UNIX, the ancestor of LINUX was a command line operating system that supported only textual commands to operate computer systems. In spite of these limitations UNIX is still considered as the most popular operating system due to its distribution and support base as well as due to its reliable architecture. Linus Torvalds, the inventor of Linux, made a cloned version of UNIX and called it LINUX. The initial version of LINUX was very minimal with a LINUX Kernal and the command line interface “bash”, update utility for flushing the file streams and GCC a compiler. Linus published his operating system on the internet and made it available as a free resource, a decision which was considered stupid by the high end software companies. However in recent years several big organizations have implemented LINUX due to the dependable and secure architecture.
Since 1970s most companies strived in developing their user interfaces to introduce better usability. In the same context later variations of LINUX also supported Graphical User Interfaces that were easier to be used than CLI and was a need of time to be competitive and user oriented.
The paper will discuss the GUI transformation and variations of Linux available and their usability scenarios. The paper will also argument in favor of how GUI can enable usability and simplified managing and administrating the operating system.
User interfaces provide the users medium to interact with the operating systems to manipulate and process various operations. While command line interfaces are considered to be suitable to complex actions where the user might need to repeat, automate and operate several objects simultaneously. CLIs enable users to chain together commands to extend the functionality of the commands and scripts that is impossible to achieve through a graphical user interface.
A GUI is a more interactive and simplified user interface which enables users to pass commands through graphical self-descriptive icons.
The most important aspect of a GUI is that it offers more situational awareness to the user restricting any fatal system failures. Most terrible errors made by system administrators have occurred due to lack of situational awareness into the system such as to identify and comprehend exactly the processing and state of critical elements if the system that could ring false alarms and wrong cues to the administrator. These wrong cues could include anything from working in the wrong directory to deleting the wrong versions.
GUI enable users to administer system by providing following advantages:
Ease of use: with visual elements controlling and processing is easier even for new users.
Multitasking: GUI simplifies users to view, manipulate and move between multiple objects and tasks simultaneously as the visual elements give more control over the situation.
Familiar environment: Equipping to use a new operating system with GUI is quicker as the visual elements give illustrative environment for the user.
While Windows , MAC and other operating systems come with fix GUI, Linux offers highly customizable GUI environments, separate from the operating system on top of the command line that allow the user to change and control all aspects of the visual elements and windows.
GNOME is one of the most popular desktop environment due to its ease of use for new or less techy users as well as it is lightweight and low on the system resources. The GNOME environment allows the user to configure advance settings for the environment too.
Another popular desktop environment for Linux is KDE which is different to the complexity level and resource utilization from GNOME.KDE enables the users to create more functional and customizable environment with more multipart elements. KDE gives a widget based desktop environment, with menus close to windows. KDE offers several configuration options available that be difficult to navigate and locate for new users. Familiarizing with the KDE environment could be time taking due to its multi-nested configuration options, it comes as a good choice for advanced users who would require highly customizable environments and can handle the complex nature of KDE.
As discussed GNOME is meant for new and less tech savvy users who need simplification and usability. On the other hand, KDE is built with deep and custom configurations and settings for advanced users with specific needs. Considering this inherent difference, GNOME is well suited in single user scenarios where the needs of GUI are standard and limited. GNOME is built around more liberation, usability, accessibility and support for the users. It provides a standard interface with customization options through advanced settings for advanced users. Most of the options provided by GNOME use least system resources, GNOME has a minimum system requirement with CPU speed 700 Mhz and RAM 768 MB. On the other hand, KDE is designed to create an aesthetically designed environment with customizable parameters to allow complex control over the interface. The configuration settings of the KDE GUI cannot be managed by a new user, in fact KDE offers the complex parameters settings upfront to enable fine tweaking of the elements. Apparently while GNOME is usability focused, KDE is built around customization and control of the environment. KDE GUI environment is comparable to windows and is suited for large scale organizations where complex design customization are required. KDE also requires heavy hardware configuration that make it suitable for large organization with expert level Linux users.
The basic difference between OS like Windows GUI and that of Linux is that GUI is an integral part of the OS environment for windows while it is a pluggable optional add in for Linux. While OS like windows also let its users customize the GUI to some extent however the variations of GUI environment available for Linux give a range of customization from basic to most advanced settings. Additionally, the flexibility of Linux GUI can be seen by the fact that the Linux users can choose to use which GUI environment matches their needs and use the required one only. For several distributions and versions of Linux system administrators not even use a GUI due to the nature of usage. For every computer user the most important factor on deciding a software is its quality and the choice. Users need the ability to choose a certain program and be able to use it without issues with the other applications. The GUIs for Linux give the user choice to decide the environment according to their needs and customize accordingly as well. The fact that it is not mandatory to plug a GUI is also a sign of freedom for the users who might have more complex computation needs only possible with the CLI.
Thus Linux not only provides its users with different GUI environment according to the needs of the user and allow deep customization of the visual elements to enable having a well-designed environment.
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