Watch Demo×

See NinjaOne in action!

What Is a Command Line Interface (CLI)?

what is a CLI blog banner image

A Command Line Interface (CLI) stands out as a unique, powerful tool in computing technology. This article sheds light on what a CLI is, its benefits, and how it differs from a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Additionally, it will explore some useful commands and best practices for working with a CLI.

What is a command line interface (CLI)?

A CLI is a user interface that allows users to interact with a computer system by typing text-based commands. Unlike other interfaces where graphical icons represent actions, a CLI relies solely on textual input and output. It is a direct communication line between the user and the system, allowing for more detailed control and administration.


Comparing CLI with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) brings to light distinct differences. A GUI is visually intuitive, making it easier for beginners to navigate and operate. However, a CLI provides a higher degree of control and precision, albeit at the cost of a steeper learning curve. While a GUI might involve several steps to perform an action, a CLI can accomplish the same task with a single command, making it more efficient for advanced tasks.

Benefits of a CLI

The benefits of using a Command Line Interface (CLI) include:


CLI commands can perform complex tasks quickly, often with a single line of code. This efficiency saves time, especially when dealing with large volumes of data.


CLI offers granular control over the system, allowing users to execute specific and advanced tasks that may not be possible with a GUI.


Routine tasks can be easily automated using scripts in a CLI, which is invaluable for system administrators and developers.

Less Resource Intensive

CLI uses fewer system resources than a GUI, enhancing performance especially on older systems.

Remote Access

CLI allows for remote system management, a critical feature in today’s internet-driven world.

4 useful CLI commands

  1. ls: The `ls` command is a fundamental command to list the files and directories within the current directory. It’s often used to quickly view the contents of the current location in the file system.
  2. cd: Standing for ‘change directory’, the `cd` command is used to navigate through the file system. By typing `cd` followed by the path of a directory, users can easily switch to that directory.
  3. mkdir: The `mkdir` command is used for creating new directories. By typing `mkdir` followed by the name of the new directory, a new directory will be created in the current location.
  4. rm: The `rm` command is used to delete files and directories. Be cautious when using this command, as it permanently removes files and directories, and they cannot be recovered.

CLI best practices

Regularly update and upgrade

Ensuring your system is up-to-date is crucial to maintain its security and performance. Regularly use commands like `apt-get update` and `apt-get upgrade` (for Debian-based systems) or `yum update` (for RPM-based systems) to update your system’s package lists and upgrade all of your software.

Use command aliases

If there are certain commands that you use frequently, consider setting up aliases. This can save time and reduce typing errors. For example, you could set up an alias so that `up` runs the `apt-get update` and `apt-get upgrade` commands.

Understand before execution

The power of CLI comes with responsibility. Before running a command, make sure you understand what the command does. A command like `rm -rf /` can wipe your entire filesystem if run as a superuser. Always double-check your commands, especially when performing operations that modify or delete files or directories.

Embracing the CLI

A CLI is a powerful tool in the realm of computing. Despite requiring a greater learning curve than a GUI, its control, efficiency, and resource management benefits make it an invaluable skill for any IT professional. With the right knowledge and adherence to best practices, one can harness the full potential of a CLI.

Next Steps

Building an efficient and effective IT team requires a centralized solution that acts as your core service deliver tool. NinjaOne enables IT teams to monitor, manage, secure, and support all their devices, wherever they are, without the need for complex on-premises infrastructure.

Learn more about NinjaOne Endpoint Management, check out a live tour, or start your free trial of the NinjaOne platform.

You might also like

Ready to become an IT Ninja?

Learn how NinjaOne can help you simplify IT operations.

By clicking the “I Accept” button below, you indicate your acceptance of the following legal terms as well as our Terms of Use:

  • Ownership Rights: NinjaOne owns and will continue to own all right, title, and interest in and to the script (including the copyright). NinjaOne is giving you a limited license to use the script in accordance with these legal terms.
  • Use Limitation: You may only use the script for your legitimate personal or internal business purposes, and you may not share the script with another party.
  • Republication Prohibition: Under no circumstances are you permitted to re-publish the script in any script library belonging to or under the control of any other software provider.
  • Warranty Disclaimer: The script is provided “as is” and “as available”, without warranty of any kind. NinjaOne makes no promise or guarantee that the script will be free from defects or that it will meet your specific needs or expectations.
  • Assumption of Risk: Your use of the script is at your own risk. You acknowledge that there are certain inherent risks in using the script, and you understand and assume each of those risks.
  • Waiver and Release: You will not hold NinjaOne responsible for any adverse or unintended consequences resulting from your use of the script, and you waive any legal or equitable rights or remedies you may have against NinjaOne relating to your use of the script.
  • EULA: If you are a NinjaOne customer, your use of the script is subject to the End User License Agreement applicable to you (EULA).