# Creating Pipeline-Aware Functions

There are a number of ways how your PowerShell functions can accept pipeline input. Pipeline-aware functions unleash the real flexibility of PowerShell command composition.

One of the most powerful features of PowerShell is its ability to combine commands via the pipeline operator. With just very little coding effort, your own PowerShell functions can support pipeline input, too.

## Why Pipeline-Support Matters

Let’s quickly look why Pipeline-Support is so useful, and why your own functions should support it.

Most built-in commands support the pipeline, so users can effortlessly create simple but powerful one-liners like this one:

# get the top 5 sources for errors of past 90 days in the system eventlog:
Get-WinEvent -FilterHashtable @{LogName="System";Level=1,2;StartTime=(Get-Date).AddDays(-90)} | Group-Object -Property ProviderName | Sort-Object -Property Count -Descending | Select-Object -First 5 -Property Count, Name


### Re-Usable Code

Each command in this line is a specialist for a given task, and thanks to the pipeline, you can refine raw results until you get what you need:

• Get-WinEvent: reads events from any of the windows event logs. In the example, the system event log is searched for events of level Critical and Error (values 1 and 2) from the past 90 days.
• Group-Object: groups objects based on values in one or more properties. Essentially, Group-Object shows the distribution of objects. In the example, events with the same ProviderName are grouped.
• Sort-Object: sorts objects based on one or more properties. In the example, the resulting groups are sorted by Count in descending order, placing the largest groups on top.
• Select-Object: selects the first or last number of objects, and can select the properties you are interested in. In the example, it picks the first 5 objects (resembling the five largest groups), and shows the group Count and Name.

When you want to evaluate event logs, Get-WinEvent is much more powerful than the older Get-EventLog. While Get-WinEvent can read any of the hundreds of windows and application logs, Get-EventLog is limited to the few default windows logs. Both commands support accessing remote systems via -ComputerName.

Filtering events is a little more complex with Get-WinEvent: you submit a hashtable to -FilterHashtable and specify the properties you are after. Some values like Level are code numbers. Here is a way to identify the code numbers:

# get level id numbers for existing levels:
Get-WinEvent -FilterHashtable @{LogName=”System"} | Group-Object -Property LevelDisplayName | Foreach-Object { $_.Group | Select-Object -First 1 -Property Level, LevelDisplayName }  The command can take some time to execute: it examines all events in the System event log and groups them by LevelDisplayName. Then, for each group, the first element is taken, and the line outputs the clear-text LevelDisplayName and the corresponding code number: Level LevelDisplayName ----- ---------------- 4 Information 3 Warning 2 Error 1 Critical  For more information, visit the online documentation. ## Processing Pipeline Input In Real-Time The most simplistic approach is to use a Simple Function: the incoming pipeline elements surface in $_ within the process block. Use the keyword filter to create a function with a default process block:

filter Test-PipelineInput
{
Write-Warning "receiving $_" # for example, create IP addresses: "10.12.100.$_"
}

1..10 | Test-PipelineInput


If you don’t like the uncommon keyword filter, you can use function and define the process block manually:

function Test-PipelineInput
{
process
{
Write-Warning "receiving $_" # for example, create IP addresses: "10.12.100.$_"
}
}

1..10 | Test-PipelineInput


This approach works in Simple Functions only. Once you start adding attributes to your code, you create Advanced Functions that explicitly define pipeline-aware parameters (see below).

### Supporting Begin And End

If you want to add code that runs once before the pipeline executes and runs once after the pipeline finishes, use the keyword function, and define the blocks begin, process, and end manually:

Once you define these blocks manually, all scriptblock code must be assigned to any of these blocks, and no code may exist outside of them. If you don’t need one of these blocks you can safely remove it.

function Out-Voice
{
begin
{
$sapi = New-Object -ComObject Sapi.SPVoice } # process pipeline input process {$null = $sapi.Speak($_)
}

end
{
# nothing to do
}
}

'Hello','This is a test' | Out-Voice


This way, you can also create very fast counters. Count-Objectcounts the number of objects, for example:

function Count-Object
{
begin
{
$x = 0 } process {$x++
}
end
{
$x } } Get-Service | Count-Object  This example leverages the streaming nature of the pipeline: you get the total number of objects without the need to store the total number of objects in memory. This approach works, too, but costs a lot more memory: (Get-Service).Count  Likewise, Get-FolderSize reports the total size of files in a folder: function Get-FolderSize { begin {$x = 0
}
process
{
if ($_ -is [System.IO.FileInfo]) {$x += $_.Length } } end {$x
}
}

# count the sum of all exe files in the windows folder:
Get-ChildItem -Path 'c:\windows' -Filter '*.exe' -File | Get-FolderSize

# get the total size of the windows folder (including hidden files)
Get-ChildItem -Path $env:windir -Recurse -File -Force -ErrorAction Ignore | Get-FolderSize  ### Using Named Parameters If you’d like to name your parameters and not use the generic variable $_, use an Advanced Function: define the parameters using a param() structure, and add [Parameter()] attributes to define which parameters get pipeline input:

function Out-Voice
{
# define parameters
param
(
[Parameter(Mandatory,ValueFromPipeline)]
[string]
$Text, [ValidateRange(-10,10)] [int]$Speed = 0
)

begin
{
$sapi = New-Object -ComObject Sapi.SPVoice$sapi.Rate = $Speed } # process pipeline input process {$null = $sapi.Speak($Text)
}

end
{
# nothing to do
}
}

'Hello','This is a test' | Out-Voice -Speed 6


When you use Advanced Functions, you may see a slight performance degradation compared to Simple Functions. Here is a discussion about the cause, and some workarounds.

### Using Array Input

When you accept pipeline data, your command automatically supports arrays because the pipeline always unwraps array elements and processes each element individually. The process block in your code acts like a loop.

If you’d like to also accept array input when your command runs stand-alone, change the parameter type to an array type, and add your own loop to the process block:

function Out-Voice
{
param
(
[Parameter(Mandatory,ValueFromPipeline)]
# allow string arrays:
[string[]]
$Text, [ValidateRange(-10,10)] [int]$Speed = 0
)

begin
{
$sapi = New-Object -ComObject Sapi.SPVoice$sapi.Rate = $Speed } # process pipeline input process { # unwrap arrays manually that were assigned to the # parameter directly: foreach($element in $Text) {$null = $sapi.Speak($element)
}
}
}

# accepts pipeline input:
'Hello','This is a test' | Out-Voice -Speed 6

# accepts same data via direct call as well:
Out-Voice -Text 'Hello','This is a test' -Speed -5


### Binding To Object Properties

Your pipeline-enabled parameter(s) can read information from incoming object properties, too. If you want to bind a parameter to object properties, add [Parameter(ValueFromPipelineByPropertyName)] and make sure the property is called like the parameter name. Else, add [Alias()] to define one or more alias names.

Here is a revised Out-Voice that accepts text but also accepts objects with the properties Text, DisplayName, and Name (in this order). So you can now pipe objects to Out-Voice that have at least one of these properties:

function Out-Voice
{
# define parameters
param
(
[Parameter(Mandatory,ValueFromPipeline,ValueFromPipelineByPropertyName)]
# define property names
[Alias('DisplayName','Name')]
[string[]]
$Text, [ValidateRange(-10,10)] [int]$Speed = 0
)

begin
{
$sapi = New-Object -ComObject Sapi.SPVoice$sapi.Rate = $Speed } # process pipeline input process { # unwrap arrays manually that were assigned to the # parameter directly: foreach($element in $Text) {$null = $sapi.Speak($element)
}
}
}

# accepts objects with properties Text, DisplayName, or Name:
Get-Process -Id $pid | Out-Voice -Speed -2 Get-Service | Select-Object -First 4 | Out-Voice  ## Processing All Pipeline Input For some use cases, it may be necessary to first collect all incoming pipeline data and process it in one chunk. Sorting would be one of these scenarios, but there are many more. ### Automatic Collection A very convenient built-in way of collecting all pipeline input is the automatic variable $Input. It is available in Simple Functions and surfaces in the end block provided you do not use a process block:

function Test-CollectData
{
# convert enumerator to array
$all = @($Input)

# work with collection of received data:
$count =$all.Count
"I received $count elements." "Received:$all"
}

1..10 | Test-CollectData



$Input is an enumerator, not an array. Enclose it in @() to turn it into a real array. If you work with $Input directly, you may encounter strange behavior: the variable can be read only once and is empty afterwards. That’s because it really is an enumerator, and if you’d like to read it again, you’d have to call its method Reset().

That’s why for most scenarios it is easier to use @() and turn the enumerator into a default array.

### Manual Collection

The previously used automatic variable $Input is not available in Advanced Functions, so if you require any of the features of Advanced Functions, simply create your own collection: function Test-CollectData { param ( [Parameter(Mandatory,ValueFromPipeline)] [Object]$InputData
)

begin
{
# initialize empty generic list
$all = [System.Collections.Generic.List[Object]]::new() } process { # add incoming pipeline object to list:$all.Add($_) } end { # work with collection of received data:$count = $all.Count "I received$count elements."
"Received: $all" } } 1..10 | Test-CollectData  One of the most efficient ways of collecting data is to use a generic list. In the example above, the code uses a generic list of type [Object] so it accepts any type of object. You can use more specific types as well. For example if your function accepts strings via the pipeline, use [string] both for your parameter and the generic list. Never use a simple array and the operator += to collect data. This is slowing down your code tremendously because each time you add an element to a simple array, the entire array needs to be copied to a larger array. ## Wrap-Up As part of the examples, you just created a pipeline-aware new command called Out-Voice. Let’s add it to the one-liner from the beginning to read the top worst sources from your system log to you: # I am adding the new command definition for completeness: function Out-Voice { # define parameters param ( [Parameter(Mandatory,ValueFromPipeline,ValueFromPipelineByPropertyName)] # define property names [Alias('DisplayName','Name')] [string[]]$Text,

[ValidateRange(-10,10)]
[int]
$Speed = 0 ) # do initialization tasks begin {$sapi = New-Object -ComObject Sapi.SPVoice
$sapi.Rate =$Speed
}

# process pipeline input
process
{
# unwrap arrays manually that were assigned to the
# parameter directly:
foreach($element in$Text)
{
$null =$sapi.Speak($element) } } } # get the top 5 sources for errors of past 90 days in the system eventlog: Get-WinEvent -FilterHashtable @{LogName="System";Level=1,2;StartTime=(Get-Date).AddDays(-90)} | Group-Object -Property ProviderName | Sort-Object -Property Count -Descending | Select-Object -First 5 -Property Count, Name | Foreach-Object { '{0} caused {1} incidents' -f$_.Name, \$_.Count} | Out-Voice


I would never insist that anything possible actually makes sense. And reading loud event log data may not be the best example, especially when your computer is not using the US locale. But you get the idea:

Once a command supports pipeline input, it automatically becomes compatible to a ton of other commands. Next time you want to read out a text file, try this:

Get-Content -Path "c:\romeoAndJuliet.txt" | Out-Voice