Canonical to support Qt in Ubuntu

Published by David Gilson at 12:33 UTC, January 24th 2011

Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth has announced that Qt libraries will ship in the Ubuntu 11.10 CD. Ubuntu has always been a GTK based Linux distribution (not withstanding its Kubutnu sister distribution). The obstacle for Qt developers to write for a GTK based operating system was because of the system settings framework, in the case of GTK this is the dconf system. Canonical are now funding work to crate Qt bindings for dconf. This will allow Qt applications to run in the GNOME desktop on Ubuntu without breaking the cohesive look and feel of the application set. Read on for more.

Shuttleworth said in his post:

"System settings and prefs, however, have long been a cause of friction between Qt and Gtk. Integration with system settings and preferences is critical to the sense of an application “belonging” on the system. It affects the ability to manage that application using the same tools one uses to manage all the other applications, and the sorts of settings-and-preference experience that users can have with the app. This has traditionally been a problem with Qt / KDE applications on Ubuntu, because Gtk apps all use a centrally-manageable preferences store, and KDE apps do things differently.

To address this, Canonical is driving the development of dconf bindings for Qt, so that it is possible to write a Qt app that uses the same settings framework as everything else in Ubuntu. We’ve contracted with Ryan Lortie, who obviously knows dconf very well, and he’ll work with some folks at Canonical who have been using Qt for custom development work for customers. We’re confident the result will be natural for Qt developers, and a complete expression of dconf’s semantics and style."

Furthermore, Ubuntu's community manager, Jono Bacon, added comments to the Ubuntu news site:

"Why is Ubuntu shipping Qt on the CD in 11.10? – there are two drivers behind this decision. Firstly, the Ubuntu project is working to ensure that Qt application developers can write apps which fit into the Ubuntu desktop smoothly. It is important that Ubuntu, as a platform, address the needs of developers, giving them as much flexibility as possible while retaining a coherent standard experience for users. Secondly, giving developers the extra toolkit option should mean we end up with better apps all round as the range of apps for assessment and inclusion will be wider. The key criteria for evaluation of any app for inclusion are independent of the actual toolkit. We won’t ship an app by default that we don’t think offers a great experience, not just on a standalone basis but as part of the whole system."

"Does this mean Qt apps could be included on the CD? – we’ll be open to Qt apps being included in Ubuntu if they are appropriately integrated. If an application integrates well into the Ubuntu experience, we would be open to its inclusion in a release to offer the best experience for Ubuntu users. By “integrates well” we mean things like: uses the dconf configuration system with live adoption of settings changes, follows Ubuntu font and theme settings automatically, uses our menu and indicator and notification system appropriately etc."

This is good news from MeeGo's point of view for two reasons. Firstly, this shows that Nokia's mobile development platform is gaining even more traction. Secondly, since Ubuntu is going to be one of MeeGo's competitors in the netbook market (by using Unity), both operating systems should benefit by having a common development framework, allowing developers to write their applications once and push to both platforms. With the anticipated rise of MeeGo, and Nokia's initiative to encourage developers to write Qt applications for Symbian, Ubuntu could may be the bigger beneficiary out of this move. That is, activity in the Meego and Symbian scene will probably attract more developers to Qt than Ubuntu's adoption of the development framework. Still though, this is good news all-round.

As another point of interest, for Ubuntu users to see an example of how well Qt applications can run on the GNOME desktop, take a look at the Clementime music player. Also of interest, the GNOME project has started taking "bids" for building GTK+ support in MeeGo as well.

David Gilson for All About MeeGo, 24th January 2011

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