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Introduction > Why Learn About This Stuff?

Why Learn About This Stuff?

In the age of the graphical user interface, you might wonder why you should spend time learning about scripts, batch files, and command-line programs at all. Aren't they part of the past, something we can leave behind with a big sigh of relief?

Well, obviously, I don't think so, or I wouldn't have spent months and months slaving away over a hot keyboard, in the dark, just for you. And in case guilt alone isn't enough to make you buy this book, I have some actual good reasons for you.

To begin, here are some important points about scripts and batch files:

  • They let you make quick work of repetitive tasks. When you have a large number of files or items to process, or when you perform the same tasks day after day, automation can save you an amazing amount of time. Sure, you can point-and-click your way through running a file through several different programs or adding a user to your network, but when you have to do this job a few hundred times, the graphical approach is a nightmare.

  • They serve as a form of documentation. They record in very precise terms how to perform a job. If you write a script or batch file to perform some management function, years from now it can remind you or your successors what the job entails. This makes good business sense.

  • They let you use the “insides” of application programs such as Word and Access as tools to write your own programs.

  • They let you write procedures that can manipulate files and settings not only on your own computer, but on others in your organization, over your network. Whether you have dozens or thousands of computers to manage, scripting functions can “push” changes to computers without requiring you to physically visit each one.

  • They let you write procedures to “reset” a computer's environment to a standard, known configuration. Logon scripts, especially, can set up printers, mapped network drives, and Control Panel settings the same way every time a user logs on, thus eliminating support headaches and user confusion.

So if that's the case for learning about scripting and batch files, then how about command-line utilities? Hear ye:

  • Many Windows administration, maintenance, and repair functions don't appear anywhere in the Windows GUI. They're found in command-line programs only.

  • Sometimes it's faster to type a few letters than to poke around the screen with a mouse!

  • Because most command-line utilities are designed to act on data or text files in some particular useful way, you can often use command-line programs as building blocks to perform complex tasks such as sorting, extracting, and formatting information. Instead of writing a custom program, you sometimes use a series of command-line programs to get the job done with little effort. Think of command-line programs as the scissors and staplers on your computer desktop.

So, although the Windows GUI has all the flash and gets all the attention, you can see that these behind-the-scenes tools are the real “meat” of the Windows operating system.

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