Is there any evidence that using a command line interface will improve a user's recall memory?


Do users with better predispositions to recall abilities do better with command line interfaces?

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    Ironically, most new CLIs I design, I design to include support for users without exceptional recall memory. Tools like p4, git, etc. all have built-in help that aids people in remembering what subcommands exist. Jul 19, 2012 at 17:48
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    You might also need to factor in the automatic recall (that is, ctrl-p or up-arrow) provided by the command line itself. Users don't always type every command line from scratch. Jul 19, 2012 at 18:07
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    I agree, a lot of well design CLIs make use of recognition and automatic recall, but I think that overall, when compared to a GUI interface for the same task there is more recall involved.
    – DorkRawk
    Jul 19, 2012 at 19:42
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    This questions belongs to CogSci.SE
    – dnbrv
    Jul 19, 2012 at 21:40
  • There's an issue about whether users are motivated to learn the commands: if they are then they'll put the time in to learn them.
    – PhillipW
    Jul 19, 2012 at 22:13

1 Answer 1


Heavy use of CLI applications can improve recall, and can even develop muscle memories so that folks like UNIX operators can execute commands without thinking about the text they are typing. As a programmer, I experience this, and I many others who do also.

For example, when naviagting folders on a remote server, I think the words "Go Up", but my fingers type cd .. <Enter>. I might then think "Go up again" and type <Up> <Enter>. If I wanted to see the status of my source control, I would think "What did I change?" and type git status, but I wouldn't think the words "git status", I would just recall the keystrokes associated with the action.

Not exactly scholarly evidence, but hope it helps. :)

  • Thanks for providing an answer. Not the scholarly evidence I was hoping for, but I appreciate the info.
    – DorkRawk
    Jul 26, 2012 at 3:52

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