Command-line interface

Screenshot of a sample Bash session in GNOME Terminal 3, Fedora 15
Screenshot of Windows PowerShell 1.0, running on Windows Vista

A command-line interface (CLI) processes commands to a computer program in the form of lines of text. The program which handles the interface is called a command-line interpreter or command-line processor. Operating systems implement a command-line interface in a shell for interactive access to operating system functions or services. Such access was primarily provided to users by computer terminals starting in the mid-1960s, and continued to be used throughout the 1970s and 1980s on VAX/VMS, Unix systems and personal computer systems including DOS, CP/M and Apple DOS.

Today, many users rely upon graphical user interfaces and menu-driven interactions. However, some programming and maintenance tasks may not have a graphical user interface and may still use a command line.

Alternatives to the command line interface include text-based user interface menus (for example, IBM AIX SMIT), keyboard shortcuts, and various desktop metaphors centered on the pointer (usually controlled with a mouse). Examples of this include the Microsoft Windows, DOS Shell, and Mouse Systems PowerPanel. Command-line interfaces are often implemented in terminal devices that are also capable of screen-oriented text-based user interfaces that use cursor addressing to place symbols on a display screen.

Programs with command-line interfaces are generally easier to automate via scripting.

Many software systems implement command-line interfaces for control and operation. This includes programming environments and utility programs.

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