The Blonde's Guide to Computers: Command Line Interface (CLI)

Written by:  MD Weems • Edited by: J. F. Amprimoz
Published Sep 10, 2008
• Related Guides: Vista | DOS | XP

Want to know what “Command Line Interface” or “CLI” is, but don't really want to ask? This article will help you understand what CLI is without hard techie jargon you can't understand.

CLI isn't a show on tv...

As a blonde that has been around computers most of her life, some terms still elude my grasp... I'm sure that some of you out there have the same problem and just don't like to admit it, but that's ok, I won't tell anyone. So, to help you understand some of the basic components of your computer, its software, and the way it does those things it does, I wanted to make sure that those who don't know what CLI means get the run down in terms that can actually be understood.

A CLI, or Command Line Interface, is a way that you can interact with your computer system, or its software, by just typing in the commands that you want it to perform. Think back to the old computer programs when you had to enter in those long strings of code and different DOS commands to get your computer to spit out what you needed – it is just like that. To put it in another form for those of you who can't or aren't old enough to remember back that far, think of the CLI as your mouse pointer, just in text format.

Sounds pretty simple right? It actually is.

CLI is just a way of telling your computer to do something specific for you and is usually called “entering” a command for the system. You type in your command and press “Enter” to end the command and start the computer working. The computer then takes the command into its command line interpreter (which is just what it uses to decode what you have asked it to do), and does the task. The command line interpreter is usually run in a special text terminal window that is separate from other windows that you might have open.

When the task is done, the command line interpreter will then send back the answer or the completed task in the form of text lines in the CLI, command line interface, for the user to see. Basically, it gives you back a summary of what it just did and the result of that task.

The CLI is what allows certain programming languages to run on your computer and helps to provide you with a special interaction with the computer for several different reasons. Without a CLI, your computer would not be able to run programs that you use every day, such as Windows. While there are many other components that go into creating a CLI, using one, and the base that it provides for other programs, this is just a basic overview of the CLI to help you become familiar with the term and help you understand what it is and what it does.

Hopefully this has helped you understand what a CLI is so that you don't have to just smile and nod the next time that the computer guru in your office is talking about one.


 
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