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Linux.com: The Evolution of a Free Software Toolkit

May 26, 2000, 13:22 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Rob Bos)

"GTK+, the core toolkit of a large number of Linux graphical applications, was, two short years ago, exclusively used by a single program, the GNU Image Manipulation Program, or the GIMP. From its beginnings as an X toolkit coded from scratch, enormous resources have been sunk into creating what is today called the GIMP Tool Kit. In two short years, this X library has gone from relative obscurity to being one of the foundations of the popular GNOME desktop environment. GTK+ forms a significant part of the functionality of end-user Linux applications and has far exceeded the original expectations of the authors."

"Years ago, the most important X toolkit was called Motif. Motif was the core of almost all commercial and many non-commercial X applications. This was a significant problem, because Motif was until recently proprietary software in every sense of the word: source code was unavailable, and the so-called "Open Group" was unresponsive to developers and end users. The only free alternative to Motif, Lesstif, was inadequate at the time to compile any but the most simple applications. At the time, a huge amount of rhetoric was being spilled over the subject."

"In fact, Motif was one of the first major obstacles to the progress of Linux in general. It was the most advanced toolkit of its time, and thus many applications were coded against it. Coding a replacement for Motif was an enormous undertaking. Other toolkits (QT, for instance) were either facing similar problems with licensing, or incompleteness, or simple technical inflexibility or lack of publicity."

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