Craig Forrester

The Pleasure of Finding Things Out

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List Running Desktop Applications with PowerShell
February 15, 2018
2 minutes read

Here’s a quick PowerShell tip…


Have you ever wanted to get a list of running desktop applications in PowerShell? Maybe you want to see what you have open but would rather not fumble around with Task Manager?

Here’s a one-liner to do just that:

gps | ? { $_.MainWindowTitle }

Sample output:

Handles  NPM(K)    PM(K)      WS(K)     CPU(s)     Id  SI ProcessName
-------  ------    -----      -----     ------     --  -- -----------
   4269     188   382940     424100   1,336.84  12888   1 chrome
     37       3     1568       2560       0.05   5176   1 cmd
    927      54    53892      69800       8.05   8988   1 EXCEL
   1385     105    87956      98928     157.45   5024   1 explorer
    212      15    26572      18204      16.58  13256   1 gvim

Breaking it Down

The first command, gps, is a built-in alias for Get-Process, and ? is an alias for Where-Object. So, by specifying the MainWindowTitle property, we’re essentially limiting our output to only those processes that have window titles.

If we were to expand the previous command line into full cmdlet names, it would look like this:

Get-Process | Where-Object { $_.MainWindowTitle }

List Running Apps with their Titles and Process IDs

Now let’s add a little more to the previous command line in order make it a bit more useful to us.

Get-Process | Where-Object { $_.MainWindowTitle } | Format-Table ID,Name,Mainwindowtitle –AutoSize

Here some sample output:

  Id Name                 MainWindowTitle
  -- ----                 ---------------
6040 ApplicationFrameHost Windows Defender Security Center
5036 cmd                  Command Prompt
5148 powershell           Windows PowerShell

This gives us the window title, so that we know what to look for in the task bar; it gives us the process names, so that we know what executable is running “underneath” those window titles; and it gives us the process ID, so that we can work with a specific process easily if we need to.

We can put all this into a function in our PowerShell Profile and have it to use whenever we need it:

function Get-DesktopApps {
    Get-Process | Where-Object { $_.MainWindowTitle } |
        Format-Table ID,Name,Mainwindowtitle –AutoSize

Additional Reading

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