What is a graphical user interface (GUI)?
A graphical user interface (GUI) is an interface through which a user interacts with electronic devices such as computers, handheld devices, and other devices. This interface uses icons, menus, and other visual indicators (graphics) to display information and related user controls, as opposed to text-based interfaces where data and commands are in text form. GUI representations are manipulated by a pointing device such as a mouse, trackball, pen, or finger on a touch screen.
The need for a GUI became apparent because the first human / computer text interface was through the generation of keyboard text through what is known as a command prompt (or DOS prompt). Commands were entered on a keyboard at the DOS prompt to initiate responses from a computer. The use of these commands and the need for accurate spelling created a cumbersome and inefficient interface.
In the late 1970s, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Laboratory created GUIs that are now common on Windows, Mac OS, and many other software applications. Using specially designed and labeled images, images, shapes and color combinations, objects were displayed on the computer screen that either resembled the operation to be performed or were intuitively recognized by the user. Today every operating system has its own GUI. Software applications use these and add additional GUIs of their own.
How we interact with a computer is constantly being revised and reinvented. Human ingenuity has moved users from the keyboard to the mouse and trackball, touch screens, and voice commands.
A visual language has developed as GUI has become common in both operating systems (OS) and software applications. Even those with little computer skills can now use the GUI to learn how to use computer applications for word processing, finance, inventory, design, art, or hobbies.