A pictorial user interface for accessing information in an electronic file system provides a pictorial image which is linked to a file directory and which identifies the file directory. Objects in the pictorial image are icons linked to file objects and an animated character is overlaid on the pictorial image. User input causes movement of the animated character relative to the pictorial image. Input from the user is preferably through a limited input device such as a gamepad controller, a mouse, or by using a limited number of keys on a normal keyboard. Input signals are mapped according to keycode identical command sets, context arguments and selection arguments. Commands that can be invoked by the user include operating system commands, pictorial object commands, and interface utility commands. Using the pictorial object commands, the user can configure the interface so that different pictures and icons are associated with different directories and files. Commands are executed with a prologue animation and an epilogue animation. The prologue animation provides feedback as to the nature of the command being executed. The epilogue animation provides feedback as to the results of the command. Animations may include actions of the animated character or the behaviour of a selected icon, or both. The interface may be applied as an overlay to virtually any operating system.