Emulate The Visual Studio Command Prompt In PowerShell

06 June 2013

The Visual Studio Command Prompt provided when you install Visual Studio adds lots of useful commands to the PATH of the current prompt. You don’t have to remember where msbuild.exe or mstest.exe are located just call the commands. However, Visual Studio only ships with a regular command prompt. There is no corresponding PowerShell command prompt.

All hope is not lost for PowerShell fans though. The Visual Studio Command Prompt works by calling the vcvarsall.bat file that ships with Visual Studio to update the PATH for the current session. We can take advantage of that same script when PowerShell starts to update the PATH for the PowerShell session by modifying the default PowerShell profile.

First we need to open the PowerShell profile file for editing. This file is located at ~\Documents\WindowsPowerShell\Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1 If you already have PowerShell open you can call start $PROFILE from the prompt. This command will open the profile for you in your default editor.

Next paste these lines at the end of the file.

# Move to the directory where vcvarsall.bat is stored
pushd 'C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 11.0\VC'

# Call the .bat file to set the variables in a temporary cmd session and use 'set' to read out all session variables and pipe them into a foreach to iterate over each variable
cmd /c "vcvarsall.bat&set" | foreach {
  # if the line is a session variable
  if( $_ -match "=" )
    $pair = $_.split("=");

    # Set the environment variable for the current PowerShell session
    Set-Item -Force -Path "ENV:\$($pair[0])" -Value "$($pair[1])"

# Move back to wherever the prompt was previously

Save the file, and reopen a new PowerShell prompt. You should have a fully functioning Visual Studio Powershell Prompt.

Finally, if you don’t want to load the Visual Studio variables for every prompt, move the lines above to a file in your path and execute that file when you want the variables . thefilethathasthescriptabove.ps1.

  • Edit 6/7/2013 - Corrected typo in Set-Item line.