Command line vs. GUI

Windows command line (DOS)Anyone not familiar with a command line interface (CLI) or a graphic user interface (GUI) may want to know the advantages and disadvantages of each interface to help determine what interface is the best for them to use and why. Below is a table to help illustrate the major advantages and disadvantages of each of the interfaces.

Topic Command line (CLI) GUI
Ease Because of the memorization and familiarity needed to operate a command line interface, new users have a difficult time navigating and operating a command line interface. Although new users may have a difficult time learning to use the mouse and all GUI features, most users pick up this interface much easier when compared to a command line interface.
Control Users have much more control of their file system and operating system 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 plenty of control of a file system and operating system, the more advanced tasks may still need a 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, and manipulate multiple things at once and is much faster to navigate when compared with a command line.
Speed Command line users only need to use their keyboards to navigate a command line interface and often only need to execute a few lines to perform a task. A GUI may be easier to use because of the mouse. However, using a mouse and keyboard to navigate and control your operating system for many things 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 computers system resources than a GUI. A GUI requires more system resources because of each of the elements that need to be loaded such as icons, fonts, etc. In addition, video drivers, mouse drivers, and other drivers that need to be loaded take 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 networking device over a network, a user can only manipulate the device or its files using a command line interface. Although remote graphical access is possible. Not all computers and especially not all network equipment has this ability.
Diverse 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 of how to perform different tasks. Even different versions 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 and rarely have to move from the keyboard to the mouse. Moving back and forth between a keyboard and mouse can cause additional strain and may help contribute to Carpal Tunnel. Although shortcut keys can be learned to help reduce the amount of times you have move from the keyboard to the mouse, you will still be moving much more between the keyboard and mouse with a GUI.

Although it appears that a command line wins this comparison, it is not meant to be a suggestion to stop using a GUI such as Windows and only use a command line. It is more beneficial for a computer user to learn and understand both a GUI and CLI and know the strengths and weaknesses of each interface.

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