What I Love About Qt

For the past week I’ve been learning about the Qt Framework, mainly cause I want to start contributing to KDE, instead of just bitching about what doesn’t work, or how awesome it is! :-P

In case you’re unaware, Qt is an application framework for developing cross-platform GUI applications. TrollTech started it in 1991, and Nokia bought it in June 2008. Qt applications can even be ported to Nokia’s Symbian platform for mobiles. KDE, started in 1996, has always been based on Qt. Here are some things I just love about Qt -

  • **C++ - **It’s based on C++, not C, C++. I love C++ in comparison to other languages. It has its flaws, but I prefer it over others for doing large tasks. Otherwise there is always Python, which again Qt supports.

  • Signals and Slots Mechanism – This is one of the things that totally differentiates Qt, from the other frameworks, namely GTK+. Typically in other GUI frameworks implemented in C++, some form of callbacks are implemented. Which aren’t always type safe, and have difficult to use, cluttered interfaces, but Qt’s mechanism works wonders. The negative point about it is that it isn’t pure C++. Qt implemented their own Meta Object Compiler which runs before the compiler, and implements the Signals & Slots mechanism among other things. Honorary Mention - Boost Signals and Slots.

  • **Objects – **One thing I like about Java, which isn’t present in C++, is a supreme base class from which all other classes are derived. Qt implements this in C++ via QObject, and adds a further tree hierarchy to all its objects. This helps in memory management (read below), and allows easy type conversions.

  • **Memory Management – **One of the main things people dislike in C++ (I don’t - RAII) is the need for memory management.  Some frameworks circumvent this by implementing their own memory management scheme, generally by overloading *operator new *and *operator delete. *Qt’s method is even better. It does nothing, but deletes all the children of every object destroyed. Therefore the root QObject is generally allocated from the stack.

  • **Java Based iterators – **STL is awesome. It really is, but it lacks in usability in certain ways. Namely deleting objects from a container. As iterators have no knowledge about the underlying implementation, they can’t know how to delete an element. ( Checkout - std::remove ) Java iterators however can. The best part is that they have both C++ and Java style iterators, which gives some features of Java, while still harnessing the powers of the Standard Algorithms.

  • **Copy-on-Write Mechanism – **The Qt programmers took the lazy approach while copying object (which is awesome!) Most of the classes in the Qt Core module are only deep copied when they are being modified, which means I can easily pass them as arguments and use them without any worries about an additional overhead. Even their own container classes are implemented that way!

  • **QString – **16-bit string support – Unicode. I know C++ provides this via *wchar *and wstring, but its ugly and isn’t that well used. Apart from the 16-bit strings, it even provides many of the needed string searching functions - endsWith, beginsWith, and Yes! Regular Expressions as well - QRegExp. Now I should mention that most of this, if not all, is provided by boost.

  • **Everything C++ Should have had – **Another thing I like about Java and Python, which is missing in C++, is its huge library. There is DateTime, RegExp, Networking, GUIs, URL handling, multi-threading, file-system monitoring, image handling, and many other things. All provided by Qt. Again there is boost, which provides everything stated and much more.

  • **Container Classes – **I know this is a minor thing, but I love the overloaded operator <<. It’s a lot simpler than calling push_back. * **Foreach – **Support for the “foreach” keyword. Something C++0x should fix, but I have no idea when that’s going to come out. Maybe in 2011?

I’m still exploring Qt, so there is a lot I don’t know. But so far I’m really impressed. It really integrates everything together. I can totally see why KDE chose Qt.

Next week, after KDE 4.4 is released. I’ll start going through the KDE code. :-)