Visualizing objects in the PowerShell console

Last week we talked about how to enhance time-based PowerShell objects by adding a duration. This provides useful metrics, but humans are visual by nature and it would help even more if we could visualize the numbers.  As with any task, I started my search for console visualizations by googling to see if anyone else had written something I could use.  I came across a blog post from Jeff Hicks in 2013 that showcased his PowerShell console graphing tool.  The console graphs were close to what I wanted to do, but in testing I found that dropping all of the other properties of the object didn't allow me to retain important and relevant data.

I set about modifying the function to my liking and ended up with the following changes:
  • Removed color-based conditional formatting for readability and ease-of-use
  • Modified the output to be object-based 
  • Added ability to specify columns to keep
The first modification ended up being more of a usability issue for me. My use-cases did not require changing colors of the graph and by removing this functionality, we reduce the complexity of the script and the number of mandatory properties.  Also, with the script leaner, it made my next tasks much easier.

In the process of updating the script, it became clear that meeting my requirement of retaining properties would also require returning objects instead of writing to the host.  After editing the code to maintain the objects passed into the function, it was simple enough to convert the Write-Host of the bars in the chart to instead add a new property with the bar as a string.

Once we had all of that code modified, I quickly realized that the more properties we specified and the greater the width of them, the less space we had for charting.  That's the exact opposite of the problem I originally had; now there's TOO much data!  By implementing my original requirement of being able to specify columns to keep, we are now actually restricting the data so that we can provide more helpful charts.

With the function complete, we can do fun things like chart the top 10 memory hogs:

And we can also get an idea of how many commands that PowerShell modules contain:

The Out-ConsoleGraph function is available on Github.

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