By the late eighties or early nineties, computers began to go mainstream. By mainstream, we mean, instead of just being used by big corporations and laboratories, computers began to be used by small offices, home offices, students, libraries, and independent workers. The Apple computers introduce the concept of “computers for the rest of us”, with a GUI, or, graphical user interface.
Even in the early days of some computers coming loaded with a graphical user interface, most of the people, especially who used Microsoft computers or Intel-powered computers, worked in the DOS operating system. It had a prompt. You needed to write every command. For example, if you wanted to launch a word processor like WordStar (which was a rage in the early nineties), at the prompt you need to write WordStar.exe and press enter. This concept is completely alien to those who are used to clicking icons or tapping icons on their mobile phones.
What does a graphical user interface stand for? You don’t even give it a second thought these days because everything comes with a GUI. A GUI allows you to interact with a software application or a device using icons, cursors, and finger tapping, without having to manually enter computer commands.
Before the arrival of the GUI, you needed to learn scores of commands before you could properly use a computer. For every task, you needed to learn a command.
With the user interface or a visual interface computer users got familiar with the WYSIWYG concept – “what you see is what you get”. For example, if you wanted to print a document, you simply needed to click on the print icon. If you wanted to launch MS Word, you simply needed to click on the Word icon.
Interestingly, it was neither Apple nor Microsoft that developed the first GUI. It was the Xerox company, the famous photocopier. In the late seventies, they were working on a graphical user interface that wasn’t necessarily for computers, but for generic office equipment. Steve Jobs visited one of the Xerox facilities and noticed the interface on a monitor that could be controlled by a device on the table with 3 buttons (a mouse). He came back and applied the idea to one of the first GUI computers called Lisa. It was a very expensive computer, and very few people bought it, but it triggered a revolution. Then, in 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh and the rest is history. Microsoft followed on the footsteps and developed the Windows operating system.
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The importance of a GUI for desktop applications
What is the purpose of a GUI?
The designing and development of a graphical user interface is an integral part of the software development concept in every organization. The GUI is constantly tested to know whether it facilitates interaction with the software application or obstructs it? The size and color of the buttons, the width of the borders, and even the font type can have an impact on expanding or shrinking user base.
The purpose of a GUI is to make it easier for users to use a software application. When you install a software application on your computer or your desktop machine, you are less interested in knowing its nitty-gritty, and more interested in solving the problem at hand. Learning Adobe Photoshop is not your intention; your intention is creating killer visual effects and graphics. Learning PowerPoint just for the heck of it is not your purpose, your purpose is to create effective slides that can help you sell more or put across your idea convincingly. Every software application intends to provide a solution. A graphical user interface, as the name tells you, is just an interface that allows the user to make maximum use of your digital product.
Long gone are the days when a GUI-powered software application used to be a novelty. Every application these days is driven by a graphic interface. What matters these days is how rewarding and engaging the interaction is due to your GUI.
Most of the Windows-based software applications allow the users to use the default GUI (the look and feel) of the operating system. For example, if you work in MS Word, aside from the fact that it may have its own icons, it more or less works like any other Windows-based software applications such as Lotus Notes or Photoshop. All the basic functions are the same. On the left-hand corner, there is a File menu option. Every File menu option allows you to create a new file, open an existing file, and carry out all the functions that are normally present under the File menu option.
Almost every application has a context menu when you click the right mouse button. Every Windows-based application allows you to run the print command by pressing CTRL+P or clicking the icon that shows the tiny printer.
Nonetheless, every software developer aspires to create a unique experience through a unique GUI.
In a desktop application, a GUI isn’t just a collection of fancy icons and window borders. It is the user’s doorway to the potential of your software application. Every icon must exist to solve a purpose.
A GUI can also make it easy or difficult for a software application user to interact with your digital product.
The importance of a GUI for mobile apps
The screen real estate on a mobile phone is often limited. Despite the fact that there is less space, there must be enough space around icons and buttons so that they are easily tapable and noticeable among other elements of your application screen.
Although mobile phone applications, just like their desktop counterparts, work under their respective operating systems – iOS and Android, for example – their GUIs are more unique compared to their desktop counterparts. Lots of users may use your mobile app simply because its interface is appealing and the person feels good using the app. Another big difference between desktop apps and mobile apps is that most of the mobile apps are for entertainment and social networking purposes and even if there are some work-related mobile apps, they’re mostly counterparts of their desktop cousins. Hence, GUI programming is an integral part of mobile app development.
Many mobile developers are fast moving towards minimalistic GUI designs and the same is being reflected in desktop applications and web applications. This is necessary as well as user-friendly. Mobile phones come with different screen sizes. Nonetheless, your mobile app needs to work and scale according to almost all contemporary screen sizes.
Hence, it is very important for your GUI to look good in all screen sizes and present all the necessary elements within the confines of the current mobile phone window.
Users these days use mobile phones less for making calls and more for using apps such as the phone camera, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Facebook. Yes, in theory, the ability to make calls remains one of the primary reasons why people carry around their mobile phones, unless they have professional obligations, they’re mostly interacting with their mobile apps when they have their mobile phones with themselves. In 2018, mobile apps were downloaded 205.4 billion times. By 2022 mobile users will be downloading mobile apps 258.2 billion times. Big numbers often hide significant insights. Even small oversights in your GUI can have a big impact on user acquisition.
The mobile phone GUI has 2 aspects: user interface and user experience. Whereas the interface facilitates seamless interaction with a mobile app, the user experience makes sure that people enjoy using the mobile app. The 3D feeling of the buttons, the small vibrations when the buttons attached and subtle animations can have a big impact on the user experience. A good thing about such GUI attributes is that these days mobile phone processors are quite powerful and they can easily accommodate complex and fast animations.
The GUI of your mobile app solves multiple purposes. It engages users and captivates them. It encourages them to use your mobile app. It helps them save time and cost. It boosts your brand. Most importantly, it retains your users.
Programming languages used for GUI programming
GUI programming is also known as “event-driven programming” because various events carried out by the user trigger program modules. For example, what happens when you click a button? What happens when you type something in MS Word? What happens if you click on “Eject…” in the context menu when you right click your mouse button in the Windows Explorer window? These are all events that are meant to trigger something.
Every major programming language these days comes with inbuilt GUI functions. Even Java, which is not well-known for its GUI capabilities, has its own graphic engine and you can immediately make out when you are working within a Java desktop app. GUI programming for Java applications is extensively done with the Java and Swing combination or the newer version of JavaFX.
In the desktop environment, .NET applications such as C# and VB.NET are quite prevalent when it comes to GUI programming. C++, with its MFC libraries, has comprehensive capabilities for GUI programming and GUI development.
All GUI programming languages come with their own pros and cons. Let’s quickly go through the various programming languages that you can use for building graphical user interfaces.
The Java programming language was initially not known to be GUI-friendly but then, it came to be known as one of the best programming languages for the job. One of the biggest advantages of using Java is that it is cross-platform and hence, when you build a GUI for the Java environment, it looks and feels the same in all operating system environments.
As mentioned above, in Java, the best GUI package comes with Swing. If you use an IDE like Eclipse, the abilities to build a GUI are within the integrated development environment.
Aside from this, Java has its own set of libraries that can allow you to render 2D and 3D graphics. The only problem with Java is its speed. It can be slow when handling complex graphics.
C & C++ GUI
Most of the programmers prefer to work in C and C++ for the best graphic rendering. One of the biggest reasons is that the programs are compiled and when the programs are compiled, they are adapted according to the native computer architecture. C++ is a powerful programming language with hundreds of libraries available to help you create just the graphics. It helps you create a complete graphic environment. It’s widely known library is MFC for graphic applications. How efficiently you can use your GUI programming in C & C++ also depends on your programming development environment.
GUI programming in Python
The Python programming language is also quite well known for its GUI capabilities. The most widely used toolkit for GUI programming in Python is TkInter. It is traditionally bundled with Python, according to the official Python wiki. If you’re looking for another option for GUI programming in Python, you can also try your hand at Python GTK+ 3. It makes available all the GTK objects such as Windows, buttons and widgets, and rendering options immediately to you. If you prefer to use WxPython you can use the wxWidgets cross-platform GUI library that natively belongs to C++ but can be easily ported into Python.
VB.NET and C# GUI programming
In case you prefer to use Visual Studio for building Windows-based applications, you will find GUI programming in VB.NET and C# quite appealing. Also one of the easiest options. Visual Studio allows you to create various screens in the form of “forms”, graphically. You can practically build entire applications using a drag-and-drop interface. The only problem is that these applications are not cross-platform.
What about mobile apps? There are numerous visual tools available these days that allow you to quickly build mobile apps. You can create a combination of GUI programming and backend programming within the drag-and-drop interface.
There are many low-code and no-code platforms. For example, Salesforce Lightning allows you to build mobile apps using a visual interface. Most of the icons and visual elements are available within the solution but if you want to use custom icons and visual elements, you can upload them through the Salesforce Mobile SDK.
Microsoft too has its own version of mobile app developer that allows you to build great GUI solutions. For example, you can use Microsoft PowerApps to build cross-platform mobile apps that can be easily run on iOS, Android as well as Windows 10, and not forgetting the web.
Looking for an Apple environment? Then you can try out Appery.io. This is a great editor for GUI programming for iOS and Mac OS application development. You can combine jQuery Mobile, Ionic, Angular JS, HTML 5, and Bootstrap components to build highly responsive web apps, hybrid apps, iOS apps, and even Android apps for that matter.
The objectives of GUI programming
One of the topmost objectives of GUI programming is to make it easier and rewarding for the users to use a desktop application or a mobile app. All the needed elements must be visually and quickly available. Aside from that, they must also look visually appealing to stand out. A GUI must offer an attractive visual representation of all the available commands and functions in your software application or mobile app. These visual representations exist in the form of menus, pointers, windows and screens, tabs, and icons. These are also called the structural elements of a GUI.
There is an interesting development in the field of GUI programming through the advent of artificial intelligence. You will notice that in many software applications, and even in some mobile apps, some buttons and icons begin to disappear if you don’t use them and those buttons and icons become prominent (even if previously they were hidden) that you occasionally use. It seems, through GUI programming, you can enable your interface to adapt itself according to the usage pattern of individual users.
The GUI features must be easier for beginners and must be accessible for the advanced users. Within a few days of use, through GUI programming, the most often used features must become prominent and the features that are not used frequently must be relegated to the back of the hierarchy.
For the success of your software application or mobile app, it is very important that your GUI is able to hook the new users and encourage them to keep using your app, and keep the existing, seasoned users from moving to other software applications and mobile apps.
The GUI programming best practices
It is very essential that before you get down to GUI programming, you understand the whole user experience. What do your users expect?
Your interface must evolve according to the data input by the user or data generated by other users. Is your GUI programming able to leverage native hardware capabilities and does it make up for the features that are needed by the mobile app but are not present in the native hardware?
When you talk of a GUI it is not just limited to desktops, laptops, and mobile apps. With the Internet of Things evolving extremely fast, there are many devices that come with their own GUI. For example, people wear watches that use a GUI and its GUI features must behave according to the size of the watch. Similarly, if there is a washing machine with an operating screen, its GUI is going to be considerably different from that of a tablet PC.
When building an application, it is very important for the GUI programming team to work with other developers. Different teams cannot function in silos. Just as graphic designers must know what data the back-end developers plan to showcase through the interface, the back-end developers must know how their data is going to be displayed by the interface. There needs to be a synergy in order to be able to build the perfect GUI.
The design must be consistent. This is because no matter how great your design is, once a user has been using it for a couple of weeks, how the design looks and feels becomes less relevant, and what value the app delivers becomes more relevant. Hence, if you are constantly changing the look and feel of your mobile app according to different screens, your users get distracted and instead of focusing on the value your app delivers, they begin to focus on the elements, eventually losing interest in your mobile app (or desktop application).
No matter how beautiful you want your interface to be, remember that it is simply a gateway to the riches that your digital product promises to deliver. Those riches are the ultimate goal.
Resist from presenting too much information on a single screen. This is more important when you’re creating a mobile app because people are in a state of distraction when they’re using their mobile phones. Make judicious use of spaces around the elements, which is often called “white space”. Strategically use colors and textures. Use typography to create a hierarchy in your messaging.
The online programming homework help
GUI programming is not a separate realm. When you get programming homework help from DoMyProgrammingHomework.io it also means you will be getting help on modules that require GUI programming. Our experts can provide programming homework help services in multiple languages including Python, Java, C++, and Haskell. All these programming languages have great GUI programming capabilities. Whether you want to build a module as your homework assignment or you need to build an application as your class project, you can depend on DoMyProgrammingHomework.io for top-notch programming homework services.