GUI vs. WUI interfaces

Top Ten Reasons GUI Tops Green Screen

April 17, 2017
GUI vs. WUI interfaces

It’s been called a religious war: the great (and ongoing) debate of keyboard vs. mouse, command line vs. graphical, green screen vs. GUI. As with any good argument, there are ardent and unwavering advocates on both sides.

Some insist that green screen is faster if you already have all the shortcuts memorized. Many believe that the mouse is easier for beginners. Still others suggest that a GUI is more intuitive while keyboards win on configurability. And almost everyone, including some of our AIX neighbors, has sometimes wondered whether their preference (or prejudice) is simply resistance to change or if it’s well-founded because they’re using the right tool for the job.

The most referenced source on the subject is a study originally published in the AppleDirect in 1989, republished serially by Bruce Tognazzini a.k.a. Tog, where we find this gem:

We’ve done a cool $50 million of R&D on the Apple Human Interface. We discovered, among other things, two pertinent facts:

  • Test subjects consistently report that keyboarding is faster than mousing.
  • The stopwatch consistently proves mousing is faster than keyboarding.

This contradiction between user-experience and reality apparently forms the basis for many user/developers’ belief that the keyboard is faster.

Jeff Atwood points out on his blog, Coding Horror, that Tog somewhat contradicts these results when he notes that two-handed input—selecting with one hand and acting with the other—can result in solid productivity gains. More recently, WIRED magazine asserted that, “until the GUI evolves again, the command is here to stay.”

That’s where we come in. Modern advances in both hardware and software technology are closing the gaps on this conversation. Concerns over negative health effects like carpal tunnel syndrome are diminishing thanks to more ergonomic mice, while the applications from forward-thinking ISVs provide increasingly robust functionality for GUI and web or mobile users.

No matter whether your preference is to hunt and peck or scroll and click, there are some undeniable advantages to using GUI technology, especially where Robot systems management software is concerned. Here are just 10 that might bring you over to the graphical side.

10. The Power of Productivity

Going to a GUI is not just change for change’s sake, and it’s easier than you think. And, just because you’re off the green screen, it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice functionality.

Animated graphics, increased real estate for text and graphics, and adjustable graphic sizes are easy in the GUI. Not so in a text-based green screen. Some applications even allow you to run certain IBM commands like WRKACTJOB and WRKSPLF from the GUI.

9. A Matter of Perception

While command line is still relevant for the day-to-day tasks of developers and system administrators, its value is often lost on upper management, new staff, and other teams who see the green screen and think “old technology.”

This legacy stereotype is a reality we on IBM i must face. We know the power of our platform, we’re familiar with the commands and shortcuts we’ve been using for the last 20 years, but business evolves. So, too, should your interface.

As Trevor Pott wrote for the Register, “If a GUI makes a certain administration task easier, why not make use of that tool?” Using a GUI is a crash course in speaking management and C-level language; it can show more clearly how you—and the applications you’re familiar with—add value to the business.

8. Mobile Access

According to the 2017 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results, 50 percent of organizations include modernizing applications in their top five IT concerns for next five to 10 years, and another 24 percent say mobile access. We know modernization is more about efficiency than it is about replacing green screens, but an easy way to maximize efficiency is to make sure you’re fully utilizing the products you own. Many applications already have a built-in GUI that you could use to better advantage.

The graphical, web interfaces available in Robot Schedule job scheduling software and Robot Network performance monitoring software are browser-based so users can access their critical data from any device with internet connection. The displays are coded for responsive design so the dashboards realign to fit any screen size, from desktop or laptop to tablet or smartphone.

7. Consolidation and Customization

GUI displays provide a central console for single-pane-of-glass management. Users can select filter options according to their needs or preference and easily right-click to drill down for details on specific metrics.

Centralized monitoring tools and operations dashboards can typically be customized to provide relevant information to the end user depending upon their needs—the operator at the help desk needs detailed information whereas the data center manager needs summary information.

Teams can even be broken up. Lists can be filtered so certain users only see jobs starting with XYZ, while other users only see jobs starting with ABC.

6. Location, Location, Location

GUIs offer more information in one place. You might look at this as application real estate. Today’s data centers have a many sources of information: environment monitoring controls, physical and virtual servers, security consoles, and problem ticketing systems. The human brain can take in this information with a single scan, so our tools need to make this possible without having to access multiple pages of data. Think dashboard.

Green screen users are used to F3-ing their way in and out of menu screens to view all information. It requires a great memory to remember all this information. Graphical and web interfaces allow multiple windows open a time.

5. Reducing Training Pains

Remember when we were talking about memorizing all those keyboard shortcuts? Forget about it. With point-and-click GUI technology, you reduce training time on both the operating system and individual applications.

The staff you are hiring and training will be in place for the next two, five, 10, or more years. This new staff has never used a computer that didn’t have a mouse attached, but this modern video game and smartphone saturated culture is an advantage. If you can supply new hires with similar tools, the training cycle will be shorter and retention of this knowledge—and of the employee—will not be in question.

4. Ease of Use

For keyboard and command line folks, clicking through menu trees might feel a little clumsy at first. However, once you’re in the habit, you’ll find you have much more maneuverability and easier navigation in the GUI. What may have seemed easy 10 or 20 years ago pales in comparison to the ease-of-use features in modern, well-written graphical interfaces.

For example, the seemingly simple export/import feature for Robot Schedule job scheduling software has been revolutionized over the last 10 years to become the XML export/import function of today. This feature is only available using the Robot Schedule GUI interface.

3. Easy to Upgrade

When the GUI is part of a browser-based solution, you have the best of both worlds by not having to update the end user interface on the client PC. All the latest updates and improved features are immediately available to all. It completely eliminates the footprint on the desktop and translates into faster deployment and less hassle when it comes to maintenance.

2. Dynamic Data

Most of us use a desktop PC and many of us use smartphones in our daily work. Why not leverage the technology already at your disposal? GUI monitoring and display graphics typically refresh with the latest data periodically. Animated graphics and pop-up notifications can occur at the desktop level, making it even easier to notice important events.

1. It’s Free!

If you own Robot, the graphical interface is free and included with your license. Installation is as simple as double-clicking on our install file—users and authority automatically come over from the green screen.*

*GUI only. The Robot web interface requires some additional setup.

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