Console output copypaste

How to output console or PowerShell transcript to a file in Windows

Every now and then, you run into a situation, where you’ll need to somehow dump the console output (or transcript) of running a console application. I’m actually going to argue it happens a lot more often than one would think – in my case, any time a customer requires a webjob or a function, that one would normally deploy to Azure, being ran on the servers of the customer. This post describes, how to do that.

Problem

Something breaks or the app crashes, and the error is logged to event log… But just the error, not the whole transcript. You’d like to get it all, to figure out what’s actually going on, but event log is not the way to go.

Or, you’re investigating an error that happened to someone else, but only get screenshots of console or event log errors, whereas you’d want to get all the possible information about the problem instead.

What to do?

Solution: redirect the console output directly to a file

It’s luckily pretty easy. There are multiple ways to pipe, dump, mirror or just save the output, but since I hate always googling for them (and for the life of me, I can’t seem to remember it by heart), I’m documenting my preferred way here.

You can direct the whole console output (and hence the whole PowerShell transcript for your executable) to a text file by doing something like this:

executable.exe > output.txt 2>&1

OR

executable.exe *>&1 > output.txt

This method just writes everything from the console window to a file, as simple as that!

In these examples:

ElementDescription
Redirection operator: >Writes the command output to a file or a device, such as a printer, instead of the Command Prompt window.
2>&1So this command first redirects stdout to the output file, and then redirects stderr there as well.

Okay – now it’s documented. Finally!

Maybe I won’t have to google it the next time 🙂

Wait… But how is this better than copypasting from a console window?

If you’re not running your application unattended. you could just run the application and copy-paste from the window to your preferred location. That’s nice and easy! So what makes this method better?

A couple of things come to mind:

  • You can get the transcripts unattended. You don’t have to do anything yourself.
  • This way, You won’t mess the copying up by selecting from areas of the output.
    • I don’t know about you, but I often mess up the copy-pasting from a console or PowerShell window. This method makes that impossible.
  • This is the easiest way I’ve found to ask other people for the whole output/transcript of a console application run.
    • That’s really useful, because when I’m debugging, I really want the whole log, and not just the last few lines of red text!

Further thoughts

For more info and options about the output scenarios, see this Stack Overflow thread.

However, a far more advanced scenario would be to save the output directly to Application Insights or something similar. For a lot of cases, this would be like shooting a fly with a bazooka, but for larger deployments, why not. Maybe worth a blog post later!

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Antti K. Koskela

Solutions Architect / Escalations Engineer at Koskila / Norppandalotti Software / Valo Solutions
Antti Koskela is a proud digital native nomadic millenial full stack developer (is that enough funny buzzwords? That's definitely enough funny buzzwords!), who works as a Solutions Architect for Valo Intranet, the product that will make you fall in love with your intranet. Working with the global partner network, he's responsible for the success of Valo deployments happening all around the world. He's been a developer from 2004 (starting with PHP and Java), and he's been bending and twisting SharePoint into different shapes since MOSS. Nowadays he's not only working on SharePoint, but also on .NET projects, Azure, Office 365 and a lot of other stuff. This is his personal professional (e.g. professional, but definitely personal) blog.

2 thoughts on “How to output console or PowerShell transcript to a file in Windows

  1. Actually, in PowerShell, one can indeed merely copypaste the output of a command in a console window. You can pipe in to clip or Set-Clipboard.

    e.g.

    Get-ChildItem | Set-Clipboard

    You can also do it from cmd console by piping into clip.

    dir | clip

    1. Hi Joel,

      Thanks for your comment!

      I did focus on redirecting the output to a file in this blog post… But that’s actually a great point – I’ve always just copypasted from the output window, but it IS pretty cumbersome (and unreliable), so your way certainly beats it.

Let me know your thoughts!