We’ve talked about human machine interfaces (HMIs), user interfaces (UIs) and other interfaces, but one that we’ve yet to discuss is the command line interface. Also known as a command language interpreter or character user interface, this critical component of computers allows for the interaction between a human operator and computer program or application. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when speaking about command line interfaces. To learn more about them and how they work, keep reading.
A command line interface lives up to its namesake by featuring an interface through which the human operator can enter commands into “lines.” This is typically done in the form of successive text lines, each of which can be a specific and unique command. Command line interfaces were the primary form of interaction between human operators and computers until the 1960s, at which point video display terminals began to take over. But even today, many computer systems rely on command line interfaces as the main form of interaction between users and the system.
So, what benefits are there to using a command line interface over other, newer interface options? For starters, it allows for greater control over the respective program and/or operating system. Using a command line interface, the operator has complete control — even more so than if he or she were to use a newer interface. Most computer systems and operating systems are equipped with a vast library of commands, offering greater utility and versatility for command line interface users. Even so, there are other reasons to use a command line interface.
Another benefit of command line interfaces is its ease of use for scripting. Scripts can be written and programmed using command line interfaces more easily than using other interfaces. In fact, it’s the de-facto standard interface for scripting.
Of course, there are also some potential disadvantages associated with command line interfaces, one of which is its somewhat steep learning curve. Contrary to what some people may believe, command line interfaces are not beginner-friendly. You must learn the nuances of each command line interface in order to effective navigate through and use it. Furthermore, command line interfaces lack any sense of visual appeal. They consist almost entirely of numbers, letters and characters on lines. This is in stark contrast to a graphical user interface, which features graphics and other visual elements. All in all, though, command line interfaces are a viable solution for computer systems.