Object Pipeline

Pipelines act like a series of connected segments of pipe. Items moving along the pipeline pass through each segment. To create a pipeline in Windows PowerShell, you connect commands together with the pipe operator "|" and the output of each command is used as input to the next command.

Pipelines are arguably the most valuable concept used in command-line interfaces. Properly used, pipelines not only reduce the effort involved in entering complex commands, but also make it easier to see the flow of work in the commands. A related useful characteristic of pipelines is that since they operate on each item separately, you do not have to modify them based on whether you will have zero, one, or many items in the pipeline. Furthermore, each command in a pipeline (called a pipeline element) usually passes its output to the next command in the pipeline item-by-item. This usually reduces the resource demand of complex commands and allows you to begin getting the output immediately.

Windows PowerShell pipeline differs from the pipelines of most popular shells, and then demonstrate some basic tools that you can use to help control pipeline output and also to see how the pipeline operates.

Piping works virtually everywhere in Windows PowerShell. Although you see text on the screen, Windows PowerShell does not pipe text between commands. Instead, it pipes objects.

The notation used for pipelines is similar to that used in other shells, so at first glance, it may not be apparent that Windows PowerShell introduces something new. For example, if you use the Out-Host cmdlet to force a page-by-page display of output from another command.

The Out-Host -Paging command is a useful pipeline element whenever you have lengthy output that you would like to display slowly .It is especially useful if the operation is very CPU-intensive. Since processing is transferred to the Out-Host cmdlet when it has a complete page ready to display, cmdlets that proceed it in the pipeline halt operation until the next page of output is available. You can see this if you use the Windows Task Manager to monitor CPU and memory use by Windows PowerShell.

Run the following command: Get-ChildItem C:\Windows -Recurse. Compare the CPU and memory usage to this command: Get-ChildItem C:\Windows -Recurse | Out-Host -Paging. What you see on the screen is text, but that is because it is necessary to represent objects as text in a console window. This is really just a representation of what is really going on inside Windows PowerShell. For example, consider the Get-Location cmdlet. If you type Get-Location while your current location is the root of the C drive

If Windows PowerShell pipelined text, issuing a command such as Get-Location | Out-Host, would pass from Get-Location to Out-Host a set of characters in the order they are displayed onscreen. In other words, if you were to ignore the heading information, Out-Host would first receive the character 'C', then the character ':', then the character '\'. The Out-Host cmdlet could not determine what meaning to associate with the characters output by the Get-Location cmdlet.

Instead of using text to let commands in a pipeline communicate, Windows PowerShell uses objects. From the standpoint of a user, objects package related information into a form that makes it easier to manipulate the information as a unit, and extract specific items that you need.

The Get-Location command does not return text that contains the current path. It returns a package of information called a PathInfo object that contains the current path along with some other information. The Out-Host cmdlet then sends this PathInfo object to the screen, and Windows PowerShell decides what information to display and how to display it based on its formatting rules.

In fact, the heading information output by the Get-Location cmdlet is added only at the end of the process, as part of the process of formatting the data for onscreen display. What you see onscreen is a summary of information, and not a complete representation of the output object.

Given that there may be more information output from a Windows PowerShell command than what we see displayed in the console window, how can you retrieve the non-visible elements? How do you view the extra data? And what if you want to view the data in a format different than the one Windows PowerShell normally uses?
The rest of this chapter discusses how you can discover the structure of specific Windows PowerShell objects, selecting specific items and formatting them for easier display, and how to send this information to alternative output locations such as files and printers.

Source of Information : Windows PowerShell™ Primer


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