Mar 13, 2020

Building a CLUI: a cross between a CLI and a GUI

CLUI

Repl.it, an online IDE that lets developers write and run code in the browser, revealed a new developer tool called a CLUI that blends together CLIs and GUIs. With 500,000 weekly active developers and 2 million users, Repl.it hopes to reinvent how developers interact with their tools.

What’s the problem? CLIs are incredibly powerful tools. Complex CLIs, however, require users to memorize commands and workflows—which is both tedious and inefficient.

Unlike CLIs, GUIs are easier to learn and include helpful visual cues to new users. Scalability, however, is a massive issue. As GUIs grow, they can become overwhelming and convoluted.

What’s the solution? CLUIs combine the strengths of both CLIs and GUIs. Developers still type text-based commands, but the interface is mouse-friendly, highly discoverable, and compatible with rich media.

Developers can type in what they want and get suggestions for relevant commands. Once developers enter a command, the CLUI can pull up a relevant interface, like a clickable run or view button. CLUIs can also add interactive elements—like a data entry form—once you enter a command.

CLUIs work like a flowchart or decision tree. That makes them easy to scale when adding new commands. Users can also send a command URL—a list of commands—that work as a complete executable CLUI command.

Is it the start of something new? Repl.it is working to make its entire online IDE accessible through CLUIs. The company also open-sourced its CLUI code—and a working demo—with the goal to inspire other developers to explore how they might use it.

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