List of widget toolkits

This article provides a list of widget toolkits (also known as GUI frameworks), used to construct the graphical user interface (GUI) of programs, organized by their relationships with various operating systems.

Low-level widget toolkits

Integrated in the operating system

  • OS X uses Cocoa. Mac OS9 and OS X use Carbon for 32-bit applications.
  • The Windows API used in Microsoft Windows. Microsoft had the graphics functions integrated in the kernel until 2006[1]
  • The Haiku operating system uses an extended and modernised version of the Be API that was used by its spiritual predecessor BeOS. Haiku Inc. is expected to drop binary and source compatibility with the BeOS at some point in the future, which will result in its own Haiku API.

As a separate layer on top of the operating system

  • The X Window System contains primitive building blocks, called Xt or "Intrinsics", but they are mostly only used by older toolkits such as: OLIT, Motif and Xaw. Most contemporary toolkits, such as GTK+ or Qt, bypass them and use Xlib or XCB directly.
  • The Amiga OS Intuition was formerly present in the Amiga Kickstart ROM and integrated itself with a medium-high level widget library which invoked the Workbench Amiga native GUI. Since Amiga OS 2.0, Intuition.library became disk based and object oriented. Also Workbench.library and Icon.library became disk based, and could be replaced with similar third-party solutions.
  • Since 2005, Microsoft has taken the graphics system out of Windows' kernel.[2]

High-level widget toolkits

Widget toolkit comparison table
Toolkit name Windows OS X Unix-like Programming language License
Qt Yes Yes Yes C++ LGPL, commercial
OWL (superseded by VCL)YesNoNoC++ (Borland C++)Proprietary
VCL (supersedes OWL)YesNoNoObject Pascal (Delphi)Proprietary
WTLYesNoNoC++Microsoft Public License
LCLYesYesYesObject Pascal (Free Pascal)LGPL
Fox toolkitYesNoYesC++LGPL
Nana C++YesNoYesC++Boost license
wxWidgetsYesYesYesC++WxWindows license
Rogue Wave ViewsYesNoYesC++proprietary
Shoes (GUI toolkit) cross-platform Ruby MIT
AWT cross-platform Java
Swing cross-platform Java
Pivot (WTK) cross-platform Java Apache License
GNUstep Yes Yes Yes Objective-C LGPL
JuceYesYesYesC++GPL, commercial
Cocoa No Yes No Objective-C Proprietary
Elementary YesYesYes C LGPL, BSD
Tk Yes Yes Yes C BSD
Kivy cross-platform Python MIT

OS dependent

On Amiga

  • BOOPSI (Basic Object Oriented Programming System for Intuition) was introduced with OS 2.0 and enhanced Intuition with a system of classes in which every class represents a single widget or describes an interface event. This led to an evolution in which third-party developers each realised their own personal systems of classes.
  • MUI: object-oriented GUI toolkit and the official toolkit for MorphOS.
  • ReAction: object-oriented GUI toolkit and the official toolkit for AmigaOS.
  • Zune (GUI toolkit) is an open source clone of MUI and the official toolkit for AROS.

On Macintosh

On Microsoft Windows

  • The Microsoft Foundation Classes (MFC), a C++ wrapper around the Windows API.
  • The Windows Template Library (WTL), a template-based extension to ATL and a replacement of MFC
  • The Object Windows Library (OWL), Borland's alternative to MFC.
  • The Visual Component Library (VCL) is Embarcadero's toolkit used in C++Builder and Delphi. It wraps the native Windows controls, providing object-oriented classes and visual design, although also allowing access to the underlying handles and other WinAPI details if required. It was originally implemented as a successor to OWL, skipping the OWL/MFC style of UI creation, which by the mid-nineties was a dated design model[3].
  • Windows Forms is Microsoft's .NET set of classes that handle GUI controls. In the cross-platform Mono implementation, it is an independent toolkit, implemented entirely in managed code (not wrapping the Windows API, which doesn't exist on other platforms).[4] WinForms' design closely mimics that of the VCL.
  • The Windows Presentation Foundation is the graphical subsystem of the .NET Framework 3.0. User interfaces can be created in WPF using any of the CLR languages (e.g. C#) or with the XML-based language XAML. Microsoft Expression Blend is a visual GUI builder for WPF.

On Unix, under the X Window System

Note that the X Window System was originally primarily for Unix-like operating systems, but it now runs on Microsoft Windows as well using, for example, Cygwin, so some or all of these toolkits can also be used under Windows.


Based on C (including bindings to other languages)

  • Elementary, open source (LGPL), a part of the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries, a fast, stable, and scalable library that can be used to create both rich and fast applications that can be used on anything from every day desktop computers to small PDA's and set-top boxes.
  • GTK+, open source (LGPL), primarily for the X Window System, ported to and emulated under other platforms; used in the GNOME, Rox, LXDE and Xfce desktop environments. The Windows port has support for native widgets.
  • IUP, open source (MIT), a minimalist GUI toolkit in ANSI C for Windows, UNIX and Linux.
  • Tk, open source (BSD-style), a widget set accessed from Tcl and other high-level script languages (interfaced in Python as Tkinter).
  • XForms, the Forms Library for X
  • XVT, Extensible Virtual Toolkit

Based on C++ (including bindings to other languages)

Based on OpenGL

  • Clutter (LGPL) (in C) is an open source software library for creating fast, visually rich and animated graphical user interfaces.

Based on Flash

  • Adobe Flash allows creating widgets running in most web browsers and in several mobile phones.
  • Adobe Flex provides high-level widgets for building web user interfaces. Flash widgets can be used in Flex.
  • Flash and Flex widgets will run without a web browser in the Adobe AIR runtime environment.

Based on XML

Based on JavaScript



Full-stack framework


No longer developed

Based on SVG

  • Raphaël is a JavaScript toolkit for SVG interfaces and animations

Based on .NET

Based on Java

  • The Abstract Window Toolkit (AWT) is Sun Microsystems' original widget toolkit for Java applications. It typically uses another toolkit on each platform on which it runs.
  • Swing is a richer widget toolkit supported since J2SE 1.2 as a replacement for AWT widgets. Swing is a lightweight toolkit, meaning it does not rely on native widgets.
  • Apache Pivot is an open-source platform for building rich web applications in Java or any JVM-compatible language, and relies on the WTK widget toolkit.
  • JavaFX and FXML.
  • The Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) is a native widget toolkit for Java that was developed as part of the Eclipse project. SWT uses a standard toolkit for the running platform (such as the Windows API, OS X Cocoa, or GTK+) underneath.
  • Qt Jambi, the official Java binding to Qt from Trolltech. The commercial support and development has stopped[6]

Based on Object Pascal

  • FireMonkey or FMX is a cross-platform widget and graphics library distributed with Delphi and C++Builder since version XE2 in 2011. It has bindings for C++ through C++Builder, and supports Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and most recently Linux. FireMonkey supports both platform-native widgets, such as a native edit control, as well as custom widgets that are styled to look native on the target operating system. Its graphics are GPU-accelerated and it supports styling, and mixing its own implementation controls with native system controls, which lets apps use native behaviour where it's important (for example, for IME text input.)
  • IP Pascal uses a graphics library built on top of standard language constructs. Also unusual for being a procedural toolkit that is cross-platform (no callbacks or other tricks), and is completely upward compatible with standard serial input and output paradigms. Completely standard programs with serial output can be run and extended with graphical constructs.
  • Lazarus LCL (for Pascal, Object Pascal and Delphi via Free Pascal compiler), a class library wrapping GTK+ 1.2, Gtk+ 2.x and the Windows API (Carbon, Windows CE and Qt4 support are all in development).
  • fpGUI is created with the Free Pascal compiler. It doesn't rely on any large 3rdParty libraries and currently runs on Linux, Windows, Windows CE, and Mac (via X11). A Carbon (OS X) port is underway.
  • CLX (Component Library for Cross-platform) was used with Borland's (now Embarcadero's) Delphi, C++ Builder, and Kylix, for producing cross-platform applications between Windows and Linux. It was based on Qt, wrapped in such a way that its programming interface was similar to that of the VCL toolkit. It is no longer maintained and distributed, and has been replaced with FireMonkey, a newer toolkit also supporting more platforms, since 2011.

Based on Objective-C

Based on Ruby

Not yet categorised

Comparison of widget toolkits

Toolkit Initial release Latest release Main language Bindings Tools License Pros Cons Back-end
Flutter 2017 Dart
Xaw, Athena 1983 C
AWT 1995 Java portable
CEGUI December 2004 0.8.7 (April 28, 2016 (2016-04-28)) [±][7] C++ Python,[8] Lua (using tolua++)[9] CEED[10] MIT License Free license, fast, cross-platform, portable, free GUI editing tool
Clutter 2006 C Perl, Python, C#, C++, Vala, Ruby LGPL GTK+ and WebKit embedding
Elementary 2007 (EFL: 2001) 2016 C JavaScript, Python, Vala, C++ editje, edje LGPL Portable, stable, fast, finger-friendly
FLTK 1998 2019 C++ Python (pyFLTK), Perl (, Ruby (Ruby/FLTK), Tcl (Tcl Fltk), Guile (guile-fltk), Eiffel (IFLTK) FLUID (Fast Light UI Designer) LGPL (with an exception that allows static linking) fast, small enough to static link limited widget selection
FOX 1997 C++ Ruby (FXRuby), Python (FXPy), Eiffel (EiffelFox) consistent across platforms non-native look and feel
GNUstep 1994 2017 Objective-C Java, Ruby, Scheme Gorm (computing) GPL for the apps, LGPL for the libs Portable, free license Native on macOS (with Cocoa) X11, Win32, Wayland
GTK+ 1997 3.24.4[11] (January 21, 2019 (2019-01-21)) [±] C C++ (gtkmm), Perl (Gtk2-perl), Ruby (ruby-gtk2), Python (PyGTK), Haskell (Gtk2Hs), Java (java-gnome) (not available for Microsoft Windows), C# (Gtk#), PHP (PHP-GTK), Ada (GTKAda), D (gtkD), FreeBasic (GladeToBac), Go (go-gtk), OCaml (lablgtk), JavaScript (Gjs, Seed), Fortran (gtk-fortran), Lua (lua-lgi), R (RGtk2) and others via GTK-server Glade LGPL Portable, free license Partly native only.[12][13]
IUP 1992 2017[14] C Lua (IupLua)[15] LEDC: a compiler for LED MIT Portable, lightweight, use the native API, native look&feel, free licence Non‑Unicode (only plain ASCII) [16]
Motif, Lesstif 1980s C BX Pro
Nana C++ 2007 1.2.2 (December 8, 2015 (2015-12-08)) [±][17] C++ VisualStudio, Dev-C++, Code::Blocks, GCC portable, lightweight, modern C++ style
Qt 1991 5.14[18] (12 December 2019 (2019-12-12)) [±] C++ Ruby (QtRuby), Python (PyQt, PySide, PythonQt), Ada (QtAda), c# ( Qyoto), Java (Qt Jambi), Pascal ( FreePascal Qt4 ), Perl (Perl Qt4), PHP(PHP-Qt), Haskell (Qt Haskell), Lua (lqt, QtLua), Dao ( DaoQt), Tcl ( qtcl ), Common Lisp (CommonQt), D (QtD), Harbour (hbqt) Qt Designer, Qt Creator GPL, LGPL.[19] Portable, rich widget set, GUI builder, free license, stable API Partially native only.[20][21][22]
Shoes (GUI toolkit) 2007 2010 Ruby MIT license/Open source Simplicity, ease of use
SWT Java D (DWT) Eclipse portable
Swing 1996 Java Eclipse, NetBeans GPL for OpenJDK Portable (Java), advanced widgets, GUI builders
Tk 1991 2015 C, Tcl Ruby (RubyTk), Python (Tkinter), Perl (Perl/Tk), Ada (TASH), Common Lisp (LTk), Erlang (etk), ... | BSD very portable, many language bindings
Ultimate++ 2004 C++ TheIDE BSD portable, NTL, free license
Rogue Wave Views 1993 2014 (5.8) C++ ivfstudio proprietary portable (Windows, Unix-like), good support commercial
VCF C++ BSD free license
Windows Forms CLI languages CLI languages Expression, Visual Studio portability issues, no MVC
WPF, XAML, Silverlight 2007 CLI languages CLI languages Expression, Visual Studio Portability issues
MFC, WinAPI 1992 C++ Visual Studio not portable (but Wine implements it for X Window)
ATL, WTL 2004 C++ Visual Studio not portable
wxWidgets 1992 3.1.3 (28 October 2019 (2019-10-28)) [±][23] C++ C++ (native), Ruby (wxRuby), Python (wxPython), Perl (wxPerl), Java (wxJava, jwx!), Lua (wxLua), Tcl(wxTCL), JavaScript (GLUEscript), Smalltalk (wxSqueak), Erlang (wxErlang), Haskell (wxHaskell), C (wxC), D (wxD), .NET Framework (wxNet), Common Lisp (wxCL), Basic (wxBasic), BlitzMax (wxMax), Euphoria (wxEuphoria), Ada (wxAda), Pike (wxPike) VisualWx, Boa Constructor, PythonCard, Spe, XRCed, wxGlade, wxFormBuilder, DialogBlocks ($), wxDesigner ($) wxWindows License Portable, rich widget set, free licence, semantic similarities to MFC make migration easy.
XUL XML, JavaScript portable
Juce 2004 C++ Jucer GPL, commercial Cross-platform, with additional audio plug-in wrapping tools (VST, RTAS, AAX etc.)
XVT 1989 2010 C and C++ Design for C and architect for C++ Proprietary Cross-platform, rich widget set, C and C++ GUI builders, very stable
VCL Delphi
Toolkit Initial release Latest release Main language Bindings Tools License Pros Cons Back-end

See also


  1. Microsoft: MS Windows NT Kernel-mode User
  2. Techworld: Microsoft to move graphics outside OS kernel
  3. Teixera, Pacheco, Steve, Xavier (2001). Borland Delphi 6 Developer's Guide. Sams Publishing. p. 382. ISBN 0-672-32115-7.
  4. This version provides the core API of the .NET Framework 2.0, but its implementation of this API is still incomplete.
  5. Web Development with TIBCO General Interface: Understanding General Interface Architecture | Model View Controller Architecture | InformIT
  6. Qt Software to discontinue Qt Jambi after 4.5 release Archived 26 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  12. Migrating to client-side windows Archived 27 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine: "GDK looks for the GDK_NATIVE_WINDOWS environment variable and makes all windows native if it is set. It also tries to be more compatible with the way prior versions worked in some other ways."
  13. Coding Horror: Non-Native UI Sucks: "[…] has a cross-platform UI based on GTK, which produces predictably bland, least-common-denominator results:"
  16. Comparing IUP with Other Interface Toolkits: "[…] it does not have support for Unicode characters."
  18. Knoll, Lars (12 December 2019). "Qt 5.14 Released". Qt Blog. The Qt Company. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
  19. Nyström, Sebastian (14 January 2009). "Nokia to license Qt under LGPL". Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  20. WxWidgets Compared To Other Toolkits: "Qt doesn't have true native ports like wxWidgets does. Qt does not use system provided widgets, but emulates it with themes. What we mean by this is that even though Qt draws them quite realistically, Qt draws its own widgets on each platform."
  21. "Qt Modular Class Library". Digia. Archived from the original on 1 November 2013. Qt uses the native graphics APIs of each platform it supports, taking full advantage of system resources and ensuring that applications have native look and feel.
  22. "The Qt 4 Style API". The Qt Company. Qt's built-in widgets use [QStyle] to perform nearly all of their drawing, ensuring that they look exactly like the equivalent native widgets.
  23. "wxWidgets: Cross-Platform GUI Library". 10 December 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2019.

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