(Graphical User Interface) The common method of interacting with a computer that allows any graphics image to be displayed on screen. Except for entering text on the keyboard, the primary way the computer is operated is with a mouse or touchpad pointing device. The mouse/touchpad is used to select icons and menu options as well as move and resize windows that frame the application and elements within it. The major GUIs are Windows and Mac along with GNOME and KDE for Linux.|
With the advent of the Macintosh in the mid-1980s and Windows in the 1990s, GUIs replaced the character-based display with a graphics display and eliminated the need to enter cryptic commands in a required sequence. In addition, fonts could be changed and resized on screen, providing a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) capability for creating printed materials. However, all major operating systems still include a command line interface that lets programmers and power users enter commands to perform certain tasks faster and more easily than with a mouse (see command line). See user interface, UI types, drag and drop, desktop manager, window manager and Star.
Xerox's Star workstation was the first commercial implementation of the graphical user interface. The Star was introduced in 1981 and was the inspiration for the Mac and all the other GUIs that followed. (Image courtesy of Xerox Corporation.)
The top screen shot is an early Mac desktop with "Power Dude" being the name of the hard disk. Look at the difference between the icons, fonts and window borders on the old user interface compared to the Mac OS X window below. (Top screen shot courtesy of Peter Hermsen.)
This was the Windows 2.0 interface in the late 1980s. As rigid as it looks, it was an improvement over Windows 1.0 because it supported resizable windows that could overlap. (Image courtesy of Ian Albert, www.ianalbert.com)
The Motif graphical interface was added to the command-line world of Unix workstations in the 1980s. (Screen shot courtesy of The Santa Cruz Operation, Inc.)
GUIs enabled all kinds of imaginative application interfaces. In this earlier Bryce 3D modeling program, the symbols at the bottom left were camera controls. The large one was the camera trackball, while the other three controlled the x, y and z axes. On top were primitive graphic elements, including an "organic rock generator," fourth from left. (Screen shot courtesy of MetaCreations Corporation.)
Stardock's WindowBlinds allows Windows users to have a unique desktop look with thousands of pre-built designs to choose from. (Image courtesy of Stardock Corporation, Inc., www.stardock.com)