Updated: 11/13/2018 by Computer Hope

Short for graphical user interface, a GUI is an interface that uses icons or other visual indicators to interact with electronic devices, rather than only text via a command line. For example, all versions of Microsoft Windows is a GUI, whereas MS-DOS is a command line. The GUI was first developed at Xerox PARC by Alan Kay, Douglas Engelbart, and a group of other researchers in 1981. Later, Apple introduced the Lisa computer with a GUI on January 19, 1983.

GUI overview

Below is a picture of the Windows 7 desktop and an example of a GUI.

Windows 7 Desktop


If you need an example of a command line for comparison see our command line page.

How do you pronounce GUI?

GUI is pronounced as either saying each letter (G-U-I) or as gooey.

How does a GUI work?

A GUI uses windows, icons, and menus to carry out commands, such as opening, deleting, and moving files. Although a GUI operating system is primarily navigated using a mouse, the keyboard can also be used to navigate using keyboard shortcuts or the arrow keys.

As an example, if you wanted to open a software program on a GUI operating system, you would move the mouse pointer to the program's icon and double-click the icon.

What are the benefits of GUI?

Unlike a command line operating system or CUI, like Unix or MS-DOS, GUI operating systems are much easier to learn and use because commands do not need to be memorized. Additionally, users do not need to know any programming languages. Because of their ease of use, GUI operating systems have become the dominant operating system used by today's end-users.

What are examples of a GUI operating system?

  1. Microsoft Windows
  2. Apple System 7 and macOS
  3. Chrome OS
  4. Linux variants like Ubuntu using a GUI interface.

Are all operating systems GUI?

No. Early command line operating systems like MS-DOS and even some versions of Linux today have no GUI interface.

What are examples of a GUI interface?

  1. GNOME
  2. KDE
  3. Any Microsoft program (e.g., Word, Excel, and Outlook).
  4. Internet browser (e.g., Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox).

How does the user interact with a GUI?

The user uses a pointing device such as the mouse to interact and use most aspects of the GUI. However, it is also possible to interact with a GUI using a keyboard or other input devices.

Does a GUI require a mouse?

No. Nearly all GUI interfaces, including Microsoft Windows, have options for navigating the interface with a keyboard only.

Aero, Computer acronyms, Front end, Interface, Microsoft Windows, MS-DOS, Operating system terms, UI, WIMP