September 20th, 2007
I’m really sick and tired of people on the Ubuntu Forums arguing about which is better—command-line or graphical user interface.
Why does one need to be better? Can’t we have both? Alas! Not only can we have both, but we do have both. That’s the direction desktop Linux is heading and has been heading the past few years. No one is abandoning the CLI (command-line interface) or forsaking the GUI (graphical user interface). Linux developers are keeping the CLI functionality and constantly adding more and more GUI frontends to accomplish the same tasks. This is a win-win situation, people. The way things are going, people who prefer CLI can keep using it (yay!), and the people who prefer the GUI can use that instead (yay!). And people like me who sometimes like to use the GUI and sometimes like to use CLI can also be satisfied (yay!). Why is this a problem? What is there to argue about?
The benefits of the GUI should be obvious. Those who are used to Mac and Windows expect a point-and-click environment and are used to thinking and clicking instead of memorizing commands to type. The GUI sacrifices speed and transparency for discoverability and a lower learning curve.
The benefits of CLI exist too! Especially when it comes to support on a text-based forum, CLI is essential. Commands can be copied and pasted. Descriptions of point-and-click actions, even screenshots or video tutorials can be confusing to users if the interfaces do not look exactly the same (“Hey, my menu doesn’t look like that!” “Hey, why don’t I have that option?”) and take a lot of time for both the tutorial maker and the tutorial viewer. More importantly, commands give more useful information if an error occurs. A real error message is more likely to lead to an exact solution. A vague description of “Nothing happens” or “It just crashes” is less likely to lead to an exact solution.
As you can see, both GUI and CLI have their benefits and both should be pursued. And, better yet, both are being pursued, so there’s nothing to argue about. Everybody should be pleased with the way desktop Linux development is going.