Tag Archives: string manipulation


Does A String Start Or End In A Certain Character?

Can you tell in PowerShell if a string ends in a specific character, or if it starts in one? Of course you can. Regex to the rescue!

It’s a pretty simple task, actually. Consider the following examples

In the first two examples, I’m checking to see if the string ends in a backslash. In the last two examples, I’m seeing if the string starts with one. The regex pattern being matched for the first two is .+?\$ . What’s that mean? Well, the first part .+? means “any character, and as many of them as it takes to get to the next part of the regex. The second part \\ means “a backslash” (because \ is the escape character, we’re basically escaping the escape character. The last part $ is the signal for the end of the line. Effectively what we have is “anything at all, where the last thing on the line is a backslash” which is exactly what we’re looking for. In the second two examples, I’ve just moved the \\ to the start of the line and started with ^ instead of ending with $ because ^ is the signal for the start of the line.

Now you can do things like this.

Here, I’m checking to see if the string ‘bears’ ends in a backslash, and if it doesn’t, I’m appending one.

Cool, right?


Quick Tip: Get All The Security Patches Installed On A Server Since A Specific Date

Recently, I needed to get a list of all the security patches I’d installed on a group of servers in the last year. It turns out that there’s a WMI class for this and it’s super easy to retrieve this info.

In the win32_quickfixengineering class, you’ll find all the security patches installed on a system. One of the properties is the InstalledOn attribute which more recent than a year ago.

If you have a list of servers to do this for, this is still really easy.

Just paste them into a here-string and execute this for each of them.


Quick Tip: PowerShell Regex To Get Value Between Quotation Marks

If you’ve got a value like the following…

… that maybe came from the body of a file, was returned by some other part of a script, etc., and you just want the portions that are actually between the quotes, the quickest and easiest way to get it is through a regular expression match.

That’s right, forget splitting or trimming or doing other weird string manipulation stuff. Just use the [regex]::matches() feature of PowerShell to get your values.

Matches takes two parameters. 1. The value to look for matches in, in this case the here-string in my $s variable, and 2. The regular expression to be used for matching. Since Matches returns a few items, we are making sure to just select the value for each match.

So what is that regex doing? Let’s break it down into it’s parts.

  • (?<=\”) this part is a look behind as specified by the ?<= part. In this case, whatever we are matching will come right after a quote. Doing the look behind prevents the quotation mark itself from actually being part of the matched value. Notice I have to escape the quotation mark character.
  • .+? this part basically matches as many characters as it takes to get to whatever the next part of the regex is. Look into regex lazy mode vs greedy mode.
  • (?=\”) this part is a look ahead as specified by the ?= part. We’re looking ahead for a quotation mark because whatever comes after our match is done will be a quotation mark.

So basically what we’ve got is “whatever comes after a quotation mark, and as much of that as you need until you get to another quotation mark”. Easy, right? Don’t you love regex?


Splitting Strings On Escaped Characters In PowerShell – Literal vs. Dynamic Content

Before we get into this post, here’s a little required reading: http://blogs.technet.com/b/heyscriptingguy/archive/2015/06/20/weekend-scripter-understanding-quotation-marks-in-powershell.aspx

This is a “Hey, Scripting Guy!” post by Don Walker about using single vs. double quotes to wrap strings and other items ( ‘ vs. ” ). The bottom line is that single quotes should be your default go-to and denote a literal string. Double quotes are only to be used when dynamic content is involved. It’s all explained quite clearly in the post linked above.

Awesome information, but, it doesn’t talk about escape characters. In PowerShell the backtick character ( ` ) – the one you hit along with shift to get the tilde character ( ~ ) on most keyboards – is what’s known as an escape character. Here’s some more reading on escape characters if you’re unfamiliar.

Now, what if I have something like this?

It’s just a multi-line string with blank lines in between each of the lines with content. Now, what if I wanted to keep each of the content lines on it’s own line while removing all the lines that are blank? Well, since $Body is one big multi-line string, I can split it on “new line”. Using escape characters in PowerShell, to denote a new line we just type:

So can I do this?

I’m splitting $Body on each new line, and for each line, if it is not null or white space (using some of the information from this post), I write it. I’m using single quotes to wrap the new line marker to split up $Body. Well, unfortunately, the output looks like this.

Splitting Strings 1

Well, that’s not exactly what I was hoping for. Instead of splitting $Body on a new line, it looks like it’s split it on the letters n and r. It turns out that the escape character, like variables and the output from commands, is dynamic content. To do what I’m trying to do, the command needs to look like this.

The only difference is the value in the split command. Instead of single quotes I’ve got double quotes wrapping the new line marker. Now the output looks like this.

Splitting Strings 2

Perfect! So remember, escape characters are dynamic content. They are not considered part of a literal string.


Quick Tip: Strip Empty Lines Out Of A File

Here’s a quick one-liner that will remove all of the blank lines from a file.

The first thing I do is get the content of the input file. This returns an array of each line in the file which I pipe into a foreach-object loop (alias %). In the if block, I’m detecting if the currently evaluated item is null or just white space. If it isn’t, I append it to the output file.


Quick Tip: String Manipulation – First Name Last Name to Last Name, First Name

I’ve got kind of a silly post this week. I often get a list of names in the format…

John Doe

Jane Doe

Mike Smith

Mary Smith

… that I actually need to be in the format…

Doe, John; Doe, Jane; Smith, Mike; Smith, Mary

… and sometimes, especially with long lists of names, it’s a pain to do the manipulation in Notepad or Word. So what do you think I did? That’s right, I wrote a PowerShell script to handle it for me. I just throw the list of people into a text file and call up this script.

This isn’t the tidiest script but I break it up into a couple extra parts so it’s easier to edit on the fly. I might comment out the ” | clip.exe ” part of the last line if I don’t want the output on my clipboard.

The first line just gets the content of the text file and the second line initializes the variable $csnames (which stands for [semi]colon separated names). On the third line, I go through every value in the text file and put the part after the first space (the last name), a comma and space, and then the part before the first space (the first name) into the $csnames string. I throw a semicolon on and move to the next one.

This won’t do well with names like “John van Doe” that have multiple spaces. It just happens to suit my needs and might serve as a super simple example to some of you who are trying to wrap your heads around manipulating strings in PowerShell.