A phrase used to describe a text-only system with no graphics or windows. Sometimes used in the DOS and *Nix worlds to describe the command-line interface, as opposed to a Graphical User Interface. "The console" is also used frequently to describe this interface.
A distinction may be made between interfaces that can be addressed at a pixel-by-pixel level (using a pointing device) versus those that are addressed only via a character stream (often with just a keyboard).
This distinction is illustrated by comparing three categories:
- A purely text program like the bash shell
- A program that depends upon XFree86 (or other platform independent graphical programming environment like gtk or Qt)
- A program that uses the ncurses library or its proprietary counterparts (like many text editors, Lynx, w3m, jack) .
This last category of programs incorporate some GUI-like aspects, in that they include elements of two-dimensional graphic-design layouts including distinct windows, yet they do not need much of the software necessary to support input or output at an arbitrary, bit-mapped level. The console or terminal emulation support used to provide a CLI interface is often sufficient to use with a program written to use ncurses.