Microsoft has released a scripting tool designed to help administrators automate common system management tasks on the new Vista operating system.

PowerShell 1.0, formerly code-named Monad, is a command line shell and scripting language designed specifically for IT. It uses 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, as well as the forthcoming Longhorn Server.

It is also supported on infrastructure servers and management platforms including Exchange Server 2007, System Center Operations Manager 2007, System Center Data Protection Manager V2 and System Center 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, as if 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.