Run console application from a .net application

The base class library of the .NET framework doesn’t provide a mechanism to execute a console application or something in the command prompt out of the box. The execution of a tool which only has textual output isn’t a challenge at all, but if want to interact with it (read the output and react on it) it becomes more complicated.

Technical Basics

With the Process class you can start any application. The ProcessStartInfo gives you the ability to configure it more deeply. UseShellExecute of the ProcessStartInfo class must be set to true if you want to redirect the standard input, output and errors. So internally it uses the operating system shell to start the process. When the properties RedirectStandardInput, RedirectStandardOutput and RedirectStandardError are set to false, you can use the Process class to get a initialized StreamWriter from the StandardInput property and a initialized StreamReader from the StandardOutput and the StandardError property. The writer and readers allow you to interact with the console application. The CreateNoWindow defines that no window should be created for the called application. When you run your application and UseShellExecute is set to true, also no window will be created.

Command Prompt

The command prompt or cmd is a command line interpreter which allows you to execute and interact with applications that have a textual user interface or no interface (only arguments which are passed in at startup).

public static string RunCmd(params string[] commands)
{
    string returnvalue = string.Empty;

    ProcessStartInfo info = new ProcessStartInfo("cmd");
    info.UseShellExecute = false; 
    info.RedirectStandardInput = true;
    info.RedirectStandardOutput = true;
    info.CreateNoWindow = true;

    using (Process process = Process.Start(info))
    {
        StreamWriter sw = process.StandardInput;
        StreamReader sr = process.StandardOutput;

        foreach (string command in commands)
        {
            sw.WriteLine(command);
        }

        sw.Close();
        returnvalue = sr.ReadToEnd();
    }

    return returnvalue;
}

When you call RunCmd(…), you can pass in multiple commands and you will receive the result which is normally shown in the command prompt. You can’t interact with the command prompt multiple times in the same process, like write command, receive result, write command and so on. The StreamWriter must be closed, without that, the StreamReader will not return any result. If you have to react to the output of a command, you have to call the method multiple times with your commands. The following sample calls nslookup two times. The return value is also shown below.

RunCmd("nslookup www.google.com", "nslookup www.microsoft.com");
Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7600]
Copyright (c) 2009 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

C:\Sample\bin\Debug>nslookup www.google.com
Server: xxx.sample.com
Address: 200.001.001.161

Name: www.l.google.com
Addresses: 74.125.43.99
74.125.43.103
74.125.43.104
74.125.43.105
74.125.43.106
74.125.43.147
Aliases: www.google.com


C:\Sample\bin\Debug>nslookup www.microsoft.com
Server: xxx.sample.com
Address: 200.001.001.161

Name: lb1.www.ms.akadns.net
Addresses: 64.4.31.252
207.46.19.190
207.46.19.254
Aliases: www.microsoft.com
toggle.www.ms.akadns.net
g.www.ms.akadns.net

C:\Sample\bin\Debug>

Console Applications

You can also execute console applications without using command prompt. It allows you to get only the return message from the application without the crap you receive from the command prompt. The sample shows a implementation for console applications which only has startup parameters.

public static string Run(string fileName, string args)
{
    string returnvalue = string.Empty;

    ProcessStartInfo info = new ProcessStartInfo(fileName);
    info.UseShellExecute = false; 
    info.Arguments = args;
    info.RedirectStandardInput = true;
    info.RedirectStandardOutput = true;
    info.CreateNoWindow = true;

    using (Process process = Process.Start(info))
    {
        StreamReader sr = process.StandardOutput;
        returnvalue = sr.ReadToEnd();
    }

    return returnvalue; 
}


CommandLine helper class (2.71 kb)
CommandLine sample solution (24.42 kb)

24 thoughts on “Run console application from a .net application

  1. Thanks for the help! My problem is that I need to "interact with the command prompt multiple times in the same process, like write command, receive result, write command and so on," tailoring the next command to the result received. Any suggestions?

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