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Windows, Icons, Menus And Pointing Device (WIMP)

Definition - What does Windows, Icons, Menus And Pointing Device (WIMP) mean?

Windows, icons, menus and pointing device (WIMP) denotes a style of computer-human interaction involving the aforementioned elements of the graphical user interface (GUI) which is the most common interaction method being used by desktop computers today. WIMP interaction was developed at Xerox PARC in 1973, and the term coined by Merzouga Wilberts in 1980, with the method popularized by Apple's Macintosh in 1984.

Techopedia explains Windows, Icons, Menus And Pointing Device (WIMP)

Windows, icons, menus and pointing device (WIMP) interaction is what the general public is used to in computing, because it is the most common interaction used in popular operating systems such as Windows, Apple' OS and even in modern Linux and UNIX-like operating systems. But in more development-oriented operating systems such as Linux and UNIX, there is an option to forgo the pointing device altogether and perform all interaction with the OS through the command prompt or shell, but the windows remain.

Characteristics of a WIMP system:

  • A window isolates programs from each other, which allows a user to switch between running programs by giving focus to specific windows.
  • Icons act as shortcuts to various programs, locations and actions possible in the OS.
  • A menu which can be text-based, icon-based or a combination of both can be used as a selection system for various tasks.
  • A pointer represents the location of a device movement, typically a mouse used to make selections in the GUI.

Because WIMP is so common, it has been erroneously used as a synonym for the GUI. This is false because even though all WIMP systems are a type of GUI, not all types of GUIs are WIMP, some do not use windows to isolate applications, and mobile operating systems like Android and iOS use icons, widgets and menus, but not windows or pointing devices.

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