None of us can imagine our computer screens without that start button or the application icons, can we? Even the menus, scroll bars, or cursor are integral parts of the computer now. These familiar visual elements are nothing but graphical icons, and what enables them is the Graphical User Interface(GUI).

What is the GUI?

A User Interface (UI) refers to a platform that helps humans interact with machines. The GUI is a type of user interface that lets humans interact with computers by directly influencing the graphical icons. It was developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in the late 1970s, but many argue that its concept was theorized long before.

The GUI lets you communicate with your computer with the help of the mouse. You can scroll, click, and open applications easily by just viewing them because the GUI is programmed to let you perform them. It is also responsible for all the colors, software icons, and basic illustrations you see on your mobile or computer screens.

Elements of GUI

The GUI mainly has two broad elements.

  • Structural Elements

These elements define the basic form and look of the interface and are mostly static. Structure elements include:

  • Icons
  • Window
  • Tabs
  • Menu
  • Controls/Widgets
  • Interaction Elements

Interaction elements let you communicate with software and the operating system. These interface objects inform you of the ongoing tasks or your position on the platform. It includes:

  • Cursor (Pointer and Insertion Point)
  • Selection
  • Adjustment Handle

Development of GUI

Back in the days when graphical icons on computers were not a reality, commands were text-based. One had to remember and write specific instructions using the keyboard to tell the computer what to do. It was the era of the command-line interface, which was a text-based user interface, and users found it difficult to use.

After that came the GUI. It was designed to solve the problem of challenging and time-consuming text-based interfaces. Soon after its development in the late 1970s, the GUI was deployed on Apple’s Macintosh and Microsoft’s Windows. 

Human Interaction

The first Mac to have a GUI was released in 1984. Apple also integrated the GUI into another Macintosh system called Lisa that came at a lesser price. It was also released in 1984, making millions of users interact with computers using graphics for the first time. 

For Microsoft, the first GUI-integrated computer was released in 1990. It was the Windows 3.0 OS and was adopted by PC-compatible computers by IBM, an IT company in the US. This system directed the integration of the GUI into personal and workstation computers and also led to the development of other graphical interfaces. Later in 1995, Microsoft released the Windows 95 OS, which introduced the GUI to an even larger user base.

Initially, the graphical style of the interface was called WIMP, referring to the window, icon, menu, and pointer. It’s easy accessibility and attractive visual elements have led to its popularity right from the start. And even 50 years from then, the GUI continues to evolve, making interaction with computers and other devices simpler for users.  

Impact of GUI in Human–Computer Interaction

The introduction of the GUI had a massive impact on how humans interacted with computers. It used graphical elements with uncomplicated visual connotations to let humans control and use computers for personal as well as official work. This was something that was essentially absent in the interfaces used prior to GUIs.

Similarly, the graphical interface evaded the problem of writing long text commands to do even the simplest tasks on the computer. We can now do various things on a computer just by moving the cursor. Using the mouse, you can give commands to your computer without touching the keyboard. This increased the accessibility of computers more than ever.

Using simple graphics that related to real life, like the picture of a bin representing a recycle bin, made the usage of computers easy for people unfamiliar with its operations. It reduced the trouble of learning computer use and language beforehand. The GUI made this possible, which increased its popularity and significance in the world of information technology. 

Lastly, the advancement in GUIs has come so far that most modern electronic gadgets have incorporated it. They make the experience of a user seamless and enjoyable, which in turn improves user satisfaction; for example, websites with clear categories, more images, and illustrations that interest users more. As a result, almost every interactive application, including smartphones, desktops, laptops, ATMs, and video games, employs GUI, making human-computer interaction effortless.


With the new innovations in the graphical user interface, more and more customization options are becoming available for users. Starting from the sizes of the icons to the colors of different sections or the font style being used, the GUI has made systems and devices increasingly personalized. Although developers program system GUIs to serve the purpose of the target user, there are ample options using which you can change the way your system functions to meet your needs. Thus, the GUI has revolutionized computer usability, and this trend appears to be continuing in the future.

If you want to know more about GUIs, make sure to visit BYJU’S FutureSchool blog and let us know your thoughts below.

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