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What is GUI (Graphical User Interface)?

Updated on April 14, 2012
Linux GUI
Linux GUI | Source

The GUI stands for Graphical User Interface. It is an interface for a user to computer. At the moment, majority computer users use GUI while working with computers. Only a small part of people, mainly they are computer software engineering professionals or system administrators, sometime use command line interface while working. For those, who are not familiar with history of computer software, it can be very hard to imagine, how it is possible to use computer without all this graphical interface we have now.

Some time ago computers did not have GUI. Working with computer was text based. The user had to remember certain commands, that computer could respond to. The best example of operating system that did not have GUI is DOS operating system. Those, who are more curious, can run DOS in Windows OS, and get familiar with it.

Properties of GUI

The main reason, why GUI is so commonly used in different operating systems is that it makes working with computer so easy, that almost everyone can learn it quickly.

The main properties of every GUI are:

  • User friendly environment.
  • Easy to learn. The user can learn such an environment quickly. What is more, it is not hard to change OS on your computer, because the new environment will be learned intuitively.
  • Easy to use. Well made GUI can be used intuitively, because such terms as menu, file, folder, desktop and many others are associated with real life things.
  • Easy to implement for programmers.
  • Uses WIMP environment. Term WIMP stands for Window, Icon, Menu, Pointer.

Kinect uses natural user interface
Kinect uses natural user interface | Source

Today's GUI

At the moment all operating systems provide a graphical user interface. I might be wrong on this statement, so please correct me, if you know some OS that do not provide GUI. All the applications that are used on OS mainly use all common elements that come with particular OS, combining them with their own GUI elements and ideas. As I have mentioned before, in many cases, associations with real life objects are used in GUI. You probably know such terms as desktop, window, menu and others. The main elements of each GUI are windows, pull-down menus, scroll bars, icons, the mouse. The mouse today is changed by human's finger on tablets and smartphones. This is possible by using touch sensitive screens.

As various multimedia implementations are possible today, GUI becomes more interactive. The combination of sound, voice, motion pictures and various input devices creates a new form of environment that is called "look-and-feel".

The environment, that is used in Kinect device, can be called a new generation of environment. The cameras and other senors enables the control of game without touching the keyboard, mouse, or screen. Such an environment can be called Natural User Interface. The game can be controlled using gestures and spoken commands. Maybe someday we will able to have an environment that cam be controlled by mind.


There were many discussions going in the beginning of the era of GUI. The computer experts revealed many pros and cons regarding GUI and CLI (Command Line Interface) interfaces. I believe, that you will be interested in some arguments.

GUI pros:

  • GUI is easy usable for ordinary computer user. It is user friendly environment.
  • Using GUI is faster. There is no need to remember commands. The user need only to click the desired icon.
  • GUI is a progressive environment comparing to CLI.
  • CLI environment looks like it comes from the stone age.

GUI cons:

  • GUI interface "dumbs down" OS.
  • GUI have many security holes.
  • GUI consumes much computer resources.
  • CLI gives the user more control on system. All the command are executed exactly as they should be.
  • CLI can be used much faster than GUI. It is much faster to enter command by keyboard that use mouse, scroll down and click.


Submit a Comment

  • Silwen profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Europe

    timmathisen, it seems that still there are many who use CLI, especially in Linux environments. I am happy, that you liked this hub.

  • Silwen profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Europe

    Thank you, Marcy. In moments of deep nostalgia, I also use CLI, especially while working in Ubuntu. Sometimes it seems that it is easier to do specific operation in command line, than brows through all that GUI menus.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    This is a cool hub. For me, I like using CLI for tweaking my Linux boxes and the GUI for everything else. I guess I grew up in the clickity-clackity mouse generation. Voted up as well.

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

    Marcy Goodfleisch 

    6 years ago from Planet Earth

    I love this Hub! I have to admit I got hooked on CLI years ago (used to be on WANG, if you can believe it), and I've always found it quicker and more convenient than the mouse. But it's increasingly more difficult to use, with all the new features. And of course I wouldn't give up the new goodies. So I'll use the mouse when I have to, and use C, X and V whenever I can.

    Voted up, useful, interesting and SHARED.


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