After writing four posts about this, it’s time to wrap it up. In theory, I could keep on writing forever: I’ve only covered chat clients, browsers, multimedia players and music managers. What about mail programs, torrent clients, pdf readers, graphics editors, image organisers…I could go on. Well, I won’t write about them for three reasons:
- For the applications I have experience with, like torrent clients or mail programs, I don’t think there’s a difference in quality between QT and GTK applications. For example, I find Qbittorrent and Ktorrent as capable as Transmission and Deluge. I’ve used all of them and I never missed some all important feature. The same goes for KMail and Evolution or Thunderbird, and various PDF readers. The only exception here would be file managers, where GTK has a bigger (and in my opinion, better) choice.
- Other software I simply haven’t used much, so it would be unfair to comment on it, or say one application is better than the other.
- I want to write about other stuff
In any case, over the last few weeks I installed and tested enough software to last a lifetime, many of which I haven’t even covered, and I feel confident to draw a couple of conclusions.
1) There’s more GTK software out there than Qt software. I don’t have any numbers to back this up, and I notice Qt-apps is quite active. Thing is, I don’t recognise any of these apps. Antico looks interesting, as some kind of lightweight Qt window manager/desktop environment. So does QutIM, although it’s choice of protocols is a bit exotic. And I wish I had known about Cuberok before I wrote that article about music manager, because I would have loved to try it out. But for every Antico there’s an LXDE or even XFCE, for every QutIM there’s an Emesene, Empathy, Gajim or Gyachi, and for evert Cuberok there’s an Exaile or a Consonance. There’s more choice on the GTK side.
2) Because of the wealth of applications, GTK applications are better. A rather bold statement, but competition breeds quality, and “better” can also mean that because of all the possibilities there’s a bigger chance that you’ll find something you like. Let’s take the example of the music managers. I know Amarok has many fans, but if you don’t like it, you’re flat out of luck because your only other choices are JuK, a slow and underfeatured dinosaur of an application, or Cuberok, a promising but still beta (and from a look at the comments on qt-apps, a rather unstable) piece of software.
3) GTK is simply more tempting to developers. Why? Because there’s no payback to building a great standalone Qt-app. It won’t get included as default in a major distribution anyway. Here’s the reasoning: lightweight distributions will invariably choose GTK, because it’s possible to do so without pulling in all of GNOME. Just look at all the examples in Distrowatch’s list: Puppy, Vector, Damn Small Linux, Zenwalk, Wolvix…all distributions which aim to be lightweight and speedy, and all of them GTK. There’s not one lightweight Qt distribution, because building one is simply impossible. Install the wrong application and it pulls in the whole of KDE as a dependancy. A fellow Archer has tried to compile a list of applications which should make it possible to build a Qt-only desktop, but I wouldn’t want to run it. Much of the software there is beta or even alpha, obscure or not a complete replacement for it’s GTK counterpart.
But suppose you create a new music manager with gmusicbrowser, well, you might become the default in Zenwalk, because it’s complete, and lighter than Rhythmbox or Banshee. You create a fine torrent client with Deluge, but you can’t budge Transmission in Ubuntu? Just you wait, and in the meantime, you’re the default in Wolvix. OpenOffice is much too heavy for lightweight distributions, but Abiword is the de facto standard there. And of course, projects like XFCE and LXDE push their own lightweight alternatives to GNOME’s heavyweights, like Xfburn, Osmo, or LXappearance, GPicView and PCManFM. I won’t even mention the exposure you get when you actually do get your software in a major distribution like Ubuntu or Fedora.
If you want a coder, and you want your application distributed and in the spotlight, you’re better off with GTK.
As a final note I must say that a part of me hoped to be proven wrong when I started this series of articles. I’ve been actively looking to create a lightweight Qt-environment, and since I failed, I counted on lots of people screaming foul, and pointing me to yet unknown gems of Qt-goodness. Well, people disagreed with me alright, but not the way I hoped for:
- Some people thought that I thought GTK is a superior toolkit than QT. I don’t. Actually, wouldn’t know what seperates them on a technical level. All I looked at were applications.
- Some people told they’d prefer KDE applications over GTK ones, because they have more options. I can understand that, but from my viewpoint, if you found a way to have your perfect desktop without installing GTK, you’re in the minority. The other way around is much more common. I won’t argue tastes though, I can understand a preference for Qt-apps. To each his own.
- A nice one was “Ha! You’re wrong! XXX is not a GTK-app!”. Most of the times XXX was Firefox, but Banshee was mentioned too. However, both applications use the GTK toolkit, and I don’t care how. If it looks and feels like a GTK app, then for all intents and purposes of these posts it’s a GTK app.
- Some people called me an idiot. I can live with that
So there you have it. Now that I’ve finished these, I’ve uninstalled KDE and went back to Openbox. It’s fast, lightweight, looks good, and I haven’t installed a single Qt application. I don’t need to.