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graphical user interface
character based
Macintosh computer
Microsoft Windows
pointing device
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user interface

A program interface that takes advantage of the computer's graphics capabilities to make the program easier to use. Well-designed graphical user interfaces can free the user from learning complex command languages. On the other hand, many users find that they work more effectively with a command-driven interface, especially if they already know the command language.

Graphical user interfaces, such as Microsoft Windows and the one used by the Apple Macintosh, feature the following basic components:

  • pointer : A symbol that appears on the display screen and that you move to select objects and commands. Usually, the pointer appears as a small angled arrow. Text -processing applications, however, use an I-beam pointer that is shaped like a capital I.
  • pointing device : A device, such as a mouse or trackball, that enables you to select objects on the display screen.
  • icons : Small pictures that represent commands, files, or windows. By moving the pointer to the icon and pressing a mouse button, you can execute a command or convert the icon into a window. You can also move the icons around the display screen as if they were real objects on your desk.
  • desktop : The area on the display screen where icons are grouped is often referred to as the desktop because the icons are intended to represent real objects on a real desktop.
  • windows: You can divide the screen into different areas. In each window, you can run a different program or display a different file. You can move windows around the display screen, and change their shape and size at will.
  • menus : Most graphical user interfaces let you execute commands by selecting a choice from a menu.
  • The first graphical user interface was designed by Xerox Corporation's Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s, but it was not until the 1980s and the emergence of the Apple Macintosh that graphical user interfaces became popular. One reason for their slow acceptance was the fact that they require considerable CPU power and a high-quality monitor, which until recently were prohibitively expensive.

    In addition to their visual components, graphical user interfaces also make it easier to move data from one application to another. A true GUI includes standard formats for representing text and graphics. Because the formats are well-defined, different programs that run under a common GUI can share data. This makes it possible, for example, to copy a graph created by a spreadsheet program into a document created by a word processor.

    Many DOS programs include some features of GUIs, such as menus, but are not graphics based. Such interfaces are sometimes called graphical character-based user interfaces to distinguish them from true GUIs.

    For pages about graphical user interface, . Also, check out the following links!

    More Information

    Outstanding Page Interface Interest and Research Group home page
    Home page of a group of instructional designers interested in the practical application of research to the design of better software interfaces. Updated on Mar 1, 1998

      Classic System Solutions home page
    Home page for Classic System Solutions, a company specializing in in training, products and consulting in the area of graphical user interface design for business applications. Included are links to their GUI guidelines and standards, products and services, and useful design tips. Updated on May 9, 1998

      wxWindows home page
    The wxWindows home page offers numerous links to information on toolkits for platform-independent graphical user interface programming in C++. Some of the categories of links you will find here are: news, manuals, FAQs, technical notes, and research projects. Updated on Jun 6, 1998

      Yahoo!'s page of GUI programing tools
    Yahoo!'s directory of GUI programing tools. Updated on Aug 4, 1998



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