Comparison Of LINUX GUI Toolkits - Online Article

So Twenty years ago, having a feature-packed application with no GUI  was tolerable – but this is no longer the case nowadays. GUIs are  especially important for Unix programmers, with Linux trying to gain an  upper hand on the desktop.

If the choices of GUI toolkits are almost clear on Windows  platforms, there are several prevalent toolkits on Linux and Unix in  general. Let's have a look at them.

QT , developed by Trolltech,  is considered by many to be an excellent example in terms of  organization and ease-of-use. Qt is a multi-platform, C++ framework,  which contains a vast range of UI widgets, along with other constructs,  like linked lists or XML parsers. Despite being originally written for  C++, various bindings for Qt, Perl, PHP, Ruby, LISP and others do exist.

Those who prefer Qt consider it stands out through its signal/slot  paradigm which makes it very easy to connect the UI to the actual  functions. However, Qt has the disadvantage of being very complex in  terms of size and construction. Qt-based applications tend to be rather  slow, due to its complexity. Another disadvantage is its heavy use of  macros. Although these do decrease the complexity of the code, it also  makes porting Qt applications very difficult.

GTK is the other major contender. Unlike Qt, is a C-based toolkit, and forms the base of Gnome.  It has the advantage of being very fast, as well as being less complex  in construction when compared to Qt. Being written in C, bindings for  other languages were easier to develop, so virtually every modern  programming language has GTK bindings, from Python to Ruby and LISP, and even to lesser-used languages like Ada, D or Euphoria.

However, GTK has its disadvantages. It relies heavily on callbacks,  instead of the slot/signal paradigm that Qt uses. As a consequence,  debugging GTK programs is often difficult, and many language hacks are  employed. In addition, the documentation is of a sensibly lower quality  when compared to Qt's.

wxWidgets is quickly catching up. wxWidgets uses an interesting approach –  instead of drawing its own widgets, it provides a thin abstraction over  the system's native widgets (e.g. Aqua on OS X, GTK or Motif on Linux  and so on).

As a consequence, wxWidgets programs are extremely portable.  However, wxWidgets has a rather poor documentation, and its bindings  are often using incompatible branches (like PLT Scheme does). Although  it had a growing userbase, wxWidgets is seriously losing field.

Motif is the grandfather of Unix GUI toolkits. It is famous for being  insanely difficult to learn, a huge pain to debug and looking very  ugly. Motif programs are difficult to port to unsupported platforms –  but this is the important aspect of Motif: almost every platform is  supported. Motif programs are basically guaranteed to run on any  operating system that has an X11 implementation available – and almost  all do, from DOS to AIX.

Motif is no longer widely used on the desktop, but many important Unix operating systems, including AIX and Solaris, use Motif-based programs extensively, and Motif-based programs are still being written.

The final choice greatly depends on one's end result. Qt is very  useful when targeting all three major operating systems (Linux/Unix,  Windows and OS X), also being easy to learn to the point of being  productive, and benefiting from an excellent documentation. GTK is,  however, the standard for Gnome – and Gnome is used by some major  distributions as default, and is also the quickest choice when using C.  wxWidgets, FLTK and Motif each have their own share of advantages, but  these should probably be considered only when both Qt and GTK have been  found to be unsatisfactory. I have found QT to be really Good(but than  this is the only which I have extensively used).

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