offers its own input prompt. This is not synonymous to "console program" a console program may run in full screen mode, in which case I do not consider it to be a command line tool (for example: edit is a console program, while edlin is a command line tool; both are editors).
Note that for strange reasons some programs claim to be "command line software," when in fact they are Windows GUI programs.
This page is meant to provide information not for the expert but for the averagely experienced user who, for several good reasons, in some cases may prefer the command line to the GUI.
The Windows command line
To make full use of the command line's functionality, it helps to be acquainted with the following issues, which (at least for now) are not discussed here:
- the command processor cmd and its options
- the built-in cmd commands (e.g. dir, copy)
- the wildcard characters (* and ?)
- the path environment variable
- batch files and batch programming (.cmd files)
- input/output redirection and pipes (<, >, >> and |)
You can find all that information at:
In many cases, though, all you need to know is that you open a console window by typing cmd at "Start Execute" and close it by typing exit at the command line prompt.
If you know about useful command line tools, please send me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also tell me if some links (or programs) do not work!
As far as possible, programs should be simple, well documented, free, and still maintained by their authors.
I try my best to only provide useful links, but I am not responsible for the content of linked websites. Also, I cannot give any support for programs written by others. If you find severe problems with any of the linked content, or with information that I give, please inform me.
Microsoft command line tools
Before looking somewhere else, it is useful to be aware that a large number of command line tools are included with Windows their main drawback being that Microsoft doesn't always provide proper documentation.
A comprehensive list of Windows XP commands you find at
More or less, the information given there is still valid for later versions of Windows. This list may be a bit too comprehensive for general use, but it shows that Windows contains a lot of command line functionality. Not surprisingly, to some of those tools there are better alternatives.
Microsoft offers this equally comprehensive (though not identical) list:
Windows itself gives you a list of all commands by typing
Some of those commands are built into the command processor, the majority are separate programs.
Usually you get help for a Microsoft command by calling it with the option /? or by calling help with the name of the command as argument examples:
Note that many non-Microsoft programs may expect the Unix-style -? instead of Microsoft's /? to display their help texts (if they support this feature). The command help only supports Microsoft's own Windows commands.
Unix utilities for Windows
A collection of utilities that have been ported from Unix to Windows. Note that some file names may duplicate native Windows commands, and some may duplicate other versions of ported Unix commands.
Go to the page
to see the list of available tools among them, for instance:
ed (line editor)
grep (search text files using regular expressions)
sed (change text files using regular expressions)
gzip (compress/uncompress files, .gz format)
zip (compress/uncompress files, .zip format)
Be warned: those Unix utilities are very versatile and powerful, but tend to have a profusion of options!
Here is a link to a good introduction to regular expressions (which have originated with Unix, but by now have also found their way into many Windows GUI programs):
A classic Unix FTP client, NcFTP is also available for Windows.
Or, you use WebDrive to map an FTP connection to a Windows drive letter then you can use all the familiar commands like dir, copy, xcopy, del etc. to access files on an FTP server.
With a few restrictions, WebDrive itself can be configured and used from the command line.
WebDrive is not free, but may well be worth its price. If you know of any open source alternative, please let me know!