Why the Command Line Interface is Still Relevant Today

Most Administrators Still Prefer Command Line Interface over Graphical User Interface 

command line interface blogWhile faster processors, more RAM, smart phones, and the advent of touch screens has spawned a world of touchable, flashy and graphically stylized GUIs, we often forget that the root of computing is based in text. Pretty pictures are nice, but for an IT administrator, we need the replication, speed and efficiency that a GUI rarely meets.

When it comes to speed, the Command Line Interface (CLI) is almost always superior to a Graphical User Interface (GUI). In a command line, there is no need to fumble through lists of options, multiple windows, and often ambiguous interfaces that come with working inside a GUI.

FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s just say that I want to know all IP addresses associated with my computer – in the command prompt, I can use “ipconfig /all” and easily pull that information. If I wanted to find that same information in the GUI, I’d have to navigate around windows to the network settings and then look at each interface one by one. Tedious…

Ipconfig works on all Windows Operating Systems, so I can send someone the command to type into the prompt and it will just work. I don’t have to worry about what OS they are on, where the Start button may be located and so forth. No fumbling around the GUI. Certain flavors of Linux have started to go down the route of adding GUI interfaces to their operating systems, but any power user will forgo the GUI and go right to the terminal (just a different name for a command line.)

FOR ANOTHER EXAMPLE: We really see the power of the command line over the GUI if we try to delete 10,000 files in a folder. In a GUI, you’d have to navigate to the folder, hope Windows doesn’t struggle to load all the 10,000 icons and file names, highlight them all and finally delete them. This may only take you a few minutes to navigate to and pull off, but with command line it’s a simple one line command and you’re done. Not only that, but if my buddy needs to do the same I can send him the command and, maybe with a little tweak, he can just paste it into the command prompt and run it. I don’t have to tell him to click here, go there, select all of these, etc. and delete.

Did you know that some Windows features still aren’t configurable through a GUI?  

At Fpweb.net, we work a lot with Microsoft SharePoint, and the people picker feature is only configurable through the command line. There’s no GUI wizard to click through and hold your hand. You have to know how to use the command and its switches for the function to work. Similarly, when you install Windows Server core, you won’t find a GUI – only a command line. All of the server’s configuration is done through the command prompt which can be a daunting task at the beginning, but once you have the configuration you want, it can be replicated through a scripting.

The future of Window’s command line is going the way of PowerShell (which is basically just DOS on steroids). PowerShell adds in scripting features built on the .Net framework. This makes PowerShell closely resemble the terminal Linux by adding the scripting abilities into the command prompt. Along with PowerShell, Microsoft has still been fixing features with DOS  – for example, in the next version of Windows, you’ll have the ability to CTRL+V (paste) into the command prompt. It seems silly that they’re just now adding that feature, but it helps keep your hands on the keyboard.

While most end users don’t care for command based systems, power users still rely on commands to troubleshoot and configure certain application and programs. They move fast and need a system that responds in sort. The future of the command prompt may not be as flashy or highly promoted as new graphic interfaces, but it’s still a heavily used portion of the operating system and worth exploring if you plan on having a career in the computing field.

2015-05-20T08:30:21+00:00 May 20th, 2015|

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