Should we aim to provide answers that use the terminal, through shell commands, or answers that use the GUI, through pointing and clicking?

May be related to this question about our intended public


8 Answers 8


There's no harm in providing both. Comprehensive answers should be encouraged.

  • personally, I look for different solutions for the same problem at different times (perhaps an expedient method to solve my immediate problem followed by a long term scriptable solution)
  • the person who asks the question isn't the only one who benefits from the answers

I would urge people to provide answers using both methods.

I understand that most people can easily follow UI instructions and may not remember terminal commands as well, but the terminal allows for faster execution (usually) and automation.

Personally, I try to use the mouse as little as possible. I'd much rather transfer a file using scp (in one command) than open up something like filezilla and sift through textboxes and buttons and use drag 'n' drop.

Even though Ubuntu is supposed to be more user friendly (which typically means a nice, shiny, intuitive UI), that's no reason to support us terminal users as well.

  • 1
    +1, because a "both method" answer is still an acceptable answer for people limited to one method, and that other people could learn by example, and compare methods and results.
    – paercebal
    Commented Aug 7, 2010 at 8:38

There's no reason to prefer one over the other in my opinion.

I think that for most questions, the method to use will either be obvious or unimportant.

I think that it's also important that we get beginners familiar with using the terminal and creating shell scripts as well, so that should be a consideration.

  • 5
    Also, a shell command will work in many flavours of ubuntu, linux and even sometimes BSD and macs. Whereas Ubuntu UI instructions are only aplicable to Ubuntu, not Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc
    – jfoucher
    Commented Jul 30, 2010 at 20:11
  • 14
    I strongly disagree that beginners should be pushed towards using the terminal and creating shell scripts. If they are interested then by all means, but otherwise they should be able to use Ubuntu without touching the command line. People supporting users on Windows or Mac OS X would never expect their users to use the command line, and neither should we. And I speak as a heavy user of the command line. Commented Jul 31, 2010 at 15:47
  • 3
    @Hamish: I disagree. As a former Windows user myself, I often found a need for the command line. A GUI is great, but working with the command line is far more efficient. If this were not so, it wouldn't exist. Commented Jul 31, 2010 at 19:21
  • 1
    @trampster: It is the way it is - if people don't bother to learn terminal commands, they willingly sacrifice a great deal of control. Commented Nov 4, 2010 at 16:40
  • @George Right, but they shouldn't have to sacrifice the ability to use their computer. Commented Nov 4, 2010 at 23:21
  • @Jorge: But they don't - there are plenty of scripts / utilities / tools that accomplish almost the same things as the identical command. Take sudo for instance. Ubuntu (and most other distros with Gnome) ships with gksudo which provides a graphical tool that requests the root password. Commented Nov 5, 2010 at 0:03
  • 1
    +1 @NathanOsman I can now format and manage other disk management tasks using diskpart in windows( i.e. like formatting and making partitions then making active to create a bootable USB drive) only because of the time i have invested in learning how to use Ubuntu. Why go download a third party application with a gui when there is a command prompt options available or instead of using other options built into system already. Learn how to use the system being used and you will be rewarded for your efforts. Providing both GUI and bash/command is the fullest answer = best possible answer.
    – geezanansa
    Commented May 21, 2013 at 21:51
  • A bit concerned at the upvotes of other comments though. It is amazing how much Ubuntu has come on with regard to apps/tools with a GUI in recent flavours though.
    – geezanansa
    Commented May 21, 2013 at 21:52

I am in favor of using both. I was once scolded in IRC for giving GUI instructions to someone. In the end using the GUI provided the final hint on the root cause of the problem.

So giving GUI based instructions is good because GUI apps are designed for the non-technical people and give a lot more user readable information.

On the other hand text based tools give you more accurate error messages and are easier to copy paste back to the site.

In the end, it's up to the person answering to give instructions in such a way that they think is the most reliable and effective.


I support giving answers through both the methods but Ubuntu is meant to be used by common people. Most people do prefer UI over the Terminal. While seasoned Ubuntu users might feel that the Terminal is a faster and straightforward way to complete tasks, most people are not very happy using the Terminal. So I think that if a task can be done through the UI, we should give instructions for the UI method. I don't think Ubuntu will ever be able to reach the masses if we make people run for the Terminal for basic operations. We must keep user-friendliness in our minds.

  • 4
    While I absolutely understand what you're saying, and don't fundamentally disagree with your goal, a disservice is done to users and the community if people keep acting like the command line is to be feared and avoided. It may not look pretty, but it truly is not a difficult beast, and even on Windows and Mac OS X its use is sometimes needed. Commented Jul 31, 2010 at 1:25
  • I totally agree with your thoughts too. But I mean that we should try to solve the problem both ways but most people do really prefer the UI. I know we should not fear the command line but the command line offers stuff most regular users will almost never really need. They feel command line solutions to be kinda hacks.
    – User
    Commented Jul 31, 2010 at 16:55
  • 1
    @Nicholas_Night spoken like a true geek, however ubuntu isn't for geek's its for human beings. My Mother has never used a terminal and she doesn't even know what one is. Please give her an answer which she can cope with.
    – trampster
    Commented Nov 4, 2010 at 8:00
  • 1
    @trampster Thats what I am trying to say.
    – User
    Commented Nov 4, 2010 at 21:40

Everybody should provide the answers they know, for most of the questions there isn't one correct answer! There might event be more than one cli way of doing it, and most of the time there is more than one GUI way do to different GUI's...

Logging on to a wireless network for instance is quite different from server to standard ubuntu. or setting keyboard layout in ubuntu or kubuntu is a bit different.


I think we should provide whatever is the fastest and easiest and we should provide apturls whenever possible like wine

  • Bad link for wine as it is broken or dodgy
    – geezanansa
    Commented May 21, 2013 at 21:37

GUI answers are preferred

Ubuntu is aiming to be the linux for human beings and to encourage wide spread adoption of linux on the desktop.

There is nothing that puts a new linux user off more then finding that to fix their problem or do what they want they have to type magic commands into a terminal. Their are no widespread popular operating systems which require a normal user to ever touch the command line.

The problem is that ubuntu currently has a large base of geek users who are comfortable with the commandline meta.askubuntu is an even geekier subset of that group. And so you get the answers you see here.

As long as we provide answers that require the use of the command line ubuntu will stay as a geeky minority on the desktop. We need to make an effort to break out of our geekiness and embrace the GUI. Provide the kind of answers that will make ubuntu approachable to normal everyday computer users.

I will point to the accepted answer about who AskUbuntu is for:

This StackExchange effort was initiated and promoted by Evan Dandrea and myself. We were hoping to address the needs of the average user who wants an operating system that Just Works. These people are not tech savvy, don't know what a terminal is, and are not interested in joining the Ubuntu community -- they merely have straightforward questions about Ubuntu and want straightforward answers.

So there you have it the target user does not know what the terminal is. The target user will not know what to do with your terminal command,

In line with this I will no longer be upvoting command line or config file based answers if their is a GUI alternative. The exception to this is for advanced questions which are geeky in nature.

  • I'll provide the best answer possible for the question at hand. That can be either command-line or GUI — or agnostic, because you don't always require one or the other, e.g. "install package X" vs "click here"/"aptitude install...". Acting in a particular way across the board doesn't seem at all helpful in this case.
    – Roger Pate
    Commented Nov 4, 2010 at 12:57

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