The point-and-click graphical user interface (GUI) revolutionized the way we use computers, eliminating the need to remember cryptic commands and type them at the unfriendly C:> prompt. But there are still times when the Command Prompt interface is the quickest and fastest way to perform some tasksand, in fact, times when it is the only way.
Although it's not readily apparent, the Command Prompt is still an integral part of Windows Vista. Some of the programs that come with Windows don't have corresponding shortcuts in the Start menu or Control Panel and must be started with some form of the Command Prompt. And most other applications, such as Notepad and Windows Explorer, have command-line parameters, special options that you can specify only if the program is started from the Command Prompt. And then there are programs, such as Telnet, that are still entirely command-line-based.
Understanding the Command Prompt in all of its forms not only is helpful in getting a better idea of how Windows works, but also can open up new ways of accomplishing tasks that would otherwise require repetitive pointing and clicking. Disk Operating System (DOS) was the command-line-only operating system run by early PCs, and Windows was merely an application that ran on top of DOS. Windows NT, the predecessor to Windows XP, was Microsoft's first version of Windows that did not rely on DOS. However, in Windows Vista, as well as in Windows NT, 2000, and XP, the Command Prompt is still made available as a standalone application.
Later in this chapter, you'll find complete documentation on batch files, which you can use to automate repetitive tasks by incorporating a list of commands into a single script that you can type like a command at the Command Prompt, or even double-click in Explorer.