Ubuntu to open up to Qt toolkit

Future versions of the Ubuntu platform will include support for Qt-based apps and could even ship with them by default, according to the founder of the open-source OS project

Future versions of Ubuntu will include the cross-platform Qt interface libraries and could come preloaded with Qt applications based on the framework, according to Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and the Ubuntu Project.

Shuttleworth announced the decision on his blog on Tuesday, noting that, following the Linux platform's Natty Narwhal release, the company will need to assess the benefits of including Qt apps and frameworks with the disc and download installation by default.

Ubuntu Qt future

Mark Shuttleworth says that future versions of Ubuntu will include Qt-based apps.

"Ease of use and effective integration are key values in our user experience. We care that the applications we choose are harmonious with one another and the system as a whole. Historically, that has meant that we've given very strong preference to applications written using Gimp toolkit (Gtk)," he wrote. "What I'm arguing now is that it's the values which are important, and the toolkit is only a means to that end... There's plenty of best-in-class software written with Qt, it's a very capable toolkit." Shuttleworth added.

Shuttleworth noted that there has historically been some "friction" between Gtk and Qt, as a result of the way in which system settings and preferences integrate into the overall system. Gtk apps use a centrally-manageable preferences store, whereas Qt and KDE apps use a different system, which has in the past led to interoperability problems.

To overcome this, the company has been working on developing 'dconf' — a system that provides a back-end for platforms that don't have configurations systems in place — bindings for Qt that will allow app settings to be centrally managed.

"The decision to be open to Qt is in no way a criticism of Gnome. It's a celebration of free software's diversity and complexity," Shuttleworth wrote.

However, Gartner analyst Nick Jones told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that it is "good news for developers who will have access to a modern cross-platform tool", but beyond Qt's possible distribution on the Ubunutu installation CD it's "not a major issue".

Jones also pointed out that he doesn't expect the inclusion of Qt libraries in Ubuntu to have much effect on the Qt ecosystem.

"My impression is the number of Ubuntu developers and users is rather small relative to the hundreds of millions of units of Symbian shipped every year. So it may not have a huge impact on the Qt developer community or the size of the marketplace for Qt applications," he said.

Qt is currently owned by Nokia — but can work independently of it — and is used alongside the Symbian platform in the company's mobile devices.

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