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Advogato: Semantics and Computing

Feb 13, 2001, 07:03 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Ryan Muldoon)

"Recent discussions on Advogato have raised the question of how to improve the UNIX GUI. Unfortunately, the conversation has been focused on marginal improvements of the current WIMP system - user-defined interfaces, improved keyboard-ability, and GUI pop-ups for CLI tools. While these ideas have some merit, they fail to strike at the heart of the current problem in Human-Computer Interaction: language. Using any of today's GUIs, there is almost no ability for real expression. Tasks must be broken down into a series of points, clicks, and drags. This article is meant to raise some possible ways to improve our Human-Computer vocabulary."

"Before we can delve into ways to improve the current GUI for free systems, we must look at what strengths exist with the current methods of interaction. UNIX is known for its powerful command-line. The command line allows for a rich expressive framework - so much so that some have claimed that it is provides an experience similar to writing literature. However, the command line is difficult to master for casual computer users, and (relative) mastery is required to not only appreciate the power, but also to just be able to use it efficiently. The GUI solves the problem of requiring mastery rather well: users can almost immediately acclimate themselves in a GUI environment and be productive. The notion of using a mouse to direct a cursor to point and click in order to manage files and launch applications is fairly simple to grasp. However, the literature-like expressiveness is gone. Vocabulary has been reduced to almost nothing."

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