Some GUIs are designed for vertical market segments. These are known as "application-specific GUIs." One example of such a GUI is the now familiar touchscreen point of sale software found in restaurants worldwide and being introduced into self-service checkout stands at retail stores. First pioneered by Gene Mosher on the Atari ST computer in 1986, this touchscreen GUI has spearheaded a worldwide revolution in the use of computers throughout the food & beverage industry and in the retail segment generally. Other examples include the graphic displays used in some though not all Automatic teller machines, and the small or large control screens used in industrial applications employing a Real-time operating system or RTOS.
The GUI is generally contrasted with the command line interface (CLI), an earlier, text-only interface that required the user to type in commands or text strings to cause the computer to take some action. Between these two types but more similar to GUIs are text user interfaces (TUIs) that display the same types of widgets as a GUI but in a character-cell text mode rather than in a pixel-based graphics mode. Examples include the interfaces of many ncurses and DOS applications.
Because GUIs and TUIs tend to show most or all relevant categories of commands on the display, users often learn them faster than CLIs. However, since the choice of displayed options from which to choose has been made for the user and is usually more limited than the full set of options available, full use of all the software's functionality on a GUI system often takes considerable time. By contrast, a CLI typically makes all options and choices equally accessible but also equally invisible and not easily remembered, and so mastering a CLI generally requires more extensive familiarity with the software's features and functionality. A somewhat caustic comment about the pre-OS X Macintosh interface captures this: "you can learn to use a Macintosh in 30 minutes, but after six months you will have learned nothing more about using a Macintosh."
Users with vision or motion disabilities often have trouble navigating in a GUI, and most commercial GUIs require at least an order of magnitude more computer power (CPU speed, RAM, disk space, display resolution and response, etc.) than a CLI, making a GUI unwieldy on less expensive, smaller, or older hardware. Designing suitable interfaces for handheld devices, such as PDA applications and their smartphone cousins, has been a major challenge for user interface designers, and some of the more successful diverge considerably from desktop computer designs.
In academic and research circles a GUI is often referred to as a Direct manipulation interface. This term was coined and adopted in the late 1980s because it was felt the term "Graphic User Interface" did not reflect the actual physical or haptic reality of manipulating a mouse or using a touch screen and that it ignored completely the coordinated use of sound effects to support the manipulation of the graphic elements in this kind of user interface. Also, academic and research institutions often work on prototypes of future user interfaces that place an equal or greater emphasis emphasis on the tactile elements of the interface. The "direct manipulation interface" term is usually not presented as an acronym.