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graphical user interface
Last modified: Monday, May 17, 2004 

Abbreviated GUI (pronounced GOO-ee). 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.

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

    Related Links

    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.

    The design of user interfaces
    Information from a course that focuses on GUI design principles. Includes sections on: cognitive issues, graphic design, devices and response time, the design process, system architectures, event driven programs, and Windows implementations.

    related categories

    Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs)

    related terms

    active

    Active Desktop

    Apple Computer

    AWT

    character based

    contextual menu

    desktop

    drag-and-drop

    drill down

    icon

    Macintosh computer

    MDI

    Microsoft Windows

    pointer

    pointing device

    screen scraper

    shell enhancement

    skin

    toolbar

    user interface

    widget

    Xerox


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