User Interfaces - Linux

The Command Line tells Unix what you want to do. Unix's command line tends to be cryptic and most users use some sort of GUI.


GUIs are graphical user interfaces, they all have a look and feel similar to the Windows environment which is based on the MAC Desktop and X Windows.

A graphical user interface for Unix consists of 2 major parts: the X Windows System (often called X) and a Window Manager. An X server on a computer system manages the screen, keyboard and mouse and their interactions with client applications that reside either on the same system or on another computer on a network.

The window manager, a client application, controls the window decorations and behaviours such as resizing, stacking order of multiple windows.

XFree86 is the free X Windows system that is available with Linux. There is a wide choice of free Window Managers available:

  • KDE
  • Gnome
  • WindowMaker
  • KVWM
  • TVWM
  • Lesstif

OSF/Motif is the most popular commerical window manager for Unix vendors other than Sun. Motif is based on the work done by members of the Open Software Foundation (OSF). Motif is also the interface for Open Desktop (ODT) from the Santa Cruz Operations (SCO).

Case Sensitive

Unix's command line is case sensitive. Most commands and responses are presented in lower case letters. Unlike DOS and many other systems, you cannot use upper case letters when lower case letters are expected. Thus typing "LS" to list a directory instead of "ls" will result in an error (the command won't be found). This is especially true of passwords - make sure that when you enter a new password that you remember whether it is upper case or lower case!

Multi-User Operating System

Unix systems run comfortably in a variety of situations: single-user, host systems with users on local or remote terminals and networked arrangements of workstations and multiuser systems.

Multiple Operating Systems

One of the most attractive features of the personal Unix systems is their ability to run programs designed for other operating systems. Versions of Unix designed for IBM PCs lets you load DOS and Windows applications using progrmas (such as dosemu and wine respectively) and run them in windows along side Unix specific programs.

Unix is a Pre-emptive Multi-tasking environment. You can have several programs or processes running simultaneously. This also allows Unix to be a multiuser environment.

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Copyright July 2013 Eugene Blanchard