James Thew - Fotolia

Learn to use a PowerShell call function from another script

Don't use the same lines of code in several places in your scripts. Learn how to use functions and reap the benefits of a more streamlined approach.

No one wants to repeat themselves, and the same goes for PowerShell code.

A function is a group of commands with a function name that you use once or multiple times in a script to avoid duplicating code. After you gain enough PowerShell experience, you will eventually switch from basic variable use to functions for added flexibility. When you understand all the ways to call a function, you will move up to the next level of scripting that makes your functions easier to support and to reuse in multiple scripts.

How to call a function: The inline approach

The easiest way to work with a PowerShell function is to include it in the script. The term for this is an inline function. Wherever the code is for the function, it must go above the first line that calls the function. In most cases, inline functions reside in a group at the start of the script in their own dedicated region.

Example: Return the IPv4 address

The following example uses a simple function to display the IPv4 address of the user's system. The function contains the syntax for the Get-NetIPAddress cmdlet and includes the parameters to filter the output.

Function Get-IpAddress {
    Get-NetIPAddress -AddressFamily IPv4 -AddressState Preferred | `
    Where-Object { $_.PrefixOrigin -ne 'WellKnown' } | `
    Select-Object -ExpandProperty IPAddress

The last line executes the function call for Get-IpAddress, which returns the computer's IPv4 address in xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx format rather than the full IP address configuration that could exceed more than 100 lines of output. The function call needs to follow the function declaration; otherwise, PowerShell will return an error.

Working with functions inline is not difficult until you have many scripts to maintain. Anytime you improve a function or find a bug in your code, you must find all the scripts that reference that function and update them. That can be daunting, especially if you share the script with the rest of your team or even some customers.

How to call a function: The file-based approach

A second option is to use a PowerShell call function from another script. This is the preferred approach because it separates your scripts and functions in a more organized way. This practice leads to more sophisticated execution with PowerShell when you recognize how to turn a library of several functions you use frequently into a single PowerShell module.

If you use source control as part of your script writing process, then any time you need to update the function, your commit only applies to the function, not the scripts that use the function inline. You will find the file-based method will simplify your commit history.

To start with a function call to a file, save the Get-IpAddress function in the first example to a file named Get-IpAddress.ps1.

When you write a script that depends on a function in a file, then you need to include the function in the script. To do this, use a method called dot-sourcing. The syntax for dot-sourcing is a dot followed by the path to the function file. In this example, the function file goes in the C:\Functions folder on the Windows machine. To access the function with dot-sourcing, use the following format:

. C:\Functions\Get-IpAddress.ps1

Now, in any line that follows the dot-sourcing line, you can perform the function call, as shown in the following example that logs the current IP address to a file:

. C:\Functions\Get-IpAddress.ps1
"$((Get-Date).ToShortDateString()) $(Get-IpAddress)" | Out-File C:\logs\CurrentIp.log -Append

You can schedule the script to run daily to log both the date and the computer's IP address to track any changes. The Append parameter puts the output at the bottom of the existing file.

How to call a function from another file as a module

It's also possible to call a function located in another file with the Import-Module cmdlet. Technically, this works even if the script calls a .ps1 file that contains a single function.

The cmdlet treats the file like a module. You can even return the function's filename by running Get-Module. The problem is the file isn't a module and, as such, there is little benefit to use the Import-Module cmdlet over dot-sourcing.

How to implement PowerShell functions in other ways

As you become more proficient with PowerShell, you can produce multiple functions and use them in different ways.

You can write an entire library of functions and save each to a separate file, then use dot-sourcing to call them from a script. You could even go a step further and dot-source the functions into your PowerShell profile to make them available every time you launch PowerShell.

Dig Deeper on Microsoft identity and access management

Cloud Computing
Enterprise Desktop
Virtual Desktop