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Graphical user interface

(also GUI)

Graphical user interface definition

A graphical user interface is computer software that allows users to interact with devices by manipulating graphical elements like windows, icons, scroll bars, and mouse pointers. Graphical user interfaces typically require little to no training to use, displaying key information and available actions in a user-friendly way.

Prior to the development of graphical user interfaces, most computers were operated using command-line interfaces (CLI), which require the user to type out precise commands. The advent of graphical user interfaces in the late 1970s helped popularize digital technology among the general public. However, the CLI was not abandoned completely — many operating systems include a CLI for advanced users.

Real graphical user interface examples

  • The Windows operating system (OS) has one of the most recognizable graphical user interfaces in popular culture. The intuitive graphical user interface helped secure the popularity of Windows 95 and later versions on home computers.
  • The macOS is another popular modern operating system with a distinct graphical user interface from Windows. Many user interface enhancements pioneered by macOS would be incorporated into other operating systems.
  • The iPhone popularized interactive touch-screen graphical user interfaces. Their ease of use without requiring any peripheral devices directly contributed to the modern smartphone and tablet boom.