Updated: 05/21/2018 by Computer Hope

Short for Graphical User Interface, a GUI (pronounced as either G-U-I or gooey) allows the use of icons or other visual indicators to interact with electronic devices, rather than using only text via the command line. For example, all versions of Microsoft Windows utilize a GUI, whereas MS-DOS does not. 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, the first commercially available computer, on January 19, 1983.

GUI overview

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

Windows 7 Desktop

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

How does a GUI work?

A GUI uses windows, icons, and menus to carry out commands, such as opening, deleting, and moving files. Although many GUI operating systems are navigated through the use of a mouse, the keyboard can also be utilized by using keyboard shortcuts or arrow keys.

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, Outlook)
  4. Internet browser (e.g., Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox)

How does the user interact with a GUI?

Typically 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 device.

Does a GUI require a mouse?

No, for almost all GUI interfaces it is possible to navigate them only using the keyboard. Although for most users it may be difficult to navigate a GUI only using a keyboard.

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