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Macs don't have a CLI (Command Line Interface)
Not that the average user should care...

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

A CLI (Command Line Interface) is a way for programmers and PowerUsers to control (script) their machines behavior. This was the only way to control computers before GUI's (Graphical User Interfaces). User would type command to get the computer to do something - run a program, delete a program, print a file, etc. Since you can do these things from a Macs Graphical User interface a command line is not very needed. But Windows and Unix still have the Command Line Interface hiding behind their very thin veneers of a GUI, and so they want to pretend that Mac computers are less powerful because they don't have the same thing. The flaw in their logic is that Macs do, they just don't know it.

Find Dialog

The primary CLI function is to find files based on typed in parameters - files with "x" in the name, created after a certain date, of a certain type. The Mac's find dialog has this behavior (and more), is easier to work with than a CLI, and in many ways much more powerful. So I consider the find function the primary CLI.

Also note that this dialog is user replacable, there are many find replacements that can do many more powerful things than Apples, or tailored to custom use.

Apple Script

CLI's are used (occasionally) to script functionality. To setup parameters, to do something you need done repetatively, to control applications or to manipulate the file system. AppleScript is a powerful way of doing this, much more powerful than the command line of DOS. With AppleScript users can trap events from many different applications, modify them, send them around, script, and control and automate thier computer to their hearts content. It even has a way to send commands "immediately" just like a DOS window does.

So between the Find and AppleScript Mac users have a much more powerful CLI than DOS does. Both the Mac solutions are more powerful and versitile than the Windows solutions, and easier to learn and use. (It is not easier for people that already know DOS, but starting from scratch it would be).

Now how much would you pay for the Macintosh? But wait, there's more...

MPW / ToolServer

MPW is Apples developer tool that behaves similarly to Unix and a command-line development system. You can create scripts, automate behaviors, manipulate files. The saved scripts can be run via tool-server without having to even enter the command-line environment of MPW. This is definitely a full features CLI environment for those in the know. Of course it is geared towards programmers and developers - but then those are the exact type of people that would be whining for a CLI in the first place.


For those who already know a particular CLI, there are many other solutions. There are a few 3rd party (freeware, shareware of for-sale solutions) to allow DOS, Unix, or other CLI's to run with their respective syntax - to meet the needs of people that are pre-trained in a particular command-line. Often these solutions have much more power than the originals, and can work in conjunction with other Mac solutions (like send or recieve AppleEvents). Very powerful stuff, for the 2% of users that care.


For those who are still not happy - those that want DOS in all its flaming ugliness - they can usually boot their native environment itself under the MacOS. This includes DOS, Unix (MachTen), CP/M, Apple][, Commodore, and many others (see the OS's page for a list of possible solutions).

So if anyone tries to sell you a line of Bull that the Mac isn't as powerful because it doesn't have a CLI, you can point out the facts - the Mac is so powerful it doesn't need a CLI, the Mac can do more work done using its solutions (Find and AppleScript), but if they want a CLI then the Mac likely has more power and choices in CLI than their own machine.

Created: 01/30/97
Updated: 11/09/02

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