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Section 15.1 Graphical User Interfaces

A graphical user interface (GUI) allows a user to interact with a computer program using a pointing device that manipulates small pictures on a computer screen. The small pictures are called icons or widgets. Various types of pointing devices can be used, such as a mouse, a stylus pen, or a human finger on a touch screen.

We refer to programs that use a graphical user interface as “GUI programs.” A GUI program is very different from a program that uses a command line interface which receives user input from typed characters on a keyboard. Typically programs that use a command line interface perform a series of tasks in a predetermined order and then terminate. However, a GUI program creates the icons and widgets that are displayed to a user and then it simply waits for the user to interact with them. The order that tasks are performed by the program is under the user's control – not the program's control! This means a GUI program must keep track of the “state” of its processing and respond correctly to user commands that are given in any order the user chooses. This style of programming is called “event driven programming.” In fact, by definition, all GUI programs are event-driven programs.

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