Moving forward well includes not losing the good-old along the way. Graphical user interfaces (GUI) provide a pleasing computing experience and sometimes make a task quicker and/or easier — and sometimes not.

As I did a routine FTP task today, I thought about how Gnu/Linux is cresting into mainstream consciousness in such things as netbooks and embedded devices. How will broader adoption change Gnu/Linux? Could we ever lose the command line interface (CLI) tools?

How would my FTP task (delete some files) be done with a GUI application?

Click an icon to start the application. Wait for the window to open.
Click the bookmarks menu.
Click the bookmark for the site I want.
Enter the password.
Click OK.
Double-click to the directory I want. Wait for files to be displayed.
Click to select the first file.
Shift-click the last file to select the range of files.
Click delete.
Click OK to confirm.
Click to close the application.

How do I do my FTP task now? (‘enter’ means press the Enter or Return key)

Click to start a terminal emulator (usually open already)
Type “lftp username,password ftpsite ‘enter'”
Type “mrm regular-expression-that-covers-the-files-I-want ‘enter'”
(today that was ‘0*.jpg’ and really only 0* was necessary)
Type “bye ‘enter'”
Type “exit ‘enter'” (If I want to close the terminal window, which I usually don’t)

Ofttimes CLI is quicker and easier than GUI. My own computing is probably about half and half. Given that Microsoft saw fit to create a new command shell (Powershell) for Windows XP and Vista, I suppose it is fair to hope that Gnu/Linux will retain its CLI capabilities even in the face of growing mainstream use.

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