Comparing Windows and Unix Interfaces

By John F. Moore
Created: 2 November 2001

Lets see if we can define the differences in the Interfaces between Unix and Windows.

I am using the generic term Unix for Linux and other unix like systems. In the same way I am using the term Windows to cover Windows 95/98/NT/ME/2000/XP since they all follow similiar design principals.

These are my summary of what exemplifies the basic differences between these two Operating Systems. I am drawing on my experiences with these and other Operating Systems.

GUI vs. Command Line


The Unix system was designed and created by programers for themselves. This group of users are what are commonly refered to as power users. This means that they not only do much of their work with words, as opposed to icons. But they are used to keeping a long list of commands and options in their minds. Their main tool for working with the computer is an editor, such as Notepad, not Word.


Windows started out as a command line tool, but along the way decided to move to the Graphical Interface exemplified by the Mac. The Mac excells at the point and click approach to programs. This makes it easier for new users to grasp because most things are presented as multiple choice options, known as menu's. A friend of mine once refered to the mouse as a one key keyboard.


Remember that these distinctions are not absolute. Windows still contains a command line in the Dos Box. The dos box does not have the strength of the Unix command line since it is more restricted in it's ability to combine the many fewer command available. There is also an effort to port some of the unix commands and shells to Windows. But generally that is a poor substitute for the Unix command line facility.

In a similiar way Unix has added a GUI interface top the system. This allows some of the point and click facility of Windows to be realized under Unix. Some of the applications which are popular on Windows are appearing on the Unix boxes. Could this lead to having the stability associated with Unix for the OS under the familiar interfaces and applications popular on Windows? We will wait and see.

Written by John F. Moore

$Revision: 2 $

Last modified: Mon Jan 2 13:08:30 2006
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