General Discussion Opinion

Why Do So Many Linux Users Prefer the Command Line to a GUI?

Linux Cli vs Gui
Written by Martins D. Okoi

Why do so many Linux users prefer CLI over GUI? I came across some helpful contributions the last time I followed this question on Reddit like:

For the same reason I prefer talking to pointing and grunting. It flows so well and gives good feedback.

It’s not snark. It’s poetically accurate. You simply cannot fit every option for a command line utility on a 2-d plane. Just thinking about how crazy a GUI interface to GNU find would be.

I work with GUI apps more often than I do with the CLI but it is how I do my most important dev tasks. The command line interface arguably has a steep learning curve but once you get the hang of it you will love it because it will become second nature.

Here are the most universal reasons I think many Linux users prefer the command line interface.

1. Distraction free

My first favorite thing about the CLI is its distraction-free interface. Granted, the default black and white can be intimidating the first couple of times but you see the blessing that it is once you get a hang of it.

At all times the interface displays only information that is necessary to your current project and any other info is a number of keystrokes away. This way, you stay focused on the important things.

2. More Verbose

Think about it – it’s almost impossible to fit every command line option into a GUI option pane. Text editors and IDE’s (among other complex apps) manage to put various options into toolbars and hidden layouts after aeon of programming but more feature options are added over time – which when called, invoke commands in the background.

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If you’ve ever built a GUI app before you would know that every option you see in the app window is tied to a command that runs in the background. In fact, before features are implemented as GUI options, the CLI aspect is sorted out first. Owing to this fact, the CLI will always be more verbose in terms of option sets and usability.

3. Requires Less Storage Space

This one is more or less a no-brainer. Command line-based apps require less storage space because they lack the “flesh” that GUI apps have, no matter how lightweight they are.

This means that if storage space is an issue for you then you are better off using CLI-based apps without the worry of losing productivity. And this leads to my next point;

4. Enhances Productivity

Working in a distraction-free mode already moves productivity up a notch and the fact that you’re working with just your keyboard most of the time improves both your workflow and morale.

A developer friend told me once, “the less often you touch your mouse while working, the more productive you will be“. It is, therefore, no wonder why master programmers prefer to use CLI-based editors e.g. Vim and Emacs.

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5. The Most Memory Efficient

Working from the CLI is by far more memory-friendly than using a GUI app and a good sample scenario is Git. The top GUI apps for Git are memory-efficient enough but using Git directly from the command line is the most memory-friendly your operations can be.

6. Distro-agnostic

Command line apps seldom use different commands irrespective of which distro they’re running on but that is not usually the case with GUI apps across the GNU/Linux, macOS, and Windows platforms since the options can be rearranged to fit the platform’s UI scheme.

Within the Linux ecosystem, bash, for example, uses the same commands. As a system admin, all you need to do is learn bash and you should be able to use any other Linux distro.

There are other reasons why the CLI is more appealing to many Linux users including piping, automation via scripting, and overall speed.

Whether you use the command line more than you do GUI apps, I’m sure you have ideas on why so many Linux users prefer to use it more than they use GUI apps. Share your opinion with us in the discussion section below.

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About the author

Martins D. Okoi

Martins Divine Okoi is a graduate of Computer Science with a passion for Linux and the Open Source community. He works as a Graphic Designer, Web Developer, and programmer.