Command line vs. GUI

Windows command line (DOS)Users who are not familiar with a command line interface (CLI) or graphical user interface (GUI) may want to know the pros and cons of each to help determine what works best for them. Others may be curious about differences between the two. With a heavy focus on file commands and manipulation, the following table illustrates which interface has the advantage in certain categories and why.

Note: If you are looking for DOS information and commands, see our page on MS-DOS and command line.

Topic Command line (CLI) GUI
Ease Due to a higher degree of memorization and familiarity needed for operation and navigation, new users find operating a command line interface more difficult than a GUI. Because a GUI is much more visually intuitive, new users almost always pick up this interface faster than a CLI.
Control Users have more control over both the file and operating systems in a command line interface. For example, users can copy a specific file from one location to another with a one-line command. Although a GUI offers ample access to the file and operating system, advanced tasks may still need to utilize the command line.
Multitasking Although many command line environments are capable of multitasking, they do not offer the same ease and ability to view multiple things at once on one screen. GUI users have windows that enable a user to view, control, manipulate, and toggle through multiple programs and folders at same time.
Speed Command line users only need to utilize their keyboards to navigate the interface. Additionally, they often only need to execute a few lines to perform a task. Using both a mouse and keyboard to navigate and control your operating or file system is going to be much slower than someone who is working in a command line.
Resources A computer that is only using the command line takes a lot less of the computer's system resources than a GUI. A GUI requires more system resources because of the elements that require loading, such as icons and fonts. Video, mouse, and other drivers need to be loaded, taking up additional system resources.
Scripting A command line interface enables a user to script a sequence of commands to perform a task or execute a program. Although A GUI enables a user to create shortcuts, tasks, or other similar actions, it doesn't even come close in comparison to what is available through a command line.
Remote access When accessing another computer or device over a network, a user can only manipulate the device or its files with a command line interface. Although remote graphical access is possible. Not all computers and network equipment has this ability.
Diversity After you've learned how to navigate and use a command line, it's not going to change as much as a new GUI. Although new commands may be introduced, the original commands always remain the same. Each GUI has a different design and structure when it comes to performing different tasks. Even different iterations of the same GUI, such as Windows, can have hundreds of different changes between each version.
Strain The command line allows the user to keep their hands on the keyboard, almost never touching the mouse. Moving back and forth between a keyboard and mouse can cause additional strain and may help contribute to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Although shortcut keys can help reduce the amount of times you have move from the keyboard to the mouse, you will still be moving much more between devices in a GUI.

Note: Although it appears that using the command line wins this comparison, it is beneficial for user know how both methods work as they excel in different areas.

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