Updated April 5, 2023
Introduction to Linux GUI
Linux GUI (Graphical User Interface) is defined as a utility or feature which supports an interface for users and allows users to interact with the system and takes help from windows, icons, graphics, etc., and responds to the manipulation of mouse and keyboard. When we talk about Linux, we always consider the kernel to be the heart of a Linux system that keeps the system working, the same way the heart keeps the body running. On the other side of it, what we see in a human body is also the outer appearance, and that is exactly what GUI gives to Linux. GUI is the face of the operating system!
Working of Linux GUI
As we discussed in the definition, GUI is an interface that allows users to communicate with the system. The working of GUI is very simple. In the interface, the actions are taken as an input that is then transmitted over to the system in the form of a command it needs to perform and then performs the task. For example, the mouse is moved from point A to B, the sensor tracks the movement of the mouse, which is then translated into the language machine understands, and the action is performed instantly.
With different layers of components, which is a different section altogether in this article, GUI allows the system to stitch them, allowing users to perform the task as per convenience and requirement. A combination of technologies along with devices is what it takes to build a platform that provides the options to users to interact with the system. Some of the GUI components might be a mere CLI command that executes when the user wants it!
Components of Linux GUI
Though there are many desktop environments out there, some components listed below serve the purpose of completeness of GUI. Though the list is not exhaustive, the list will provide a sense of components required in Linux and why:
- Window Manager: This is the first component that builds the Linux desktop environment, and it provides the options on how applications need to be presented to users. They are broadly classified into 3 categories listed below:
- Compositing: This is the most widely used one where different windowpane appears on the top of each other but snap side by side and makes it pleasing to the eye. This contains the best of both worlds, Stacking and Tiling.
- Stacking: This is a bit old fashioned where panes stack exactly on top of each other.
- Tiling: In this category, panes are put side by side without overlapping.
- Panels: In Linux, there is the possibility of multiple panels on the screen and contains items like the menu, quick launch items, applications which were minimized, or area for notification.
- Menu: Menu in Linux is like a list containing various categories and gives the flexibility to users to select the option as per requirement. This component also provides a feature to search for application!
- System Tray: This component is generally attached to the panel and gives access to the user to key settings like audio, network, power, etc.
- Icons: Icons in Linux is for the convenience of users to have instant access to applications. It can be thought of as a visual representation that executes an application.
- Widgets: This component provides utility for showing useful information on the desktop itself. Some examples are the clock, weather, etc.
- Launcher: This is specific to some environments like Unity & GNOME, where a customizable list of quick launch items is provided to users for easy access.
- Dashboards: This is also specific to some environments like Unity & GNOME, where a dash type interface is provided for easy user interaction.
- File Manager: As the name suggests, this component helps users manage files by providing utility like move, edit, rename, copy, etc.
- Terminal Emulator: This component will be of interest to those who would prefer to work in the command line within the Linux GUI.
- Text Editor: This component allows users to create text files and a utility to edit configuration files when needed.
- Display Manager: This component is the screen which allows the user to log in to the system.
- Configuration Tools: This component is mostly to make aesthetic changes, viz. the look and feels, to the desktop environment in use.
Some examples from the Linux operating system, in no order of preference, are listed below:
- GNOME Shell
- KDE Plasma
In the golden period of digitalization, we have seen a lot about sharing of services, including resources and specialized hardware. This makes it even more interesting for GUI to live up to the expectation of users in this era. In this section, we will look into all the advantages which try to meet the expectations of users:
- The interface capability makes the operation on computers more intuitive and henceforth easier to learn and use them in real-life scenarios. As an example, we find it easier to drag a file from one location to another rather than write command and then execute it.
- With intuitiveness comes the power of feedback, and with GUI, users have access to almost immediate feedback of the action performed. As an example, again, when a file is deleted, the file disappears and is immediately visible, rather than writing a command to find if the file has been deleted or not.
- The next advantage of GUI is that it makes full use of the multitasking ability of the modern operating system capabilities. This, in turn, leads to high productivity along with having the flexibility of computer usage.
- Not only its own advantages are enough, but GUI in itself also paves the way for the building of other applications, and new industries are forming as a result of the same, which has leveled up the convenience.
- Last but not the least, using a GUI might not need extensive training and prior knowledge, which results in even a novice using the same to perform complex tasks if the command line interface is used.
This article has a flavor of different parcels that makes up an effective GUI and some advantages corresponding to GUI in Linux. This feature or utility aims mostly to ease the complexity of working on the command line and pave users to quickly use Linux without having to invest a lot of time in learning the command line and letting Linux or their developers take care of the same!
This is a guide to Linux GUI. Here we discuss the different parcels that make up an effective GUI and some advantages corresponding to GUI in Linux. You may also look at the following articles to learn more –