ASCII GUI in your PowerShell Console

I stumbled upon this epic .net project by PhonicUK on Github for “an event-driven windowing system using a line-art interface for use by command-line applications” and thought I would see if it worked in PowerShell. The results, I think are pretty cool!

The code to create this is really very similar to WinForms style of coding and can be generated very quickly. I will give a short walkthrough on how to create a GUI using this sweet library.

How to make the magic happen

Build the project (to get the DLL)

  1. Grab the source code from the above mentioned Github repository.
  2. Open the project in VS Community 15
  3. Build the solution

This should generate the DLL we will need to reference in a bin/debug folder of the project.

Load the DLL into PowerShell

 
    Import-Module "Whereveryoustoredtheproject/bin/debug/CLRCLI.dll"
 

Build out your GUI in something similar to WinForms style

Create a root base

 
    $Root = [CLRCLI.Widgets.RootWindow]::new()
 

Add your first dialog. The dialog is the base that you can attach buttons, listboxes etc. to.

 
    $Dialog = [CLRCLI.Widgets.Dialog]::new($Root)

    $Dialog.Text = "List Running Processes"
    $Dialog.Width = 60
    $Dialog.Height = 32
    $Dialog.Top = 4
    $Dialog.Left = 4
    $Dialog.Border = [CLRCLI.BorderStyle]::Thick
 

Cool. Now lets add a nice label, a couple of buttons and a listbox. Note that in the creation they are all attached to my first $Dialog.

 
    $Label = [CLRCLI.Widgets.Label]::new($Dialog)
    $Label.Text = "Running Processes"
    $Label.Top = 2
    $Label.Left = 2

    $Button = [CLRCLI.Widgets.Button]::new($Dialog)
    $Button.Text = "Get Processes"
    $Button.Top = 4
    $Button.Left = 6
    $Button.Width = 25

    $Button2 = [CLRCLI.Widgets.Button]::new($Dialog)
    $Button2.Text = "Show Alternate Window"
    $Button2.Top = 4
    $Button2.Left = 34
    $Button2.Width = 25

    $list = [CLRCLI.Widgets.ListBox]::new($Dialog)
    $list.top = 10
    $list.Left = 4
    $list.Width = 32
    $list.height = 6
    $list.Border = [CLRCLI.BorderStyle]::Thin
 

Cool. Seems pretty straightforward. Now let’s build another dialog that is hidden as basically another page.

 
    $Dialog2 = [CLRCLI.Widgets.Dialog]::new($Root)
    $Dialog2.Text = "ooooh"
    $Dialog2.Width = 32
    $Dialog2.Height = 5
    $Dialog2.Top = 6
    $Dialog2.Left = 6
    $Dialog2.Border = [CLRCLI.BorderStyle]::Thick
    $Dialog2.Visible = $false
 

Now I’m going to add a button to the second dialog window. Since the dialog is hidden the button also will be hidden.

 
    $Button3 = [CLRCLI.Widgets.Button]::new($Dialog2)
    $Button3.Text = "Bye!"
    $Button3.Width = 8
    $Button3.Height =3
    $Button3.Top = 1
    $Button3.Left = 1
 

Sweet! Now let’s make the buttons do something.

 
    $Button3.Add_Clicked({$Dialog2.Hide(); $Dialog.Show()})
    $Button2.Add_Clicked({$Dialog.Hide(); $Dialog2.Show()})
    $Button.Add_Clicked({ Get-Process | select -ExpandProperty ProcessName | foreach { $list.items.Add($_) }  })
 

You can guess what is happening from the code for Buttons 2 and 3. Those buttons are going to be used to switch between the dialogs. The code for button one might be a bit more complicated but basically we are adding the process names from get-process into the listbox we created earlier.

Now, we run the GUI with by running the $Root.

 
    $Root.Run()
 

And we get the magic! Pretty awesome way to make an oldschool GUI right? This project is pretty sweet but I would also like to check out CursesSharp as that project looks to be a bit more developed.

Micah Rairdon

Micah Rairdon
Christian, husband, father, all around haver of fun related to IT. Appreciate the blog and want to donate? I will receive a small commission if you shop Amazon using this link. Thank you!

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