User interface

The OS provides a user interface (UI), an environment for the user to interact with the machine. The UI is either graphical or text-based.

Graphic detailing different user interfaces on a computer

Graphical user interface (GUI)

The OS on most computers and smartphones provides an environment with tiles, icons and/or menus. This type of interface is called the graphical user interface (GUI) because the user interacts with images through a mouse, keyboard or touchscreen.

Command line interface (CLI)

An OS also provides a method of interaction that is non-graphical, called the command line interface (CLI). This is a text-only service with feedback from the OS appearing in text. Using a CLI requires knowledge of the commands available on a particular machine.

Advantages of using the command line include:

  • a faster way to get tasks done
  • it is more flexible than a GUI
  • it uses less memory

Some games, such as Minecraft, also make use of a command line tool which allows the user to bypass the main interface and alter the game’s mechanics or environment.