An interesting look at the Linux CLI-GUI debate once more.

Being a non native English speaker means sometimes the only way I can really articulate my thoughts to you is to search for an article that was written by someone who read my mind. Thus this article on About.com on the forever old CLI vrs GUI debate is a perfect piece about my views on this issue.
I believe both have a role to play in helping an end user make the most of their system. I don’t however, believe a person’s inability to use the CLI actually makes them dumb. Neither do I believe that you’d be diminishing your status by using point and click to get things done for the sheer reason that you’re a CLI guru. If Linux is actually going to go anywhere in the future, the sometimes fundamental stance people take on the issue of CLI vrs GUI ought to be discouraged.
Whether you agree or not, there will always be people that cannot and will not learn how to use the CLI, should those people be left out of using Linux? I am an unflinching supporter and user of Ubuntu because it is really a trail blazer when it comes to the issue of accommodating the needs of both geeks and non-geeks alike, though some hardcore geeks still shun Ubuntu like the plague because it makes room for non-geeks.
Linux is up against Windows and to a lesser extent Mac OSX. The more intuitive the various Linux distros become, the better their chances of survival against the well established competition. All of us want to see more people use Linux, but where are those people going to come from? Of course from the Windows platform. If the marriage between the CLI and GUI is harmonious on Windows, then Linux would be better off following suite.

2 Replies to “An interesting look at the Linux CLI-GUI debate once more.”

  1. > though some hardcore geeks still shun Ubuntu like
    > the plague because it makes room for non-geeks.

    I don't think thats why many experienced GNU/Linux avoid the *buntus. I'd say, its more because the *buntu packages are unstable, or because *buntus don't share well with Debian, or because they ship horrible implementations of KDE, or because their release upgrades don't work (never did for me anyway), or because its a monolithic distribution rather than a lean, build-your-own system, or because some people don't like .deb distros, or because they ship Mono code…

    There are a lot of reasons to use one distro over another. Making a distro newbie-friendly isn't a reason to avoid that distro, perhaps not for anyone. There are much better reasons to avoid Ubun…, er, to avoid any given distro.

  2. The fact is that both the GUI and CLI environments have their pros and cons.

    The GUI is of course ideal for any task that really require graphical editing. Ever tried editing photos or audio on the command line? Not cool… Also, the learning curve of a GUI applications is normally a lot less steep than for a CLI applications.

    However, a GUI is terrible for performing any kind of repetitive task. Too often do I see someone going through a spreadsheet cell for cell performing the exact same operation in each one. This person will then spend hours and hours on a task that could be performed in seconds with a simple shell script.

    Also, the typical GNU/Linux CLI supports the extremely powerful redirecting functionality which allows multiple simple applications to be combined to perform sophisticated tasks efficiently, often with only a single line command or a short shell script. A software to perform the same task implemented from scratch might be thousands of lines of code. See 'awk', 'sed' and 'grep' for great examples. Similar functionality is pretty much impossible in a GUI environment.

    However, the best applications will feature a simple GUI with the most commonly used functionality, as well as a more feature rich command line tool. For a great example have a look at VLC. VLC comes with a user friendly GUI for watching video and playing audio on the desktop as well as an extremely feature rich command line tool that can perform tasks such as converting between different video and audio formats, multicast streaming and more. It's really impressive.

    Of course, a lot of people will be happy with the GUI while others again will need more. So I really don't think the CLI will die anytime soon.

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