May 15, 2009

The Cult of the Terminal

I just signed up for a group celebrating the Terminal. It's weird that I would join a group where, in plumbing, this would be the equivalent of celebrating a monkey wrench. I still like the terminal (it certainly makes my job a hell of a lot easier). But preferring the terminal to the GUI strikes me as a bit odd.

It's not so much that the terminal is better conceptually than a GUI but that in practice most OSS GUI's are wretched. There's very little fore-thought, and the lack of design acumen simply makes using them a drag.

When a GUI is terrific, it stays out of your way and allows you to accomplish your goals in a simple manner. Your web browser is a good instance of it. You simply type in your desired destination, et voila! It brings you to a page that will betray you with a good old Rickrolling.

What I'm trying to get at is that there's not a whole lot to terminal output design, but there is for graphical design. Therefore, it requires a whole lot more care than it currently receives from the OSS camp. With positive iterative GUI design improvements though, the terminal will become less and less necessary (and that won't be a bad thing). The KDE project is doing some pretty fascinating things with the desktop, and it's getting to be less that I want to fuss over the irrelevant (read: distracting) details.

I love the terminal, I use it a lot. At the end of the day though, it's just a tool. When there's a better tool, I'll drop it like a bad habit.

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