PowerShell-Docs style guide

This article provides style guidance specific to the PowerShell-Docs content. It builds on the information outlined in the Overview.

Formatting command syntax elements

  • Always use the full name for cmdlets and parameters. Avoid using aliases unless you're specifically demonstrating the alias.

  • Property, parameter, object, type names, class names, class methods should be bold.

    • Property and parameter values should be wrapped in backticks (`).
    • When referring to types using the bracketed style, use backticks. For example: [System.Io.FileInfo]
  • Language keywords, cmdlet names, functions, variables, native EXEs, file paths, and inline syntax examples should be wrapped in backtick (`) characters.

    For example:

    The following code uses `Get-ChildItem` to list the contents of `C:\Windows` and assigns
    the output to the `$files` variable.
    $files = Get-ChildItem C:\Windows
    • PowerShell keywords and operators should be all lowercase

    • Use proper (Pascal) casing for cmdlet names and parameters

    • When referring to a parameter by name, the name should be bold. When illustrating the use of a parameter with the hyphen prefix, the parameter should be wrapped in backticks. For example:

      The parameter's name is **Name**, but it's typed as `-Name` when used on the command
      line as a parameter.
    • When showing example usage of an external command, the example should be wrapped in backticks. Always include the file extension in the native command. For example:

      To start the spooler service on a remote computer named DC01, you type:
      `sc.exe \\DC01 start spooler`.

      Including the file extension ensures that the correct command is executed according to PowerShell's command precedence.

Markdown for code samples

Markdown supports two different code styles:

  • Code spans (inline) - marked by a single backtick (`) character. Used within a paragraph rather than as a standalone block.
  • Code blocks - a multi-line block surrounded by triple-backtick (```) strings. Code blocks may also have a language label following the backticks. The language label enables syntax highlighting for the contents of the code block.

All code blocks should be contained in a code fence. Never use indentation for code blocks. Markdown allows this pattern but it can be problematic and should be avoided.

A code block is one or more lines of code surrounded by a triple-backtick (```) code fence. The code fence markers must be on their own line before and after the code sample. The opening marker may have an optional language label. The language label enables syntax highlighting on the rendered webpage.

For a full list of supported language tags, see Fenced code blocks in the centralized contributor guide.

Publishing also adds a Copy button that can copy the contents of the code block to the clipboard. This allows you to paste the code into a script to test the code sample. However, not all examples are intended to be run as written. Some code blocks are basic illustrations of PowerShell concepts.

There are three types code blocks used in our documentation:

  1. Syntax blocks
  2. Illustrative examples
  3. Executable examples

Syntax code blocks

Syntax code blocks are used to describe the syntactic structure of a command. Don't use a language tag on the code fence. This example illustrates all the possible parameters of the Get-Command cmdlet.

Get-Command [-Verb <String[]>] [-Noun <String[]>] [-Module <String[]>]
  [-FullyQualifiedModule <ModuleSpecification[]>] [-TotalCount <Int32>] [-Syntax]
  [-ShowCommandInfo] [[-ArgumentList] <Object[]>] [-All] [-ListImported]
  [-ParameterName <String[]>] [-ParameterType <PSTypeName[]>] [<CommonParameters>]

This example describes the for statement in generalized terms:

for (<init>; <condition>; <repeat>)
{<statement list>}

Illustrative examples

Illustrative examples are used to explain a PowerShell concept. They aren't meant to be copied and pasted for execution. These are most commonly used for simple examples that are easy to understand. The code block can include the PowerShell prompt and example output.

Here's a simple example illustrating the PowerShell comparison operators. In this case, we don't intend the reader to copy and run this example.

PS> 2 -eq 2

PS> 2 -eq 3

PS> 1,2,3 -eq 2

PS> "abc" -eq "abc"

PS> "abc" -eq "abc", "def"

PS> "abc", "def" -eq "abc"

Executable examples

Complex examples, or examples that are intended to be copied and executed, should use the following block-style markup:

<Your PowerShell code goes here>

The output displayed by PowerShell commands should be enclosed in an Output code block to prevent syntax highlighting. For example:

Get-Command -Module Microsoft.PowerShell.Security

CommandType  Name                        Version    Source
-----------  ----                        -------    ------
Cmdlet       ConvertFrom-SecureString    Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       ConvertTo-SecureString    Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Get-Acl               Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Get-AuthenticodeSignature    Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Get-CmsMessage        Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Get-Credential        Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Get-ExecutionPolicy    Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Get-PfxCertificate    Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       New-FileCatalog       Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Protect-CmsMessage    Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Set-Acl               Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Set-AuthenticodeSignature    Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Set-ExecutionPolicy    Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Test-FileCatalog      Microsoft.PowerShell.Security
Cmdlet       Unprotect-CmsMessage    Microsoft.PowerShell.Security

The Output code label isn't an official "language" supported by the syntax highlighting system. However, this label is useful because our publishing system adds the "Output" label to the code box frame on the web page. The "Output" code box has no syntax highlighting.

Coding style rules

Avoid line continuation in code samples

Avoid using line continuation characters (`) in PowerShell code examples. These are hard to see and can cause problems if there are extra spaces at the end of the line.

  • Use PowerShell splatting to reduce line length for cmdlets that have several parameters.
  • Take advantage of PowerShell's natural line break opportunities, like after pipe (|) characters, opening braces ({), parentheses ((), and brackets ([).

Avoid using PowerShell prompts in examples

Use of the prompt string is discouraged and should be limited to scenarios that are meant to illustrate command-line usage. For most of these examples, the prompt string should be PS>. This prompt is independent of OS-specific indicators.

Prompts are required in examples to illustrate commands that alter the prompt or when the path displayed is significant to the scenario. The following example illustrates how the prompt changes when using the Registry provider.

PS C:\> cd HKCU:\System\
PS HKCU:\System\> dir

    Hive: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\System

Name                   Property
----                   --------
GameConfigStore        GameDVR_Enabled                       : 1
                       GameDVR_FSEBehaviorMode               : 2
                       Win32_AutoGameModeDefaultProfile      : {2, 0, 1, 0...}
                       Win32_GameModeRelatedProcesses        : {1, 0, 1, 0...}
                       GameDVR_HonorUserFSEBehaviorMode      : 0
                       GameDVR_DXGIHonorFSEWindowsCompatible : 0

Don't use aliases in examples

Use the full name of all cmdlets and parameters unless you're specifically documenting the alias. Cmdlet and parameter names must use the proper Pascal-cased names.

Using parameters in examples

Avoid using positional parameters. In general, you should always include the parameter name in an example, even if the parameter is positional. This reduces the chance of confusion in your examples.

Formatting cmdlet reference articles

Cmdlet reference articles have a specific structure. This structure is defined by PlatyPS. PlatyPS generates the cmdlet help for PowerShell modules in Markdown. After editing the Markdown files, PlatyPS is used create the MAML help files used by the Get-Help cmdlet.

PlatyPS has a schema that expects a specific structure for cmdlet reference. The platyPS.schema.md document attempts to describe this structure. Schema violations cause build errors that must be fixed before we can accept your contribution.

  • Don't remove any of the ATX header structures. PlatyPS expects a specific set of headers.
  • The Input type and Output type headers must have a type. If the cmdlet doesn't take input or return a value, then use the value None.
  • Inline code spans can be used in any paragraph.
  • Fenced code blocks are only allowed in the EXAMPLES section.

In the PlatyPS schema, EXAMPLES is an H2 header. Each example is an H3 header. Within an example, the schema doesn't allow code blocks to be separated by paragraphs. The schema allows the following structure:

### Example X - Title sentence

0 or more paragraphs
1 or more code blocks
0 or more paragraphs.

Number each example and add a brief title.

For example:

### Example 1: Get cmdlets, functions, and aliases

This command gets the PowerShell cmdlets, functions, and aliases that are installed on the


### Example 2: Get commands in the current session

Get-Command -ListImported

Formatting About_ files

About_* files are written in Markdown but are shipped as plain text files. We use Pandoc to convert the Markdown to plain text. About_* files are formatted for the best compatibility across all versions of PowerShell and with the publishing tools.

Basic formatting guidelines:

  • Limit paragraph lines to 80 characters

  • Limit code blocks to 76 characters

  • Limit blockquotes and alerts to 78 characters

  • When using these special meta-characters \,$, and <:

    • Within a header, these characters must be escaped using a leading \ character or enclosed in code spans using backticks (`)

    • Within a paragraph, these characters should be put into code spans. For example:

      ### The purpose of the \$foo variable
      The `$foo` variable is used to store ...
  • Markdown tables

    • For About_* topics, tables must fit within 76 characters
      • If the content doesn't fit within 76 character limit, use bullet lists instead
    • Use opening and closing | characters on each line

Next steps

Editorial checklist