A control system for an appliance, such as a microwave oven or the like, is provided with an adaptive manual input and a display positioned in visual proximity with one another. Various operating sequences and/or modes of the appliance are represented by symbols which may be displayed. Those operating sequences may be selected for implementation by actuating an input associated with the respective display. The symbols are contained in a plurality of groups which are displayed separately in time from one another. Actuation of a particular input associated with the display of a particular symbol also serves to display a new symbol group in accordance with a predetermined programming schedule. Typically, the functional sequences of the appliance are organized as a plurality of selectable principal modes each comprised of one or more selectable modes or sequences. Various prompting statements may also be automatically displayed to aid the user in programming the control system. The adaptive input may be part of a capacitive touch-type keyboard and comprise transparent touch keys overlying respective display devices.