How To Make The Command Prompt Look & Work Better

We like the Command Prompt and we are not alone in that. But, even though it is a mighty and powerful tool, it sure looks boring. What if you want to make it prettier? And what about customizing certain things about the way it works, like how many commands it stores in its history? To learn all this and more, read this tutorial.

NOTE: This article applies for Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

What Is The Command Prompt?

Before Windows was created, the most used operating system was DOS (Disk Operating System). It was a text-based operating system, that allowed you to run programs by manually typing in commands.

The launch of the Windows operating system simplified the whole computing experience by making it more visual. Even though DOS is no longer included in Windows operating systems since Windows ME (in 2000), we still have the Command Prompt - the text command-line interpreter, analog of the command shell found in the old DOS operating system.

This tool is generally used by geeks and more advanced users, such as system administrators. With it, you can run all kinds of commands. You can manage your partitions, network devices and connections or you can simply run programs and executable files.

Most probably, the Command Prompt will be phased out and, in the future, Windows users will have to learn and use PowerShell if they want to use a powerful command line interpreter. But, for now, let's see how to launch Command Prompt and how to make it look pretty. It is not as un-customizable as you would think.

How To Start The Command Prompt

This has been shown in detail, in this tutorial: 7 Ways to Launch the Command Prompt in Windows.

When you first open the Command Prompt it opens at your user folder: "C:\Users\Your user name".

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

When you run it as administrator, it opens at the default system folder: "C:\Windows\system32".

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

How To Access The Properties Of The Command Prompt

If you want to customize the way Command Prompt looks and works, you need to access its Properties window. Right click or long press on the top of the Command Prompt window and select Properties.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

You will notice four tabs with options that can be configured in detail: Options, Font, Layout and Colors.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

Let's take a look at these tabs and see what they offer in terms of customization options.

How To Customize The Command Prompt Cursor Size, Buffers And Edit Modes

The first tab is named Options. In Windows 7 and in Windows 8.1, it includes three sections: Cursor Size, Command History and Edit Options.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

In Windows 10, besides the Cursor Size, Command History and Edit Options section, you’ll also find two additional sections for Text Selection and Current code page, and an additional option called Use legacy console.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

Regardless of the operating system you use, the first section - Cursor Size - is about changing the size of the cursor. You can choose one of the available options: Small, Medium or Large.

In the Command History section you can customize how many commands are retained in the command buffer. The buffer serves as a historical record of the commands you have executed. Use the Up and Down arrow keys to navigate through the previously entered commands.

The default value is 50 commands but it can be made as large as 999. The next option, "Number of Buffers" determines for how many concurrent instances of the Command Prompt you're using separate buffers. For example if you change the value to three, you will be able to have up to three Command Prompt instances opened, each with its own buffer. The last option from this section, "Discard Old Duplicates", allows Windows to remove duplicate command entries from the buffer.

Both in Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and in Windows 10, the Edit Options section offers options for QuickEdit Mode and Insert Mode. The first one allows you to use the mouse to cut and paste text to and from the Command Prompt window. The second - Insert Mode - has the same function as the Insert keyboard key: the cursor inserts a character at its current position, forcing all characters past it one position further. If Insert Mode is disabled, then when you type, what you’re typing overwrites any text that is present in your current location.

A sample of how QuickEdit Mode works can be viewed in the capture below. With the mouse, we selected the text for copying. We then pressed Enter and the text was copied to the clipboard.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

You can then paste the selected text in any other program.

If you’re using Windows 10, the Edit Options section offers two more options for you to use: Enable Ctrl key shortcuts and Filter clipboard contents on paste. However, in order to be able to use these (and other) new options, you first have to uncheck the last feature from the Options tab: Use legacy console.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

Once you’ve unchecked Use legacy console and relaunched Command Prompt, all the new features brought by Windows 10’s Command Prompt can be enabled.

Let’s go back to the Edit Options section from Windows 10’s Command Prompt. If you Enable Ctrl key shortcuts, Command Prompt will let you use a set of keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl + C or Ctrl + V inside it, which is something you couldn’t do in previous versions. We promise we’ll talk about all the new keyboard shortcuts you can use in Windows 10’s Command Prompt in a very soon to come tutorial.

The last option from the Edit Options section of Windows 10’s Command Prompt is called Filter clipboard contents on paste. If you enable it, whenever you paste content from the clipboard inside Command Prompt, tabs are automatically removed and smart quotes are converted to regular ones.

Going further, Windows 10’s Command Prompt includes a new section called Text Selection. Here, you have two options which you can set: Enable line wrapping selection and Extended text selection keys.

Enabling line wrapping selection enhances the way in which Command Prompt handles text selection. Previous versions of Command Prompt only allowed copying text from it in block mode. That meant that each time you pasted content from Command Prompt in a text editor you had to manually correct tabs, word wrapping etc. If you enable this option, Windows 10 takes care of all that, so you won’t have to correct the flow of text anymore.

If you enable Extended text selection keys, Windows 10’s Command Prompt will allow you to use a set of common keyboard shortcuts inside it. For example, you can use Shift + Arrow keys to select text.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparentCurrent code page is also a new section from Windows 10’s Command Prompt. This section doesn’t include any options for you to set: it only informs you about the character code you use.

How To Adjust The Font Used By The Command Prompt

In the Font tab you can select the size and Font used by the Command Prompt window. Also, you can use the window preview to see the effect of your settings before applying them.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

The Size list displays several values for how large each character is. Then, in the Font list you can select one of the three available fonts.

How to Change the Command Prompt Window Layout & Size

The Layout tab has three sections where you can configure the size of the Command Prompt window. The available options are as follows:

  • Screen Buffer Size - use it to configure how many characters are displayed on a line in the Command Prompt window, by adjusting the Width value. The number of lines that are stored in memory, are adjusted using Height value;
  • Window Size - use it to select the Width and Height of the Command Prompt window;
  • Window Position - enables you to configure the Command Prompt's window distance from the left and top edges of the screen. This can be done only if the "Let System Position Window" box is not checked;
  • Let System Position Window - if it's checked, you won't be able to configure the window position settings but you can drag and drop, or resize the Command Prompt window with the mouse.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

Next, let's take a look at the final tab.

How To Set The Window Colors For The Command Prompt

The Colors tab is all about customizing the colors used by the Command Prompt. There are four items that can be customized:

  • Screen Text - use it to set the color of the text, in the Command Prompt window;
  • Screen Background - use it to choose the background color of the Command Prompt window;
  • Popup Text - use it to set the color of the text displayed in pop-up windows triggered by the Command Prompt;
  • Popup Background - use it to set the background color of the pop-up windows triggered by the Command Prompt.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

If you’re using Windows 10, Command Prompt also lets you set its transparency. Underneath all the sections from its Colors tab, you’ll find a section called Opacity. Moving the slider from this section will let you change the transparency of the Command Prompt to the level you want. Note however, that this option is only available if you unchecked the Use legacy console setting from the Options tab.

Command Prompt, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, customize, color, background, features, transparent

When you are done changing your settings, all that remains to do is for you to click or tap OK to apply them.

Conclusion

As you can see from this guide, there are plenty of customization options that allow you to make the Command Prompt friendlier than it seems at first sight. If you are looking for other useful tips about the Command Prompt, don't hesitate to read the articles recommended below.

About the Author: Codrut Neagu
Codrut is a Senior Editor on Digital Citizen. He has studies in IT, telecom and law. He's passionate about technology and he is fluent in working with several operating systems, including Windows and Linux. He likes to test security products and he feels like at home when digging through the registry, optimizing things or having fun on Telnet.