February 17, 2019

Is Linux Difficult to Use? - page 3


  • May 29, 1999
  • By James Andrews

As well as the GUI discussed above, Linux does have access to a powerful command line interface. This is unsuitable for general use by the majority of users.

Suppose you have a bunch of files with names in the format


where the number at the end is a date. Now let's suppose you want, on a regular basis, to search all files for information on 'Frank' from a specific month and to sort it into order. The Shell command

grep 'Frank' *9[0-9]03*

should find what you are looking for without having to delve into complex menu systems.

But for specific tasks or for advanced users like programmers the command line interface or 'Shell' as it is known is a useful alternative. The Shell is only superficially like the old MS-DOS prompt. A shell language has access to dozens of commands and has a richer syntax. Having different ways of doing the same thing provides flexibility as well as adding complexity. You can get things done in the way you want to do them. Again, this is what usability is all about.

CLI vs. GUI: Pros and Cons

The Shell has a rich set of commands but it is easy to make mistakes. The GUI has only the commands on its menus but it is plain to see what you are doing. The choice is yours on which approach to use under Linux. Finally, from a user support point of view Shell commands are often better as they are easier to explain. It is simpler to say 'type ls -l' than 'move the mouse to the file menu, select L then click options then.....' and so on. This brings us onto the thorny issue of support.

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