Setting up my PowerShell profiles

There comes a time in every programmer’s life when s/he has to strike out on his/her own, writing new code (instead of typing in examples from books / websites). That time has come now for me with regards to PowerShell.

But first, I have to set up my working environment.

Here at work, we have a common (i.e., shared) network directory on our Production resource server. There were no PowerShell utilities in the directory (probably because I think I’m the first person to do anything serious with PowerShell here, with the possible exception of the IT guys – and they don’t use the Production resource server).

However, it occurred to me that that common directory (call it N:\common\utils, because that’s not its name) would be a good place to put modules meant to be shared.

How do I tell PowerShell to look for modules there, without having to specify this every time I start PowerShell?

For now, I just:

  1. created a PS subdirectory in N:\common\utils (PS for PowerShell, of course)
  2. Started PowerShell on my PC and created a profile file in the $profile directory (per Recipe 1.6 from the Windows PowerShell Cookbook):
    New-Item -type file -force $profile
  3. edited the profile file using Notepad.exe:
    notepad $profile
  4. and added a line to add the common directory to the PSModulePath environment variable:
    $env:PSModulePath += “;N:\common\utils\PS”
    (the leading semicolon is the profile path separator)
  5. exited notepad, saving $profile on the way out.


Now, whenever I start PowerShell, the $profile runs and adds the PS shared folder to the module search path.

To do the same thing (less step 1) for the Windows PowerShell ISE, I consulted Microsoft Technet article How to Use Profiles in Windows PowerShell ISE, which suggests wrapping the New-Item in step 2 in an if statement to prevent overwriting an existing profile, and using the ISE to edit the resulting profile file:

  1. (PS subdirectory already created in N:\common\utils)
  2. Started the PowerShell ISE and created a profile file in $profile:
    if (!(test-path $profile)) {New-Item -type file -path $profile -force}
  3. edited the profile file (using the ISE editor):
    psEdit $profile
  4. and added the same line to add the common directory to PSModulePath:
    $env:PSModulePath += “;N:\common\utils\PS”
  5. then closed the ISE editor tab, saving the ISE $profile file on the way out


Now I just have to figure out modules and module manifests…

Automating web browsing using PowerShell

A lot of our Production Quality Control (QC) operations where I work require checking that data has been uploaded to one of our websites, using either one of our internal tools, or our backdoor access to one of our customer-facing sites. This is all right when we’re checking a couple of customer jobs, but gets tedious VERY quickly for routine QC of dozens or hundreds of customer jobs.

A web app works well as a manual tool (“enter text to be searched for in this box, click Search, click the link for desired item in the list of items matching your search term…”), but our internal tools and customer-facing sites were never designed to be scripted.

For a while, when I was working with more cross-platform scripting languages, I was looking at Selenium. Selenium allows you to control popular web browsers from a number of programming languages, including Python, Ruby, and C# – but not directly from PowerShell. It would be possible to write my own PowerShell wrapper for C# to control Selenium, but I don’t have any experience extending PowerShell with C#, and since we’re not a C# shop, I think that would be very fragile from a long-term maintenance standpoint.

Anyway, unlike the typical Selenium application, our Production QC ops aren’t testing a single web app across multiple browsers. We’re searching for a multitude of data items, but we only have to find each one once, in a single web browser. A more robust solution would be to use something more native to PowerShell to control a single browser – which could even be Internet Explorer (perish the thought!).

I Googled “powershell web browser automation” and came up with a number of possibilities.

Web UI Automation with Windows PowerShell, is an MSDN article from 2008 and talks about using COM to control Internet Explorer, which is something I’ve dabbled in using VB Script. My first experiment with the method wasn’t successful, though, so I looked for troubleshooting info for COM in my handy copy of Windows PowerShell in Action. As it happens, the book illustrates COM with an example of “…a COM-based tool to help manage…browser windows,” so the book probably offers a more fertile field for further research.

A post on StackOverflow then led me to WatiN – Web Application Testing in .Net. WatiN allows control of Internet Explorer AND Firefox, so it might be even better than using COM.