What GUI Toolkit To Use?

GUI PROGRAMMING IS not something I’ve done in quite a while. At work I do embedded programming and that’s mainly also what I’ve been doing for my own personal projects. Except for some small utility applications I really haven’t done large GUI projects since MFC 6.0 was cool (if such a time ever was) ]:->.

An absolute requirement is that the end result must be multi platform capable (Linux, BSD, Mac OS X and Windows). Plenty of frameworks and toolkits exists that fulfill that requirement, but I find that the Kde/Qt constallation is the most exiting and complete toolkit(s) around – especially given the multi platform perspective introduced by Kde 4. Although Kde 4 is not quite stable yet, I think the choice is wise in a longterm perspective.

I primarily do C/C++ programming (and a bit of Lua scripting), but I really would like to extend my horizon (or more precise raise above n00b level) in other programming languages like C# and Python. Given that I have much to learn about Kde, GUI’s and what else is hot in the desktop programming world, the option of C# is not a mandatory requirement. I could settle on a C++ and Python solution.

Mixing two complete different kinds of languages (static and dynamic) requires either good binding layers or Mono. The Kde Project provides a large suite of binders in the KdeBindings package. The README contains a concise description of the project contents:

This package contains:
* working:
  * korundum: KDE bindings for ruby
  * qtruby: Qt bindings for Ruby
  * smoke: Language independent library for Qt and KDE bindings. Used by QtRuby 
    and PerlQt.
  * kalyptus: a header parser and bindings generator for Qt/KDE. Used for
    Smoke, Java, C# and KSVG bindings generation at present.
  * ruby/krossruby and python/krosspython which are plugins for the kdelibs/kross
    scripting framework to provide scripting with python+ruby to applications.
  * PyKDE: KDE bindings for python, requires PyQt from riverbankcomputing.co.uk
  * Qyoto: Qt bindings for C#
  * Kimono: KDE bindings for C#

The Mono project seems to be somewhat controversial. A lot of writing has being going on lately on Mono vs. Novell/Microsoft vs. freedom. Anders Hejlsberg and his team have created both clever and interesting stuff in the .NET architecture like C#, DTS (Common Type System) and CLR (Common Language Specification), but I can’t appreciate embracing other closed proprietary technologies from the .NET portfolio, when other alternatives exist in the FOSS community. I think Robert Devi summed it up nice in the Osnews.com comments (the personal rantings of Robert on Mono speed/memory, Amarok etc. I don’t agree on).

As far as I can tell, the above observations give me the following constructs:

  1. C++ + Kross + PyQt + PyKde(*1).
  2. Mono + C# + limited managed C++ + Qyoto/Kimono + IronPython.

*1: PyKde is not released for Kde 4 at present time.

Its a difficult decision whether to choose the one or the other construct. Because I have already done much C++ coding (and shot a foot off more that once) and not much C# coding, I lean mostly towards the Mono solution. Unfortunately this could potentially force me to use MonoDevelop. Tried it eight months ago and tried it again yesterday; it’s still the single most unstable piece of software I ever used :-(. Hope its not the case that it only works on OpenSuse or Suse. That would not be freedom. Anyways, selecting C# would mean that the money I spent on the book Professional C#, 3rd Edition won’t go to waste.

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