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Operating Systems: Types and Functions of User Interfaces

In this tutorial, we will learn what is user interfaces, functions of user interfaces, and the classification/types of user interfaces in operating system. By Prerana Jain Last updated : May 05, 2023

What Is User Interface (UI)?

A User interface (UI) facilitates communication between an application and its user by acting as an intermediary between them. Each application including the operating system is provided with a specific UI for effective communication. The two basic function of a user interface of an application is to take the inputs from the user and to provide the output to the users. However, the types of inputs taken by the UI and the types of output provided by the UI may vary from one application to another.

Types of User Interface

A user interface of any operating system can be classified into one of the following types:

  1. Graphical user interface (GUI)
  2. Command line user interface (CLI)

1. Graphical user interface (GUI)

The graphical user interface is a type of GUI that enables the users to interact with the operating system by means of point-and-click operations. GUI contains several icons representing pictorial representation of the variables such as a file, directory, and device. The graphical icon provided in the UI can be manipulated by the users using a suitable pointing device such as a mouse, trackball, touch screen and light pen. The other input devices like keyboard can also be used to manipulate these graphical icons. GUIs are considered to be very user- friendly interface because each object is represented with a corresponding icon. Unlike the other UIs the users need not provide text command for executing tasks.

Advantages Graphical user interface (GUI)

Some advantages of GUI based operating system

  • The GUI interface is easy to understand and even the new users can operate on them on their own.
  • The GUI interface visually acknowledges and confirms each type of activities performed by the users. For example when the user deletes a file in the Windows operating system, then the operating system asks for the confirmation before deleting it.
  • The GUI interface enables the users to perform a number of tasks at the same time. This features of the operating system are also known as multitasking.

2. Command line Interface (CLI)

Command line interface is a type of UI that enables the users to interact with the operating system by issuing some specific commands. In order to perform a task in this interface, the user needs to type a command at the command line. When the user enters the key, the command line interpreter received a command. The software program that is responsible for receiving and processing the commands issued by the user. After processing the command are called command line interpreter, the command line interpreter displays the command prompt again along with the output of the previous command issued by the user. The disadvantages of the CLI is that the user needs to remember a lot to interact with the operating system. Therefore these types of interface are not considered very friendly from the users perspective.

Example: In order to perform a task, we need to type a command at the command prompt denoted by C:\> to copy a text file, say al.text, from the C drive of our computer system. To the D drive, we need to type the copy command at the command prompt.

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