Windows PowerShell Backtick `
Introduction To the Windows PowerShell Backtick Operator `
It has to be said that if you blink, then you will miss the ` backtick operator. However, it would be a pity if you did, because backtick allows you to word-wrap PowerShell commands. Incidentally, some people call this the grave key.
When you write code for any scripting language there comes a time when you want the command to wrap onto the next line. PowerShell, along with most languages, regards the end-of-line character as terminating that command. Consequently, a new line means the start of a new command. Thus we have established the need for a command to tell PowerShell that this command wraps to the next line - enter the tiny backtick `.
Topics for PowerShell's Backtick `
On my UK keyboard the backtick is on the top row next to '1' key. It's the key above the Tab and below the Esc key. My key has three symbols, ` ¬ ¦ All you need to get the backtick is press the key on its own without holding down the shift or the Alt key.
Any doubt about which is the backtick key, hold down the Alt and press these four numbers on the number pad: 0096, only now let go of the Alt key.
# Backtick ` PowerShell word-wrap
Note 1: The full command if written on one line would be:
Get-Service * |Sort-Object ServiceType | Format-Table name, ServiceType, status, CanStop, -auto
As you can see, unless I use the smallest font, it won't all fit on one line, consequently we need to tell PowerShell to word-wrap. More importantly, most script editors issue an end-of-line marker before they reach 86 characters.
Challenge: There is a ` backtick after ServiceType, but can you spot a second backtick?
There is a really nasty problem with the PowerShell backtick, and that is if you inadvertently add whitespace after the ` and before the actual end of the line.
# Backtick ` Problem white space after the backtick.
Example of the error message
An empty pipe element is not allowed.
Clarification of the problem. Get PowerShell word-wrap working properly with the backtick. Then to see the problem press the spacebar after the backtick and try again. You should get an error similar to the message above.
# Correct no whitespace
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It is important to distinguish the primary use of the backtick, on its own `, and its secondary use as an escape character, for example, backtick with `n or `t . Let me explain with an example.
2a) Write-host "Heading Sub Heading"
# PowerShell New Line Problem
Problem: An undesired result because the text is all on the same line.
Heading Sub Heading
Solution: Add the crucial `n
2b) Write-host "Heading `nSub Heading"
# PowerShell New Line solution
Result: Desired result achieved:
Note 2: Remember that the escape family `n, `r and `t work within "text" rather than within command statements.
2c Backtick instead of "Quotes"
Take a directory such as "Program Files". I would script the path with those speech marks, however it's possible to use no quotation marks and backtick instead.
# PowerShell Backtick for Space
Guy would use Get-ChildItem "C:\Program Files\" instead of a backtick to escape the whitespace.
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` Plain backtick, classic PowerShell word-wrap symbol (See example 1)
`t 'T' for tab
`n 'N' for a new line in PowerShell
`r 'R' for return as in carriage return
Backtick also has distant cousins who I have heard about, but never met.
`0 (Zero) Null
`' Speech mark
`" Another speech mark
More Examples of Backtick in Action
Summary of PowerShell's Backtick Operator
Take the time to seek out the `backtick key. One day this tiny symbol will help PowerShell to word-wrap your commands. There may also be work for the rest of the PowerShell backtick family, for example `t to align an output column with a tab.
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Please email me if you have a better example script. Also please report any factual mistakes, grammatical errors or broken links, I will be happy to correct the fault.