Why "vs."? Why not both? Command line vs. menu driven interface

30 Mar 2009 - 10:46am
942 reads

Jared Spool wrote:
> If you really want to get Old School, in 1985, at Symbolics
> (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbolics), we had a combined window-based
> and command line system. (You can see what a screen looked like here:
> http://is.gd/oE1s)

(I'll save my Symbolics fanboying for later... :-)

I still don't get why it has to be "cli VERSUS gui", when each has its
merits. Way back when, the Amiga implemented both nicely, and many of
us from "the workstation era" would argue that CLI and GUI both have
their merits and would balk at using a system that only had one of the
two. While I was at General Magic, I learned that the secret to being
a Real Power Mac User was getting MPW and using it as a CLI, so I would
argue it's not just a *nix weenie thing.

Sure, there can be a learning curve for using bash on the Mac (via
Terminal), but that effort is rewarded with the ability to do some
complex tasks very quickly. I don't expect the average Mac user to
learn bash, but it's certainly worth the effort if you do things like
manipulate large numbers of files by name, pattern and extension. This
semester I'm doing a lot of time-lapse photography and it's really
convenient to stuff files into folders using the CLI instead of
shift-clicking hundreds of icons at a time.

Looking at software packages, EAGLE and AutoCAD are two that support
both GUI and CLI. It's pretty inspiring watching an AutoCAD expert
switch between mouse and CLI, using each when it is the optimal tool for
the specific task. But the new user can stick to just the GUI until
they learn the ropes and only learn the CLI as needed. Speaking as
someone learning EAGLE, I find it easier to type, "VALUE R1 10k R2 100k"
than to take my hand off the keyboard, select R1 on the screen,
right-click, select value, then put my hand back on the keyboard to type
"10k" and so on.

J. Eric "jet" Townsend, CMU Master of Tangible Interaction Design '09

design: www.allartburns.org; hacking: www.flatline.net; HF: KG6ZVQ
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