The Efficiency Of A CLI:
Among new computer users, there is sometimes debate over whether to use a CLI
(Command-Line Interface) or a GUI (Graphical User Interface). For most new or
casual users, the answer is simple: A GUI is easier to understand and less
intimidating-looking, making it a natural choice for non-technical people.
Indeed, this has stopped being much of an issue, as the GUI is now standard
in Microsoft Windows, and most people never have to touch the CLI. (Indeed,
many people are not aware it exists.)
But it does. For more than 10 years, the computing scene has been operating
on a split between the two types of interfaces. The Amiga was a pioneer in
this field, combining a highly functional CLI with the simple-yet-powerful
Workbench GUI. Back in the days of Windows 3.x, many people still used DOS
frequently for file management and other system functions. And Linux, the hot
"new" open-source OS, is fundamentally a CLI, but with the ability to add
several powerful GUIs on top of it (like XFree86). And make no mistake, as of
this writing, Microsoft Windows is still a GUI built on top of an MS-DOS CLI
(although Microsoft is slowly changing this, and that may stop being the case
in future versions of Windows).
The advantages of a GUI are obvious. But is there an advantage to a CLI? The
answer is unquestionably "Yes".
No GUI can ever approach the efficiency of a CLI. The time it takes to rap
out a string like "copy letter.txt c:\docs" will always be shorter than the
amount of time it takes to navigate through a window of files and
drag-and-drop a file into a destination folder. This automatically makes
GUI places more demands on the hardware, meaning it will slow down the
system. This is why, even though Explorer (which used to be called "File
Manager") is a good-looking and easy way to manage your files, power users
still use the DOS prompt.
A CLI is also simpler to set up, making it ideal for troubleshooting
scenarios where the computer is having trouble booting up. And, as mentioned
before, a CLI is less demanding on the hardware, making it a better choice
for older systems which might have trouble supporting the latest, greatest
Computer users naturally find themselves using a GUI when they first start
using a computer, but many people who explore their systems may find
themselves eventually beginning to move towards the CLI. That was the case
with me, anyway: After years of preferring the convenience of Windows, I've
become a DOS user. I didn't even notice the transition; I just gradually
started using DOS for more things, because it was faster and easier once I
knew how to use it.
I believe that every computer should still provide the option of a CLI. Sure,
have a GUI for everyday use, but a CLI is still a much-needed tool for
certain circumstances. The CLI will always be a more efficient tool for
getting work done.