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
- 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.
High-level widget toolkits
|Toolkit name||Windows||OS X||Unix-like||Programming language||License|
|OWL (superseded by VCL)||Yes||No||No||C++ (Borland C++)||Proprietary|
|VCL (supersedes OWL)||Yes||No||No||Object Pascal (Delphi)||Proprietary|
|WTL||Yes||No||No||C++||Microsoft Public License|
|LCL||Yes||Yes||Yes||Object Pascal (Free Pascal)||LGPL|
|Nana C++||Yes||No||Yes||C++||Boost license|
|Rogue Wave Views||Yes||No||Yes||C++||proprietary|
|Shoes (GUI toolkit)||cross-platform||Ruby||MIT|
|Pivot (WTK)||cross-platform||Java||Apache License|
- 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.
- 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.
- 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). 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.
- LessTif, an open source (LGPL) version of Motif.
- MoOLIT, a bridge between the look-and-feel of OPEN LOOK and Motif
- Motif used in the Common Desktop Environment.
- OLIT, an Xt-based OPEN LOOK intrinsics toolkit
- Xaw, the Project Athena widget set for the X Window System.
- XView, a SunView compatible OPEN LOOK toolkit
- 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
- CEGUI, open source (MIT License), cross-platform widget toolkit designed for game development, but also usable for applications and tool development. Supports multiple renderers and optional libraries.
- FLTK, open source (LGPL), cross-platform toolkit designed to be small and fast.
- FOX toolkit, open source (LGPL), cross-platform toolkit.
- GLUI, a very small toolkit written with the GLUT library.
- gtkmm, C++ version of GTK+
- Juce provides GUI and widget set with the same look and feel in Microsoft Windows, X Window Systems, OS X and Android. Rendering can be based on OpenGL.
- Nana C++, open source (Boost license), a cross-platform toolkit designed to enable modern C++ GUI programming
- Qt, commercial and open source (GPL, LGPL) available under Unix and Linux (with X11 or Wayland), MS Windows (Desktop, CE and Phone 8), OS X, iOS, Android, BlackBerry 10 and embedded Linux; used in the KDE, Trinity, LXQt, and Lumina desktop environment, it's also used in Ubuntu's Unity shell.
- Rogue Wave Views (formerly ILOG Views) provides GUI and graphic library for Windows and the main X11 platforms.
- TnFOX, open source (LGPL), a portability toolkit.
- Ultimate++ is a free Win32/X11 application framework bundled with an IDE (BSD license)
- The Visual Component Framework (VCF) is an open source (BSD license) C++ framework project.
- wxWidgets (formerly wxWindows), open source (relaxed LGPL), abstracts toolkits across several platforms for C++, Python, Perl, Ruby and Haskell.
- Zinc Application Framework, cross-platform widget toolkit.
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 AIR
- Dojo Toolkit
- Sencha (formerly Ext JS)
- Telerik Kendo UI
- TIBCO General Interface, a rich set of GUI components that include vector charts and is now also available through an open source BSD license
- Telerik UI for ASP/PHP/JSP/Silverlight
- Vaadin - Java
- ZK - A Java Web framework for building rich Ajax and mobile applications
No longer developed
Based on .NET
- Gtk#, C# wrappers around the underlying GTK+ and GNOME libraries, written in C and available on Linux, MacOS and Windows.
- Windows Forms. There is an original Microsoft's implementation that is a wrapper around the Windows API and runs on windows, and Mono's alternative implementation that is cross platform.
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
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.
Comparison of widget toolkits
|Toolkit||Initial release||Latest release||Main language||Bindings||Tools||License||Pros||Cons||Back-end|
|CEGUI||December 2004||0.8.7 (April 28, 2016 ) [±]||C++||Python, Lua (using tolua++)||CEED||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|
|FLTK||1998||2019||C++||Python (pyFLTK), Perl (FLTK.pm), 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|
|IUP||1992||2017||C||Lua (IupLua)||LEDC: a compiler for LED||MIT||Portable, lightweight, use the native API, native look&feel, free licence||Non‑Unicode (only plain ASCII)|
|Motif, Lesstif||1980s||C||BX Pro|
|Nana C++||2007||1.2.2 (December 8, 2015 ) [±]||C++||VisualStudio, Dev-C++, Code::Blocks, GCC||portable, lightweight, modern C++ style|
|Qt||1991||5.14 (12 December 2019 ) [±]||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.||Portable, rich widget set, GUI builder, free license, stable API||Partially native only.|
|Shoes (GUI toolkit)||2007||2010||Ruby||MIT license/Open source||Simplicity, ease of use|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Toolkit||Initial release||Latest release||Main language||Bindings||Tools||License||Pros||Cons||Back-end|
- Microsoft: MS Windows NT Kernel-mode User
- Techworld: Microsoft to move graphics outside OS kernel
- Teixera, Pacheco, Steve, Xavier (2001). Borland Delphi 6 Developer's Guide. Sams Publishing. p. 382. ISBN 0-672-32115-7.
- This version provides the core API of the .NET Framework 2.0, but its implementation of this API is still incomplete.
- Web Development with TIBCO General Interface: Understanding General Interface Architecture | Model View Controller Architecture | InformIT
- Qt Software to discontinue Qt Jambi after 4.5 release Archived 26 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- 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."
- Coding Horror: Non-Native UI Sucks: "[…] has a cross-platform UI based on GTK, which produces predictably bland, least-common-denominator results:"
- Comparing IUP with Other Interface Toolkits: "[…] it does not have support for Unicode characters."
- Knoll, Lars (12 December 2019). "Qt 5.14 Released". Qt Blog. The Qt Company. Retrieved 14 December 2019.
- Nyström, Sebastian (14 January 2009). "Nokia to license Qt under LGPL". Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- 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."
- "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.
- "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.
- "wxWidgets: Cross-Platform GUI Library". 10 December 2018. Retrieved 31 January 2019.