Is the Command Prompt the New Desktop?

People keep rediscovering the article Don Norman posted a few months ago criticizing what he thinks of as Google's faux simplicity:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

It must be said… I still love the 3270/5250 interface that IBM put out in the 1970s. Users who get started on IMS or CICS applications do experience a learning curve (getting used to the business app lingo), but after that, they FLY through the screens!

For professions that require loads of data-entry, such as bookkeepping, income tax, retail… console-based applications still provide more user performance than any visual design.

Visual and web apps really shine when it comes time to analyze and manipulate such data, but when it comes to keying data en-mass into a computer, 99% of most GUIs I come across just plain suck at it.

It’s funny, because I just realized that I navigate through source code using the search functions, and I have for years…

I simply remember a keyword (eg, function name), then do an incremental (or CTRL+SHIFT+F find in all files) search, and zap, I’m there.

I almost never use class browsers, the drop-down entity lists, or any other navigational scheme.

I think this is why I’m such a big fan of SlickRun.

However, I agree, the desktop metaphor isn’t totally useless. It’s made better when we can maniplate it using the keyboard.

Wait you mean 3D virtual reality operating systems are not the user interfaces the future? :slight_smile:

In all seriousness, Microsoft seems to have taken this idea to heart. Notice the search box present (upper right corner) in every explorer window of Vista.

commandline fans might enjoy a program like “Find and Run Robot”:

“Find and Run Robot is a program for keyboard maniacs - it helps you rapidly find programs or documents from within the depths of the start menu (or other directories). One keypress launches the utility - then just start typing the first letters of the application you want to launch. As you type the best matches are shown - just hit the number to launch the associated program.”

I love the pop up on the latest version of the google desktop- hit ctrl-ctrl and you get a box that will launch anything in your start menu. Or search your files. Or search the internet. Or wash your clothes.

The command prompt is the desktop, anything else is just a gui version of the command prompt.

Anyone who’s disdainful of a simplified UI like that shown here – or of BoB, for that matter – should have the job of teaching an 80-year-old how to send and receive email. UIs are always debated by people who know their way around several, yet new ideas are always precisely for people who do not or cannot use the UI we’re all used to. Anything that involves typing in words that you have to remember – whether a old-skool command prompt or a search string in Google – just ain’t gonna work for some percentage of people.

One more feature “borrowed” from OS X.

I love this – as if Apple alone could somehow have thought up the idea of integrated search and all MS ever does is scrutinize Mac stuff for ideas. It isn’t as if we haven’t been able to add search as a desktop app since, what, forever? Windows is the history of integrating more and more add-on functionality into the OS …

“I’ve never been a huge fan of the desktop metaphor. It’s easier to see the problems if you take it to an extreme, as General Magic’s defunct Magic Cap operating system did”

So that’s where MS Bob came from! :slight_smile:

Check out the future (for windows) of shells and desktops at

Mozilla said:

“In all seriousness, Microsoft seems to have taken this
idea to heart. Notice the search box present (upper
right corner) in every explorer window of Vista.”

One more feature “borrowed” from OS X.

I agree with the comment that google’s search page is a one trick pony (inspite of its currency and unit conversion and simple math tricks, it is still pretty much just a search)

The fact that you can link to other pages to do do something doesn’t make the search page more functional any more than linking to the google search page makes your page a search engine.

There are times when I still drop to the command prompt to get things done faster like unpacking 10 or 12 archives in a row, it is just faster to batch it by typinng unrar e *.rar than pointing, clicking, selecting, waiting, pointing, clicking, selecting etc. Batch oriented tasks with little to no interaction are perfect for command line tasks.

Rather than suggest that the future is one or the other, it is more likely that most people will stay point and click and those with a higher understanding will continue to take advantage of the batching capabilites offered by command lines that just isn’t possible with point and click interfaces WHEN they have batching requirements that are not satisfied by a point and click gui.

I’ve recently been experimenting with yubnub, which customises the command line interface of your browser’s search box.

I share your views, and i’m realy convinced since i began to use quicksilver ( on a regular basis on my PowerBook laptop !

one of those screenshots reminds me of “Magic Desk” on the C64. Ahh, those were the days…

Have you read the book ‘The Humane Interface’ by Jef Raskin? He proposes a general way for searching (he calls it ‘LEAPing’ to a location) that is incremental, based on content and bookmarks. The interface he proposes is a graphical, zooming ‘information canvas’ on which you can mount all your data.

Your post reminded me why I love SlickRun.

florisla brings up the only real alternative to both the command line and the point and click GUI. Archy, the alternative, “humane”, UI, is practically perfect…except that it is so radically different from anything anyone has ever seen that it is almost impossible to comprehend and will never gain mainstream acceptance. Give it a whirl; it will blow your mind.

I’ve written many times about Raskin’s stuff:

Here are some screenshots of Archy in action: