It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3…

10 Reasons why GUI Doesn’t Matter

Posted by Fibonacci on August 12, 2008

A lot have been said about user experience, themes and looks of your OS in general. Some claim that OSX has the best GUI around. Aero fans drool over its fancy windows flip thingy. But does it really all matter? Take a look and decide yourself. Don’t forget to leave a comment! 🙂

Important Note [Thanks to Boo and David]: Please take a careful look at the labels of each OS. They are for REAL! (Honestly) 🙂

1. Fedora vs. Vista

Linux Fedora

Linux Fedora

Windows Vista

Windows Vista

2. XP vs. Ubuntu

Windows XP

Windows XP

Linux Ubuntu

Linux Ubuntu

3. KDE Plastik vs. XP

KDE Plastik

Linux - KDE Plastik

Windows XP

Windows XP

4. Ubuntu vs. OSX

Linux Ubuntu

Linux Ubuntu

Mac - Leopard OS X

Mac - Leopard OS X

5. Ubuntu vs. Vista

Linux Ubuntu

Linux Ubuntu

Windows Vista

Windows Vista

6. XP vs. OSX

Windows XP

Windows XP

Mac OS X

Mac OS X

7. Ubuntu vs Vista

Linux Ubuntu

Linux Ubuntu

Windows Vista

Windows Vista

8. Ubuntu vs. Ubuntu

Linux Ubuntu

Linux Ubuntu

Linux Ubuntu

Linux Ubuntu

9. XP vs XP

Windows XP

Windows XP

Windows XP

Windows XP

10. So it all comes to this:

Windows Server 2008

Windows Server 2008



Linux Suse

Linux Suse

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64 Responses to “10 Reasons why GUI Doesn’t Matter”

  1. jason said

    Its more than just the look of the gui. You show many shots of xp with windowblinds but windowblinds takes of a decent chunk of memory and crashes. And it all the little things thats built into the UI, like spotlight for OSX. While there are add on programs for windows, like launchy, they are not native and just add to the drag on resources.

  2. Fibonacci said

    2 Jason
    Thanks for your comment.
    Actually, just one of the XP shots uses windowblinds. The rest of them are UXTheme patch based.
    About the resources I can’t argue with you here, but even Conky uses some CPU clocks and bits of memory.
    If it is UX you are after, I don’t think it will matter.

  3. Boo Radley said

    Ummm. what’s the point of this post?

  4. ubuntucat said

    Ummm. what’s the point of this post?

    The point of the post is that when people look at “cool” screenshots of desktops, what most differentiates the screenshots is the wallpaper you use, since that takes up the most space.

  5. Boo Radley said

    The point of the post is that when people look at “cool” screenshots of desktops, what most differentiates the screenshots is the wallpaper you use, since that takes up the most space.

    Eh? Where did you get *that* from the description and pictures? And many of these pics don’t actually seem to be the O/S’s they claim to be…

  6. David Ed said

    I thought this was a really good post. Next time I hear anyone saying “X is prettier than Y” I’ll point them here. It looks how you want it to.

    Boo Radley: that’s the point, each screenshot is from the OS labeled, however that OS has been themed to look like a different OS. It shows that the GUI in each OS can be skinned to look completely different.

    One exception to that though. OS X can’t look like Ubuntu or Vista or anything else. Which shows OS X is inferior.

  7. Fibonacci said

    2 David
    Thank you! I almost thought I was misunderstood.

  8. Boo Radley said

    @Fibonacci – you were misunderstood.. I don’t think most people would get that from your lead-in description…

  9. Fibonacci said

    2 Boo Radley
    Thanks. I will think of something.

  10. Boo Radley said

    I don’t think that cuts it… “10 Reasons why GUI Doesn’t Matter” is a very vague sort of title and the follow up description doesn’t clarify it any more. You need to lead in to *why* the GUI “doesn’t matter” and then explain what the pictures below are.

    In effect you’re not saying what needs to be said… that “GUI’s don’t matter because they are highly configurable (at least in Linux or Windows) so that one OS’s GUI can look like another’s”… “Here are some photos of different O/S’s configured to look like other O/S”… or something to that effect.

    It’s easy to assume when writing another article that all your reader’s are on the same “wavelength”. But in truth it take more deliberate writing and a bit of research. Really there’s so much more that could have been added to the lead-in than is said here.

  11. arash said

    ok thats all right but you see windows flexibility in changing ui vs mac? you show windows in more than 9 different ui and mac osx have one only,thanx to windows and linux for them creativity

  12. Julian67 said

    Your article only deals with appearance, the theme. There’s far more to the UI than the appearance, it’s a layer which enables the user to use the native tools and the applications. Clearly the theme is unimportant and this is what you’ve demonstrated, but the theme says nothing about the the way different desktop environments help or hinder the user, what features they make available or not, how they offer information and help or hinder the user through structured decision making. All those desktops might look identical but if you decide to set up shared folders, configure a firewall, view the system logs, run a command as another user or update the OS you quickly find that those systems are very different to use.

    All you’ve really said is that you can make any desktop OS superficially resemble another. We knew that already.

  13. […] 10 Reasons why GUI Doesn’t Matter […]

  14. I agree with Julian67, being able to customize a theme is important, but that’s just the visual layer. The way we interact with our OS is a different discussion entirely. This even goes down to the command-line level. Although every OS command line looks the same (one might have colors while another does not), the way we use them is vastly different. Type “ls” in a dos box and it’ll just stare back blankly. In a unix machine, you will be rewarded with an informative listing of current directory contents.

    So really, UI is extremely important. Themes are far less important.

  15. Agree with Julian67 and Mad Scientist.
    GUI (Graphic Users Interface) is not only about the look and feel, its all about how many mouse moves and clicks, or command lines you do have to write to execute some task.
    Its like going on a trip from point A to B, you can take the road with a nice scenery or you can take the desert one, what really matters is the amount of time and fuel that you need to go from A to B, everything else is eye candy.

  16. Joe said

    Another vote for Julian67, the immediate look is irrelevant, its what happens when you interact with the GUI that matters, and a bunch of screenshots shines no light on that at all.

  17. Fibonacci said

    2 Julian67, Francisco Costa and Mad Scientist

    Thanks for your comments guys. I couldn’t agree with you more. Everything you mentioned actually does matter in overall user experience, but this stuff usually implemented in the core logic of an OS not in the GUI.
    The main reason that triggered this article is one of my friends saying: “Linux? It’s ugly.” The point is to show him and everyone else who cares to look, that OS can’t be judged by how ugly, good looking or shiny it is! In a really free world everything can be changed to look the way YOU want it.
    It doesn’t matter which OS you are switching from, when it comes to GUI (not functionality – otherwise it would be the same OS, the key word here is *Graphical* UI), anything can be accomplished.

  18. Ashish said

    Amazing article to show to users who don’t want to switch because of GUI in Linux. I was surprised with the similarity. Very nice comaprison. Really it shows GUI doesn’t matter anymore when you compare Liunux & Windows. Thanks a ton for such nice images & comparison.

    Very nice.

  19. Speedbuggy said

    Nice picture show. I would also go one further to say that perhaps the OS is starting to not matter as much now either. You show how the GUI can change from OS to OS and still look similar but in the same vein does the underlying OS have as much to do now with the visual aspect of the GUI.
    We now see a lot of the same applications on all platforms such as OpenOffice and Firefox that have a somewhat consistant look althought not always identical. With some creative skinning I could make FF look just like IE or Safari.
    Would it not also be fair to say then that a user could sit in front a windows desktop one day then the next sit in front a linux box with the exact same desktop layout and not know the difference? Only OSX lacks the customization that all others enjoy.
    Perhaps an idea for a future article ..

  20. 1369ic said

    I tend to agree with you that the GUI isn’t nearly as important as people think, but I don’t think you did the best job of showing why that is. I think the GUI is becoming less important all the time. Why? First, they copy each other mercilessly, though they take different routes to do the same thing. Sometimes it’s shareware, sometimes it’s widgets, sometimes it’s something else. More importantly, though, the focus is, and despite all the hoopla always has been, about programs. With the web becoming more and more functional, it’s all about the browser to a great degree. Firefox extensions allow me to have a lot of what I need without having to leave that program — ftp, chat, music, etc. Then add something like iGoogle set up with Google docs, calendar, gmail, weather, time, etc. Throw in all that ajax and Adobe AIR functionality people are putting up on the web and really, why do I need to leave my browser to do most mundane tasks?

    Right now I have KDE, Gnome, XFCE and Fluxbox configured to all look almost exactly the same on my desktop machine (which runs Slackware). I tend to use Fluxbox (with fbpanel) because it does the best job of getting out of my way (and it leaves more RAM for my programs). But it won’t take much for me to be able to get by most days with OpenBox and Firefox. I even rearranged my virtual desktop usage for the first time recently when I realized it had been about six months since I fired up a word processor and a month or two since I fired up an e-mail program. So why was I even wasting that mouse click to put Firefox on desktop 3?

    Netscape was right: the browser is becoming the platform. That’s why Linux, especially a fast and stable setup like Fluxbox on Slackware, is my choice. I was a big Mac drone for 15 years at home and used Windows at work almost all that time. But when I discovered Linux I never looked back. I don’t want to be a revenue stream for a corporation and I don’t want to live with one set of preferences forced on me by somebody else (no matter how good Steve Jobs’ taste is). Linux offers a lot of great ways for your programs to get what they need out of your hardware, and that’s what it comes down to.

  21. James said

    I note a distinct absence of KDE4. Is this an oversight, or is there some basic level at which GUI does matter?

  22. Raoul Duke said

    I understand that GUI isn’t everything (I actually went on a tirade when a fellow student started dissing the CLI a few weeks ago), however, it’s a bit ridiculous to say that “GUI doesn’t matter”. Perhaps the difference between themes doesn’t really matter that much in the grand scheme of things (nor does a theme alone make one OS better than another), but a good GUI can do wonders for general usability. Sure, you can take GNOME and skin it up to look like Vista/Aero, but it’s still GNOME, and is still different (and in my opinion, superior) in usability to Vista.

    Also, as a previous post mentioned, some of these things take extra resources to run, and generally don’t work as well as the things they are copying. For example, Avant-Window-Navigator vs. the OSx dock. While I like AWN, and it’s a good little app, it just isn’t quite as smooth as the Leopard dock.

    That being said, I stopped using AWN as I kept finding myself drawn back to the GNOME menu to launch apps, which brings us back to the fundamental differences between user interfaces, and the usability differences between them, which you neglected to get into.

  23. david said

    a good desktop is simply a desktop with consistency, homogenity, speed, good fonts, contrast, clarity, proportion, usability and why not with a beauty theme (colors, icons set, style theme and wallpaper).

  24. […] 10 Reasons why GUI Doesn’t Matter A lot have been said about user experience, themes and looks of your OS in general. Some claim that OSX has the best GUI around. Aero fans drool over its fancy windows flip thingy. But does it really all matter? Take a look and decide yourself. […]

  25. linuxowns said

    I see you are using one of my pictures (the Ubuntu one theme liked vista with the girl in it).

    I see your point.

    But I don’t agree.

  26. wally said

    Where things are located on the screen matters for speed and usability. How many additional menu pulldowns are needed to get where you want to be matters. Readability of titles and text matters. Often the basic GUI put out by a particular group is poorly organized but has the potential to be well set up (Gnome is a good example with the two split bars – one top and one bottom). Do you judge by what comes with the initial set up or by what a determined user can make of it?

  27. […] Pictures showing that a nerds desktop can look like other operating-systems … at least from a few feet away. […]

  28. […] Fuente: 168Hours […]

  29. riesenoberweite said

    thank you for the nice desktop pictures !! great

  30. Justaview said

    “Does it really matter how your car looks like?”
    This could be a marketing slogan of a car company that is not able to make a nice-looking car or a better one than the others.

    From an other point of view: Would you go to buy a car and told the shop assistant that you do not care about how the car looks like, it just has to have a lot of power?

    Yes, I think, it really matters how things look like. Seriously, don’t you care about, how your car looks like, how your flat or house looks like, how your watch looks like, how your something, that you use or just look at, looks like?

    I think, one of the important parameters of all things is the looks. Of course, this parameter is subjective, but important! Look at the main page of i.e. You will understand it there.

    Anyway, you should have compared the OS-s with their original look, not their over-modified homemade versions. You know, if you reform an Audi that much that it looks like a BMW, it is not an Audi any more at all.

    In this case, comparison does not make any sense.

  31. […] 10 Reasons why GUI Doesn’t Matter A lot have been said about user experience, themes and looks of your OS in general. Some claim that OSX has the best […] […]

  32. rob enderle said

    Problem is the serious eye candy isnt even visible.
    Nothing Mac/Win can come out is remotely close to Compiz/Beryl/Fusion.
    I turn off almost all the stuff when I work but turn it back on whenever I want to get a ‘wow’ out of people, it works every time.

    I work/home on three different OS each day and they all have the same wallpaper of my kids and I always have the various menu bars disappear when I work so the wallpaper is the common denominator.
    I prefer KDE over the others because of the configurability and one of my desktops has wallaper that updates every hour. I like a desktop the way I like it. I still havent used one with default settings.

    Web 2.0 is very much browser based, the success of netbooks has shown that they are now more appliances. Something to surf, watch youtube, facebook, myspace, some word processing and a/v and the OS doesnt matter. Friend of my wife bought the Acer One netbook and she didnt even know that the kiosk like OS was Linux. The buttons just say browser, word, etc… No need to click on the garbage to get the cd out or any secret alt+shift combos. It just works.

  33. […] 10 Reasons why GUI Doesn’t Matter A lot have been said about user experience, themes and looks of your OS in general. Some claim that OSX has the best […] […]

  34. […] on the 168Hours blog says no and offers 10 Reasons why GUI Doesn’t Matter. His reasons, however, are basically screenshots using various tools to make Windows look a lot […]

  35. trey said

    great job.

    I use KDE, XFCE, XP and Win2000 on a regular basis and you cant tell my desktops apart.
    I have the same background image on all of them and hate any kind of taskbar while I work so theyre all set on autohide or fade away. I have 6 icons on all of them with the most used programs so that’s all you see along with the wallpaper on all of the desktops i use.

    GUI doesnt matter to me.

    That said, I appreciate the flexibility and options that KDE allows me and whenever I want to impress people with eye candy, I turn on my KDE4.1 w/ Compiz.

    I do find it funny how people always make a big point of how a distro has a new default background. Isnt this the first thing people change?

  36. Juggs said

    Linux if you like living in the closet!!

    Windows if you like braking some!!

    All this marvelous technology you would think some smart ass new age techy would invent a new os, maybe it could make things more interesting and less competitive.

  37. Juggs said

    An OS with no gui is stone age no matter what way you look at it, even as a developer you would go bananas looking at plain code going left to right line by line.

    Linux and OSX blow their shitty rip offs of Unix which is built for power users in mind, enlightened nerds that speak another language without need for visual stimulant. Neither Linux or OSX can compare to the NIX genealogy which is in a whole other league. I think windows owns the market and OSX and Linux need to grow up and start licking boots, the fact they need to copy such a successful borg like monopoly shows them the error of their ways.

    So my kiddies this why think we need a new OS something to upset the natural disorder of things!!

    ~~End Communication~~

  38. Robb Munson said

    To Juggs, they didnt COPY, they were in the game for quite some time as well, i hate that bill gates is trying to sue them for doing what the free software philosophy is talking about, making it your own. if you cant completely make something your own, then what the hell is the point? why is windows proprietary? because they are hiding shit, *nix doesnt hide a thing, and they are more secure and are CONSTANTLY updated to fix holes and patches. (before you try throwing that at me). I am not a linux fanboy or an os x fanboy, but i hate people that start slamming others because they think they are s00per l33t k00li0…. linux can be completely remade to make it what you want, you dont have to follow any “template”. I dont think you can say that with windows, its definately got its limitations, as does os x. Can you edit the source code of those operating systems to suit your needs? NOPE! Can you do it with linux? yep..linux IS NOT unix just for you that are confused about it. Unix is closed source, linux is open source which means you are free to edit it as you wish. Closed source as you may or may not know, means that you cant edit the source code to fix bugs.

  39. RaiulBaztepo said

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  40. Hi !!!! 😉
    I am Piter Kokoniz. oOnly want to tell, that I like your blog very much!
    And want to ask you: is this blog your hobby?
    Sorry for my bad english:)
    Thank you:)

  41. Marinkina said

    Да,aleks,побороть лень, действительно иногда очень сложно..

  42. Gavrilin said

    Нет,по настоящиму улыбнул 8 пункт,просто представил такую ситуацию ))).

  43. Jordy said

    It’s not Linux Ubuntu or Linux SUSE, it’s Ubuntu Linux and SUSE Linux. SUSE and Ubuntu are types of Linux. The way you write it is like you write Microsoft Windows or Apple Macintosh, as in Microsoft owns Windows and Apple owns Macintosh, but there is no Linux company that owns Ubuntu or SUSE.

  44. Greeaatt

  45. key1 said

    in terms of gui : windows has the best look and feel.
    fonts anti-aliasing, shading on elements which are “flat” in linux…

    every linux gui looks raw, as it would be created by programmers 🙂
    it needs attention of some talented graphic designers…

  46. オテモニャン said



  47. i was thinking about getting Fedora

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  61. In fact when someone doesn’t know then its up to other people that they will assist, so here it takes place.

  62. Mac OSX ALL THE WAY!!!!!

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