Many computer user interfaces use a Control Panel metaphor to give the user control of software and hardware features.The term control panel was used for the plugboards in unit record equipment and in the early computers of the 1940s and '50s. In the 1980s, the Xerox Star
and the Apple Lisa, which pioneered the first graphical user interface metaphors, controlled user settings by single click selections and variable fields. In 1984 the Apple Macintosh in its initial release made use of fundamental graphic representation of a control panel board imitating the operation of slider controls, on/off buttons and radio-select buttons that corresponded to user settings.
- In Microsoft Windows operating systems, the control panel is where various computer settings can be modified.
- In Macintosh operating systems prior to Mac OS X, a control panel served a similar purpose. In current iterations of the Mac operating system the equivalent to control panels are referred to as system preferences.
- In web hosting, browser-based control panels, such as CPanel and Plesk, are used to manage servers, web services and users.
- There are different control panels in free desktops, like GNOME, KDE, Webmin...