Book Review: Learn Windows PowerShell 3 in a Month of Lunches, Second Edition

Today makes 28 days since I started reading the “Learn Windows PowerShell 3 in a Month of Lunches, Second Edition” book written by Don Jones and Jeff Hicks, published by Manning.

jones3_cover150This book, shown in the image on the left, contains 28 chapters and is designed to be read one chapter a day. One hour is enough time to read a single chapter and work through the re-enforcing lab exercises at the end of that chapter. This method of learning is extremely effective, especially for a beginner, which gives them consumable amounts of knowledge without overwhelming them.

In my opinion, this book is the best book on the market for someone who has no prior experience with PowerShell and wants to learn the best practices from day one, although prior experience working with at least the graphical user interface (GUI) on Microsoft Windows based workstations and servers would be helpful. This book is also beneficial for anyone already using PowerShell who wants to learn the best practices from two of the top PowerShell experts in the industry.

jones_cover150Prior to reading this new second edition of the book, I had previously read the first edition, shown in the image on the right, which is based on PowerShell version 2. Even though I have a considerable amount of hands on experience with PowerShell, there are a number of tips and tricks that I learned in this new second edition of the book which is based on PowerShell version 3.

I don’t buy many physical copies of books anymore, it’s mainly ebooks these days that I purchase, but I do have one physical copy of a book for each version of PowerShell that’s been released. This book is the one physical book on PowerShell version 3 that I decided to purchase. It’s the book that I plan to carry around with me next year to the conferences that I’ll be speaking at. I speak primarily to beginners and this book is what I’ll be referring my audience to as the next step for them after attending my presentation.

With 28 chapters, I’m not going to try to give you an overview of each chapter, but I will cover some of the highlights. With this particular book, it’s best to read it from start to finish, one chapter a day and at least for me, I found my learning experience was better when I committed enough time to finish an entire chapter at once without breaking an individual chapter up into multiple sessions. Following along in the PowerShell console or ISE while reading the book and working through the lab exercises at the end of each chapter will ensure that you get the most out of this book. There is also bonus online content which includes companion videos on key concepts that are covered in the book. For additional re-enforcement of these concepts, view the online videos as the concepts are covered in the book. I’ve read a lot of IT related books over my almost 20 year career and I can tell you from experience that it’s not very often that you’ll find authors giving away free online companion videos with their books.

One of the things I hear from people who haven’t used PowerShell before is “How do I figure out what the commands are?” Chapter 3 will step you through PowerShell’s help system and that information along with what’s covered in chapter 4 will not only teach you how to figure out what the answer to that question is for yourself without having to rely on Internet search engines, but also how to figure out how those commands are used.

This book teaches you what you need to know about objects, properties, and methods without any prior knowledge being required. This is definitely beneficial for individuals such as me who are IT pro’s and have no desire to become a developer.

Much of PowerShell’s power is in its pipeline or the ability to pipe the output of one command to the input of another. How the pipeline works is covered in just the right amount of detail in chapter 9. Such things as ByValue being the first method that the pipeline attempts to connect commands together and then ByPropertyName only being attempted if ByValue doesn’t work is just one of the details that’s covered in this chapter.

Where, when, and why to use format cmdlets are other important concepts that are covered in this book. Chapter 10 covers this information along with the type of objects that format cmdlets produce which helps you to understand what scenarios format cmdlets should and should not be used in from a best practices standpoint.

One of the unique items in this book is the “common points of confusion” sections that explains the pitfalls that the authors have seen the students in their training classes struggle with which assists in helping prevent you from experiencing those common issues.

In addition to what I’ve already covered, by the time you finish this book, you’ll also have a good understanding of PowerShell providers, comparison operators, filtering, remoting, using PowerShell to access WMI, the new CIM cmdlets, background jobs, variables, and much more. My personal favorite chapter in this book is the one on regular expressions (chapter 24) which is a brand new chapter on a subject that wasn’t included in the previous version of the book. At first, I thought that chapter 25 was just filler type information, but once I started reading it, I figured out that I couldn’t be more wrong. There is some great information packed into that particular chapter so don’t even think about skipping it.

I’ve sat through PowerShell sessions by each of the authors (Don Jones and Jeff Hicks) at Microsoft TechEd and these guys really know their stuff when it comes to PowerShell. If I could only have one PowerShell book, “Learn Windows PowerShell 3 in a Month of Lunches, Second Edition” would be it, especially if I were a beginner.

If you didn’t read my blog titled: “The Unboxing Experience: Learn Windows PowerShell 3 in a Month of Lunches, Second Edition Book” that I wrote when I received this book, you should take a look at it also.

Looking for ideas for a New Year’s resolution? Why not make a resolution to learn PowerShell in 2013? This book would be the perfect way to get a jump start on that resolution.

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