Table of Contents
- API vs. GUI
- What is an API?
- What is a GUI?
- Main differences between APIs and GUIs
API vs. GUI
Application Programming Interface (API) and Graphical User Interface (GUI) are two phrases that are common in the realm of technology and software development. And since the two terms help facilitate interactions between users and computer applications, they can somehow confuse developers who are green in software development. In this article, we’ll try to explain the meaning of the two phrases and highlight their differences.
What is an API?
API is the acronym for Application Programming Interface, which refers to a set of routines, protocols, tools, and definitions that allow communication between technology products such as applications and websites. APIs allow applications to interact and communicate with an external server using some simple commands. Using APIs, developers can create streamlined processes that don’t keep re-inventing the wheel or building functionalities that already in existence. They help programmers to add new features to applications, and improve the speed and efficiency of the development process.
Let’s use a non-technical example to help you understand more about APIs
When you go out and visit a restaurant, you make your order to the waiter who, in turn, takes it and sends it to the kitchen. When the food is fully prepared in the kitchen, the waiter collects the food and brings it to your table. In this case, you are the first computer application and the application you’re communicating with is the kitchen. The waiter is the API as they facilitate the interaction between the customer (first app) and the kitchen (the other app).
You can also integrate your application to Instagram using the Instagram API.
With an eBay API, merchants can upload items for sale on ebay.com, rather than doing it manually using the eBay’s GUI.
What is a GUI?
An abbreviation for Graphical User Interface, GUI refers to a software platform that displays back-end data in a visually coherent way to help users interact with a computer application. It presents objects that convey information and represent actions that the user can take. GUI allows you to use picture-like items, such as icons, cursors, and buttons, to tell a computer operating system what you want. Using these objects, GUI allows you to navigate to different parts of an application.
Users interact with the GUI using a mouse, but the latest devices, such as mobile phones, utilize the touch-screen technology. You can also navigate a Graphical User Interface using a keyboard.
Examples of GUI
GUI powers most of the operating systems that we use today. These include:
- apple System 7 and macOS
- Microsoft Windows
- Linux variants like Ubuntu using a GUI interface
Other examples include:
- Any Microsoft program such as Excel, Word, and Outlook
- Internet browsers such as Firefox, Chrome and internet explorer
Main differences between APIs and GUIs
The primary difference between an API and GUI is the interacting parties.
While an API permits the communication between two programs, GUI allows interaction between a human and a computer program.
The other difference between API and GUI is the level of expertise required to work with each. GUI doesn’t require too much technical know-how or the need to memorize different methods and languages. On the other hand, APIs require high technical skills to leverage. You need to understand various coding languages, as well as learn various techniques of making API requests.
Additionally, while GUI requires few resources, API requires a lot of things, including back-end storage that is backed by a logical architecture, a library of scripts, and regular management.
Both GUI and API can be used for testing application functionality. However, unlike APIs which are swift in action, Graphical User Interface tests tend to take longer.
A Graphical User Interface is generally expensive than an API as it comes as a complete package. However, it is crucial to remember that GUIs costs reflect their quality and uniqueness in the market.
Additionally, unlike Graphical User Interfaces that are subscription-based, APIs are call-based, and hence they give you precisely what you ask for. This means that with an API, you pay for raw materials as opposed to a finished product.
Unlike GUI, API allows the exchange of data through XML or JSON, thus making it possible for any core language to be used for automation. However, you need all your data in one place to use API, as it allows more flexibility when it comes to automation and innovation.