Using guided interaction to support learning a command language

David A Herrera, University of Texas at El Paso


The command-line interface (CLI) is a very powerful environment that can be used to communicate instructions to the operating system. It requires the user to key in symbolic expressions expressing an operation. Unlike the graphical user interface (GUI) that most users are accustomed to, using the command line requires not only previous knowledge of commands' syntax but also of constructs and special characters. For such reasons, many users who could benefit from the expressivity of instructions tend to shy away from the command line, staying with the more familiar direct-manipulation features of the GUI. ^ Augmenting the CLI with the novice user in mind can help that user with this learning process. Including familiar features, such as direct-manipulation through mouse selection and visual feedback, is potentially useful, as is providing guided access to relevant information and examples to allow exploration. By including the active participation of the user in the construction of commands instead of acting as a facade hiding the shell, the interface may provide the support necessary for learning a command language through practice and usage. ^ This thesis describes a system which incorporates these features. Experiments with subjects not very familiar with using UNIX or any other command language showed that they tended to be willing to explore the language paradigm and found its capabilities useful given the right kind of support. This support was preferred if it was directly tied to the CLI so that assistance was instantly accessible as opposed to the time-consuming reference to a book. Thus it seems that such techniques can help users to learn and use the UNIX command language with less effort and more fun. ^

Subject Area

Computer Science

Recommended Citation

Herrera, David A, "Using guided interaction to support learning a command language" (2004). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAIEP10787.