What Is a Console Application?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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A console application is a computer application without a graphical user interface (GUI), designed to be operated solely with keyboard commands. Many early operating systems ran solely in such modes, and only later did companies begin to develop GUI operating systems for ease of use. It is possible to run a console application without a GUI, or to run an operating system in console mode for diagnostic and other reasons. It is important to be aware that console applications tend to be less forgiving of mistakes and users need to be careful while in a console to avoid accidents.

Within a console application, the user issues commands through the keyboard. She can order the application to engage in a variety of activities, and the output will show up on the console. The program is capable of pulling up and editing files, printing, transferring data, mass-deleting, and performing other functions. Many of the applications that run in the background on an operating system function in console mode, since the user doesn't need to interact with them except in rare circumstances.


In Windows, the command line is an example of a console application. The user can pull up the command line to edit system files and for other purposes. As he enters commands, they scroll up the screen, along with responses from the application. A common reason to use the command line is in debugging or virus eradication. The user may, depending on the operating system, be able to boot into console mode to remove malware and other materials, which may not always be possible in the GUI.

Text terminals, as they are also known, are often easy to program and beginning programmers may create console applications as basic projects to get familiar with programming languages. The commands used can vary, depending on the programming language. If the application encounters an illegal or unrecognized command, it will return an error to the user. Some may also suggest alternatives, depending on the complexity of the underlying programming.

Some computer users prefer to operate in console applications and may seek out programs and operating systems with a console mode option. Others may avoid console applications when possible because the interface can be intimidating and is not always user friendly. Step-by-step guides to making changes in a console application like the command line are available for computer users who might need to do so for troubleshooting, computer fixes, and other activities.


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