Microsoft this week released a long awaited scripting tool for Vista designed to help administrators more easily handle and automate common system management tasks.

PowerShell 1.0, formerly code-named Monad, is a command line shell and scripting language designed specifically for IT. PowerShell employs command-line tools called “cmdlets” to perform common system administration tasks, such as managing services, processes, event logs, certificates, Windows registry, and using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI).

PowerShell is supported on Vista, Windows XP and two server operating systems: Windows Server 2003 and the forthcoming Longhorn Server. In addition, it is supported on a number of infrastructure servers and management platforms: Exchange Server 2007, System Centre Operations Manager 2007, System Center Data Protection Manager V2 and System Centre Virtual Machine Manager.

“I think one of the issues is how manageable an [operating system] is, and while Microsoft has always tried to provide lots of graphical tools there are still a lot of repetitive tasks where you don’t want to use a graphic interface,” says Michael Cherry, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.

“It really in some ways slows you down. For years, Microsoft has been kind of dismissive of a good scripting process for the [operating system], but PowerShell is their attempt to put it back and put scripting on an equal footing with GUI.”

With PowerShell, Microsoft is including 129 cmdlets, which include tools for sorting, filtering and formatting data and objects. It includes features for navigating data stores, such as the registry, like they are a file system.

Powershell also includes utilities for managing Windows data in different stores and formats, including Active Directory, WMI, Component Object Model objects, Active X Data Objects, HTML and XML.

PowerShell 1.0 for Vista is a free download and works on both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the software. It requires Vista to have the .NET Framework 2.0 installed.