Integration Watch: Qt: suddenly resurgent
April 1, 2009 —
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Related Search Term(s): Qt
For many years, the Qt toolkit has been the best GUI toolkit available on the market. Better than the Java client libraries (Swing and SWT), better than Microsoft’s libraries, better than the excellent third-party component libraries for .NET, and superior even to Apple’s Carbon and Cocoa GUI frameworks. As to OSS products, such as GTK or wxWidgets, there is no comparison whatsoever.
What makes Qt so demonstrably superior are the scope of the library, the quality of implementation and its portability. I’ll get into each of these attributes shortly. But for the moment, I want to discuss the product’s perceived limitations and some recent developments that are of interest.
Historically, the two biggest knocks on Qt were its price and the fact that it’s written in C++. Of these, price was the principal obstacle to its wider adoption. When the product was owned by Trolltech, its original designer, Qt was dual-licensed: a for-pay license, which charged somewhat under $2,000 per platform per developer seat, and a free open-source (GPL) version on the Linux platform. In the Linux world, from where Qt sprang originally, it is the toolkit used in KDE, one of Linux's two primary desktops. In 2007, Trolltech began to loosen licensing by providing an OSS version for Windows. Like the Linux version, the Windows OSS license was GPL.
Then Trolltech was acquired by handset-maker Nokia in early 2008 (primarily for the embedded version of Qt, called Qtopia). Many pundits were concerned that Nokia would simply absorb the technology for internal use and no longer provide upgrades to the larger community. This fear turned out to be unfounded, as Nokia has done just the opposite. It has brought out new versions of the library and, just recently, announced that it was enhancing the licensing model.
In addition to the GPL version, Qt has just begun shipping a version licensed under the LGPL, which is a far more user-friendly license. Nokia will continue to provide a for-pay license for companies that want unrestricted use of the technology and paid tech support. The new licensing should further anchor Qt as the library of choice among developers.