CLI Tools Are Not Inherently User-Hostile And I Will Die On This Hill

SYCL Talks Day (Sun) • 14:00 • Duration: 45m

Or: Why I Design All My Cross-Stitch Patterns in the Terminal

I have a hobby that involves visual design and a lot of tedious arithmetic. In building a set of tools for automating this tedium, I’ve both discovered and enacted some principles for respectful software that I wish more software employed:

  • fiddly tasks are the computer’s job
  • let me be specific, but don’t make me be pedantic
  • let me see the state. Yes, all of it. Yes, really
  • everything should be repeatable always

2D GUI visual design editors (think MSPaint) have difficulty with many of these aspects, but text-based imperative interfaces don’t! I’ll talk a bit about why I think CLI tools can have great affordances for design that respects the user, decisions that can undermine that, and why I find great joy in making art from tools that look distinctly non-artistic.