Users can control a Linux-based system through a command line interface (or CLI), a graphical user interface (or GUI), or through controls attached to the associated hardware (this is common for embedded systems). For desktop systems, the default mode is usually graphical user interface (or GUI).
On desktop machines, KDE, GNOME and Xfce are the most popular user interfaces, though a variety of additional user interfaces exist. Most popular user interfaces run on top of the X Window System (or X), which provides network transparency, enabling a graphical application running on one machine to be displayed and controlled from another.
Other GUIs include X window managers such as FVWM, Enlightenment and Window Maker. The window manager provides a means to control the placement and appearance of individual application windows, and interacts with the X window system.
A Linux system typically provides a CLI of some sort through a shell, which is the traditional way of interacting with a Unix system. A Linux distribution specialized for servers may use the CLI as its only interface. A “headless system” run without even a monitor can be controlled by the command line via a remote-control protocol such as SSH or telnet.
Most low-level Linux components, including the GNU Userland, use the CLI exclusively. The CLI is particularly suited for automation of repetitive or delayed tasks, and provides very simple inter-process communication. A graphical terminal emulator program is often used to access the CLI from a Linux desktop.
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