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OpenGL Widget Set Recommendations? 154

Posted by Cliff
from the for-the-coders-among-us dept.
rrwood asks: "I'm starting work on what is more or less an open-source 3D modeling application, and I'd like to make it as cross-platform as possible (Linux, FreeBSD, Windows, MacOS, etc.). OpenGL takes care of the 3D rendering I'm going to need, but I also need some sort of widget set, and I'm looking for advice as to what to use in that regard. I've done my Google homework and have come up with the following, but would like feedback from anyone who has already used any of these, or has recommendations about anything I may have missed. Yes, I know about Blender, and be reassured I am not planning on reinventing that wheel, okay? :-) So, here's what I've found so far. As I said, if anyone can add to this list or share his/her experiences actually working with any of these, that would be greatly appreciated."

"GLUI provides a flexible windowing system and a rich selection of widgets (buttons, checkboxes, radio button sets, spinners, text boxes, arcballs, dividers, packing panels, packing columns, etc.). GLUI's design is very straightforward, and the docs and examples are extremely well done. GLUI is highly portable, since it depends only on OpenGL and Glut.

GLOW is 'a cross-platform object-oriented framework for building interactive applications using OpenGL or similar APIs such as Mesa.' GLOW is basically an elegant C++ wrapper around Glut, providing push buttons, check boxes, radio buttons, scroll bars, sliders, text fields, menus, etc. This is a really nice description of GLOW, including comparisons to GLUI and MUI.

Speaking of MUI, Steve Baker's advice is basically 'just don't.' Instead, Steve recommends PUI, which he wrote. :) Actually, he speaks very highly of GLUI, and does a nice job of pointing out the subtle differences between GLUI and PUI.

PUI is part of PLIB, a rich and vibrant set of libraries for cross-platform game development. This is a wonderful intro to PUI. Go read it right now. Really. PUI itself does all the sorts of stuff I'm looking for, and perhaps more. It looks to be very stable and mature, too.

LibUFO is a C++ widget set for OpenGL, currently in alpha. Features include pluggable look and feel, theme support, and layout manager support. LibUFO can be used with GLUT, SDL or any native GL context, so it is highly portable, too. Except for the fact that this is only alpha code at this point, it looks quite nice.

FOX is a C++ toolkit for developing cross-platform GUI apps. It seems like a fairly standard C++ framework, with built-in OpenGL widgets, too. By all accounts, FOX is quite mature and stable, with a fairly active developer base. FOX supports many OSes, but not, unfortunately, the Mac. And yes, I could easily hack out Mac support myself, but I don't want to do that-- I want to write my app.

FLTK is another cross-platform C++ GUI toolkit with OpenGL support. The advantage of FLTK over FOX is that FLTK supports MacOS X (not 9.x and earlier-- too bad).

DirectFB is a library built on top of a framebuffer device such as the Linux framebuffer or SDL. There seems to be some 3D support in there via DirectFBGL, though the docs say that there is no hardware acceleration support (i.e. Mesa vs OpenGL). The thing that makes DirectFB particularly attractive is the fact that Gtk/Gdk has been ported to it.

SDL and ParaGUI are also an attractive option. SDL is insanely portable, and ParaGUI is a wonderful GUI/widget toolkit that runs on top of SDL. You really need to see the ParaGUI demos running to appreciate how slick it is. The screenshots are nice and all, but they don't do it justice. As well, ParaGUI is really slick in its support for themes, XML, and Python.

PicoGUI was a recent SlashDotting victim. As mentioned at that time, PicoGUI is actually a sophisticated client-server framework, capable of running in a wide variety of environments, including on top of OpenGL. There is plenty of info at the PicoGUI FAQ, including a few comments that suggest it would be a perfectly reasonable choice for what I'm looking at doing. Given the scope of what PicoGUI is trying to achieve, I'm a little nervous that it might be overkill for what I want to do.

Fresco is another client-server framework which some may have previously known as Berlin. Fresco seems very cool, but again, I suspect it is overkill for what I'm doing.

The GUI Toolkit/Framework Page is also an excellent resource for cross-platform development of all stripes.

And the OpenGL Toolkit FAQ is also an excellent resource with special emphasis on OpenGL."

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OpenGL Widget Set Recommendations?

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  • WxWindows (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    wxWindows [wxwindows.org] gives you a single, easy-to-use API for writing GUI applications on multiple platforms. Link with the appropriate library for your platform (Windows/Unix/Mac, others coming shortly) and compiler (almost any popular C++ compiler), and your application will adopt the look and feel appropriate to that platform. On top of great GUI functionality, wxWindows gives you: online help, network programming, streams, clipboard and drag and drop, multithreading, image loading and saving in a variety of popular formats, database support, HTML viewing and printing, and much much more.

    "Excellent, stable and intuitive API. Very straightforward to learn and easy to port Java, X11 and Win32 code to."
    "Thanks heaps for the best piece of software I've ever come across."
    "wxWindows 2 has been an absolute dream."
    "I've never had an easier porting experience."
    "I never thought that cross-platform development could be so easy and simply cool."
    "I have used wxWindows in the past very successfully on multiple projects, and think it's the bee's knees. Thanks for everything!"
    "wxWindows is jaw dropping amazing. Community support from the mailing list is extraordinary. Are you sure this is free?"
    "wxWindows is one of the most magnificent development projects in existence.."

    • Re:WxWindows (Score:4, Informative)

      by watzinaneihm (627119) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @05:28PM (#4954351) Journal
      Be careful about threading in wxWindows. About 6 months back I had to write a program using wxWindows and the threading gave me some problems.Most of those libraries are being improved AFAIK
      Also worry about memory leaks. I am not sure If the code I wrote was leaking it or whether it was wxWindows, but hte programs did leak gallons of memory.
      Not that I am an authority on wxWindows, or that it is a bad library, just a warning. Maybe some other readers have had experiences?
      • [disclaimer: I'm an active member of wx dev team]

        If you think you've found a memory leak in wxWindows, please do let us know about it (comp.soft-sys.wxwindows). Remember that if our users don't report the bugs to us, we have much harder time fixing them.

        Of course, in my experience, memory leaks in wxWindows are more often than not leaks (or bugs) in the user code but if you're sure your code is ok, please try to report the problem. Posting a bug report won't take much longer than posting to Slashdot (although arguably it's not as much fun).

        VZ
        • Hi, Vadim.

          As an avid wx user (and casual contributor) for three years, let me say that wx is remarkably bug-free for a library that size. I use wx daily, both at work (designing GUIs for scientists at JPL) and on the side (Audacity [sf.net]) and I haven't seen a wx memory leak in a year. Nor have I seen a crash: the worst problems I've seen recently are occasional cosmetic errors that are easy to work around (i.e. a window redraws itself unnecessarily when you modify a certain attribute).
    • Nice. Does it subscribe to the Apple interface guidelines on it's own or would certain parts need redoing? But for *NIX/Win32 tghis looks interesting. Any thoughts on this vs qt
  • wxWindows (Score:2, Informative)

    by Hanji (626246)
    You might want to look into wxWindows [wxwindows.org] It's a cross-platform GUI library that works using platforms' native GUIs, so that your app will take on the look of the platform you build it on. It supports OpenGL nicely, and has what is, in my opinion at least, a beautiful, intuitive OO C++ interface.
  • by kbonin (58917) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @05:19PM (#4954309) Homepage
    I'd throw out an additional requirement for an ideal OpenGL GUI library, one that's lead me to start developing my own (It'll be open source when done.)

    It'd be nice if a cross-platform widget/GUI library existed that would allow me to place the GUI's into the environment, by rendering to textures or virtual GUI planes, instead of just as yet another 2d desktop library. Its not TOO much additional work if done from the beginning...

    Think of the fun you could have w/ full GUI support in the environment. A 3d embeddable Gecko control, anyone? :) (Wish that code was cleaner...)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Coin3D (http://www.coin3d.org) is a GPL rendition of the Open Inventor toolkit by SGI. This toolkit is a C++ class heirarchy that overlays OpenGL and is really quite nice. It has rendering and scene manipulation tools like material editors. The toolkit has bindings for Trolltechs Qt, and they are working on one for Gtk. I think they have Motif. I'm pretty sure it works on Lintel and MacOS X. I got working on my Mac with Yellow Dog Linux on it.

    Good luck.
  • Portability (Score:4, Informative)

    by cbv (221379) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @05:22PM (#4954323) Homepage

    For your GUI, take a look at GNUstep [gnustep.org]. It supports Linux, the BSDs, Solaris and Windows and is (pretty much) compatible with Cocoa.

    For your 3D graphic stuff, take a look at the GNU 3DKit [gnu.org].

    • For your GUI, take a look at GNUstep [gnustep.org]. It supports Linux, the BSDs, Solaris and Windows and is (pretty much) compatible with Cocoa.

      For your 3D graphic stuff, take a look at the GNU 3DKit [gnu.org].

      Better change the name of whatever you want to code to "GNU/$ORIGINAL_NAME" lest you want to wake up one night with RMS next to you with a hockey mask and GNU/chainsaw.

  • wxWindows, FLTK (Score:4, Interesting)

    by g4dget (579145) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @05:24PM (#4954329)
    If your needs are modest, you might want to use FLTK. It's simple and you can link with it statically. If you need a full-blown widget set, wxWindows [wxwindows.org] is a good choice. Both of them let you embed OpenGL windows inside the GUI. They are not implemented using OpenGL as the graphics layer, however: they use whatever native GUI there is and embedd OpenGL windows.

    I would recommend against using widget sets with OpenGL as a graphics layer unless you really need it: OpenGL is less than ideal for that purpose.

    • I would recommend against using widget sets with OpenGL as a graphics layer unless you really need it: OpenGL is less than ideal for that purpose.

      Just curious: why do you say that?
      • Re:wxWindows, FLTK (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JFMulder (59706)
        I guess it would have to do with the fact that 99% of the time you work in double buffering mode. So a click on a button in the interface will mean you'll have to do an entire redraw of the window, and that is really slow. You have do redrawyour whole desktop, than flip buffers. One cool hack tought would be to always write your UI modifications on the front buffer, but it would be hell to keep track of everything that is under the pop ups. OS widgets are fast : the changes when you interact with a widget are local and don't demand a whole screen redraw, since they work in single buffer environment.
        • Couldn't you just draw the changed part of the window into the second buffer, then flip. If you then update the first buffer (in a background thread maybe) so it mirrors what's on screen you will be ready to flip again. This does mean drawing everything twice, but you are at least only drawing the dirty parts of the screen - and that will save CPU cycles.
      • OpenGL has lots of overhead, it's not supported on many devices/screens, it doesn't address many important functions like window management and internationalization, and it doesn't easily give you as much control at the pixel level as 2D graphics APIs designed for user interfaces. Probably as a consequence, I have yet to see an OpenGL-based widget set with the same functionality and quality as wxWindows or even FLTK.
    • Re:wxWindows, FLTK (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ikoleverhate (607286) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @05:42PM (#4954427)
      Worth pointing out that FLTK not only lets you have OpenGL windows inside it's windows, but that ALL it's widgets' draw functions can contain OpenGL code (whether a specific OpenGL widget or not). This means you can have lit and textured buttons for example, and have the mouse pointer as a light source. ;)

      I'm not sure if any of the others do the same as I have never used them.
    • by joss (1346)
      I second the recommendation for FLTK, it's excellent [based upon work done for NEXT]. Very fast, very tight, cross platform, but most of all, easy to understand and modify code. Good OpenGL integration [btw, you might want to think about using OpenInventor instead of OpenGL]. The FLUID GUI builder that comes with it is second to none. It takes a little getting used to, and you need to experiment some to come up with a good way of structuring your application such that you keep the autogenerated code and your application code nicely separated, [email me for more info] but this is not too difficult. I have used VisualC++, Delphi, VisualBasic, JBuilder7, and Qt. All of these builders looked richer and are vastly more complex than FLUID, but FLUID is strangely powerful and more maintainable [GUI builders are usually good for generating something vaguely right quickly but often its easier to restart from scratch than modify earlier projects]. Qt is a close second and has a richer widget set than FLTK, but FLTK beats it in terms of tight code and flexibility [also, FLTK is LGPL so you dont have to buy anything extra to use it on win32].
  • Defanetley SDL (Score:2, Insightful)

    It is the best XPlatform library out there for stuff like this! It is supported extensiveley by the community, and it is commerically used as well, you would be best off with that, because its a platform that most people have heard of, not to mention better libary compatibliilty!
    • Yeah SDL is one of the best API's around. It has everything you need to make cross platform OpenGL. Input, window management, music, multi-threading, 2D & 3D capabilities.. It has it all :)

      There are some books about SDL, but the really good stuff can be found in the online documentation off of the web site. SDL also has really good community support. I have had nothing but good experiences with SDL and I would recommend it to everyone.
    • SDL is great, but it's not a GUI toolkit.

      Use SDL if you want to create a cross-platform game, or movie player. For everything else that has a GUI, use wxWindows or one of the toolkits mentioned above.
  • Actually (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    You ARE reinventing the wheel. But don't let that stop you, you may just come up with a better/cheaper/faster Wheel.
  • Mozilla has a nice GUI building XML language called XUL. It's cross platform has support for skins and themes and such.
  • by Micah (278)
    I haven't personally used it, but FlightGear [flightgear.org] uses PUI. It looks slick, and FG is probably one of the most advanced Open Source projects ever.
  • SDL is OK (Score:2, Informative)

    For a layer to put between OpenGL and your OS of choice, SDL http://www.libsdl.org/ is more than OK. It even works on PlayStation 2! Don't know if OpenGL will run on a PS2 though =P

    SDL doesn't have a GUI actually, but there are several GUIs made FOR SDL by other people.

    Good luck!
  • Qt (Score:3, Informative)

    by Sesse (5616) <`sgunderson' `at' `bigfoot.com'> on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @05:31PM (#4954373) Homepage

    You definitely forgot Qt [troll.no]. The only downside is that it's commercial on Win32 (unless you're running MSVC6), apart from that it does its job very well, and has a very reasonable OpenGL widget.

    As for wxWindows (which others have suggested), I tried it some time ago and I think it truly sucked. Hopefully it has improved since then :-)

    /* Steinar */

    • I have been using qt for my development. Since i don't have a windoze compiler i haven't used it cross platform, but signals/slots are great and designer is a well done tool but not necessary.
    • Re:Qt (Score:3, Informative)

      As for wxWindows (which others have suggested), I tried it some time ago and I think it truly sucked. Hopefully it has improved since then :-)

      How long ago did you try wxWindows? If it was before 2.0, I can forgive you, but especially since version 2.2, wxWindows completely rocks.

      wxWindows provides native widgets on more platforms than any other toolkit (Windows, Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Unix/GTK, plus wxUniversal which gives you themable widgets based on extremely low-level interfaces such as pure X11 or a PDA's framebuffer).

      It's closely modeled after the most widely-used GUI toolkit in existence (MFC) yet it deviates from the MFC model when necessary to make it more consistent, more flexible, or easier to use. What this means is that it's reasonably easy for anyone to pick up, but doubly easy for anyone who's used another modern C++ GUI toolkit like MFC, PowerPlant, or Qt.

      wxWindows has more utility classes than just about any other toolkit I've seen, too: check out their list of classes [york.ac.uk]. One thing I love about wxWindows is that it goes beyond the least common denominator, and in fact makes it easy to take advantage of platform-specific features when you want to: for example setting the X Display of a window you pop up in X11, changing the Taskbar icon of a window in Windows, or setting the type/creator of a file on the Mac. Oh yes, and it has a perfectly decent OpenGL widget, too.

      wxWindows is also not limited to C++ - it works well from Python, too...

      Finally, the wxWindows developer and user communities are very helpful.
      • by Sesse (5616)

        Yes, it was before 2.0. (Everything was horribly painful to use, dialogs were a pain to set up, there was no real documentation except "whee, it's great!", etc. In general it didn't like me, and I didn't like it. :-) ) But no, I don't like MFC either ;-) I'll probably give it a new shot sooner or later, though.

        /* Steinar */

  • GTK? (Score:2, Informative)

    by DavidTurner (614097)
    Another big one which you've missed is the GTK. It has a glarea module for OpenGL drawing areas, and has the advantage of a very strong design. On the other hand, since your focus is on building an OpenGL-based system, why bother with the overhead of a widget set at all? Don't reject the idea out of hand. Not having a pre-designed widget set will force you to think carefully about your interface. In my opinion, this is the major shortcoming of most commercial modelling systems - a counter-intuitive UI.
  • by JFMulder (59706) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @05:47PM (#4954446)

    Of course, from a technological angle, cross-platform widgets (we'll call them CPW from now on) are an elegant solution. Design your UI once, and you're done. This seem like A Good Thing.

    The problem with CPW is that it gives more time to the user to adapt to your widgets. Of course, one can argue that once you can use the widgets in one environment, you can use them everywhere. That is true. The problem is that not all your users are as good with computers as you are, and it may put an extra strain on the user to learn between the basics of your system and the host OS. How do you drag and drop? How do you move around windows? What happens when you double click on the top? Does it maximise? Does it roll up just to show the title bar?

    Take a clue from the major players in the industry. From what I've heard, Adobe updated PhotoShop to give it the Mac OS X look and feel by using it's native widgets. Many companies are now making wrappers around existing library calls, instead of making widgets. That way you have a unified API for all your supported platforms to design your UI on, but also have the advantage of keeping the usual behaviour and look and feel of an application.


    Sadly, I don't know of any public library that accomplishes this. But I'm sure that if you looked around enough, you should be able to find a few.


    Good luck!
    • by Hanji (626246) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @06:24PM (#4954606)
      wxWindows [wxwindows.org]
      It does exactly what you describe. It provides a single API, that, when linked with the appropriate platform's libs, creates the GUI using that platforms GUI.
    • While this is true for cross-platform applications which operate identically in each environment, those that assume the look and feel of the target system can greatly reduce the problem. I highly recommend wxWindows [wxwindows.org] as a candidate API for your project as it automatically will make adjustments for you. The documentation is also quite good and there is a solid community of developers from which to learn. (I used it this last semester on an assignment - it's awesome.)

      If you absolutely need your widgets to be a part of the 3D environment... you're going to have to keep looking.

      Good luck!
    • Don't tell me you don't know Qt [trolltech.com] !!! it's the best, totally cross platform, and definitely preserving the look and feel of the host O/S. And it is not only a GUI toolkit, it has everything:

      native look and feel

      database support

      OpenGL support

      XML through SAX and DOM implementations

      true componentatization through the signal-and-slot mechanism

      theme support

      app settings and DLL transparent handling

      lots of container templates which are easy to use

      full visual environment intergrated nicely with various IDEs

      source code 100% compatibility from platform to platform

      multithreading and synchronization abstraction using the native O/S

      networking abstraction using the native O/S

      regular expression handling

      HTML support

      internationalization support with the easiest handling of UTF-8, ASCII and UNICODE formats

      some of the best widget sets with full geometry management

      follows C++ logic, unlike other toolkits like MFC or wxWindows

      Its only downside is that you have to pay for it, but it is definitely worth it, because it is simply the best toolkit out there!!!

    • I have to disagree with you there. I've been using wxWindows [wxwindows.org] for a while now. It's the best "CPW" I've used before, commercial or OSS (of which, it is the latter.) It uses native widget sets, not its own like FLTK, nor an emulated one like Qt. The only problem with it right now is that the MacOS and MacOS X ports aren't stable yet.
    • I'd agree with you in the case of a simple utility, say a sound recording program.


      However once the application we're talking about is huge and the user is going to use only this program for hours and days, I don't think it's such a big deal. An example might a sound mixing, processing, on-the-fly editing program.


      I use JBuilder quite a lot and I think it's no big deal that it behaves nothing like my KDE desktop. I mean yes CPW that mimic the behaviour of the platfrom are nice, but they just are too much hassle and in the end a decision must be made about what is feasable.


      As for the Adobe example, they are not trying to support UNIX/Linux deskotp. Being consistent and pleasing everyone is almost impossible. What "native" behavior should it emulate? KDE? GNOME? Motif? WindowMaker? Just try running Acrobat Reader on Linux and see how out of place it looks.


      As for standart behaviour for each platform, that can be coded right into the application, e.g. any program can support the basic GNU/Emacs shortcuts (JBuilder does :-) ).

  • SDL is the way to go, easy easy easy....
    • SDL is easy, yes, but for a GUI app it's probably not the best choice. There is ParaGUI, but something that implements controls using the platforms native libs is probably better, and I've had a lot of problems getting ParaGUI working.
    • I agree wholeheartedly that SDL is an awesome API. I'm using it to develop a cross-platform game with OpenGL as the graphics engine. (SDL is used for the startup, events, and sound). However, SDL doesn't provide any set of widgets by default. You'll have to use someone else's widget set or develop your own, and just because a widget set is SDL doesn't mean it will mesh cleanly with your OpenGL context.

      That said, since I developed my own 2D sprite library in C++ on top of OpenGL I'm writing my own set of widgets that will leverage the sprite engine. Basically this comes down to building my own "responder" chain, keeping track of which item has the focus, testing clicks inside my widgets (which are sprites in most cases), etc.

      There are obvious advantages to building your own widgets, such as the aforementioned leveraging of your graphics engine to create a distinctive interface. And there are obvious disadvantages, such as the added development time required to put the whole thing together. Either way you will learn a lot about how (not) to implement a GUI.

      For most games you can get away with a very minimal GUI, basically testing for clicks inside rectangles, but if you need to do more, such as building a level editor, it's nice to have all the standard items like menus, checkboxes, and file dialogs.
  • Why are people using GUIs?

    They basically want to enter textual (single or multi-line text, numbers, dates, currency [specie and quantity]) or spacial (2D or 3D coordinate system point[s]) data
    or
    to navigate relationships between objects. Think 0|1:0|1|N relationships (select from a list which may be a simple or a compound presentation of text, graphical or mixed views of objects.

    Radio Buttons, push butons and other 'screen candy' should be switchable without the developer being involved. This has been available in Smalltalk (Widgets) since '91. Extend don't re-invent.

    Let the user theme the presentations. Let the coder concentrate on the objects and the relationships, what's important.

    And set up your API's on data streams so that you NEVER waste a cycle pumping data one pixel beyond what's visible. (There is NOTHING as disgusting as waiting on a GUI to fill a window that only shows a few Ks of data with a the complete contents of a multi-megabyte file.)

  • Duh!!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by decep (137319)
    http://www.googl... damn... he's already been there.
  • Slightly offtopic, since it's not about widgets, but I thought I'd mention it anyway:

    There used to be a graphics library called FastGraph by infamous Ted gruber Software, and surprisingly it is still around [fastgraph.com](It actually predates borlands BGI driver, if people still remember that one). I used it 10 years ago to take my first feeble steps in graphics in c++, and designed my own widgets and basicly invented my own buttons/frames/menus system all by myself, and to this day the framework of that code is still usuable. Anyway, it's not a recommendation or anything, I would never used it at this time.

    • Geez, BGI sucked so much, I wrote my own graphics routines in assembler those days, because BGI *sucked* *so* *fucking* *much*. Yeah I do remember fastgraph though. But my asm routines were faster and did what I wanted then to do. But of course if I would have wanted portability back then I'd definately use it.
  • I've written some very nice 3-D apps using OpenInventor and Motif. OpenInventor is excellent for prototyping 3-D apps. I worked on a simulator project where we used OpenInventor, Motif and Scheme. We had Scheme bindings for everything. Since Scheme is interpreted, we could make changes "on-the-fly" without recompiling or even restarting the program.

    Prototyping tools are different from production tools. It's okay (even preferable) to prototype in one environment, and write the deliverable in another. 3-D design is not cut-and dried, so you will spend a lot of time messing with how things look. This is much easier in an interpreted world than in one that requires compiling and linking of big C++ executables every time you decide that the red cube is a little too big.

  • It has a section of the API called ClanGUI as well as ClanGL and ClanGUI works with ClanGL. However this project is often buggy and incomplete. Might be worth looking at though if you don't mind submitting bug reports (or patches for that matter!). I use ClanLib and ClanGL in a game I'm working on.
  • OGRE [sf.net] is an OpenGL (and alternatively DirectX) scenegraph library that's still in development, but may already provide useful functionality. Think of this as a next generation SGI Open Inventor. I've used Open Inventor and have recently switched to OGRE since OI shows it's pre-ISO C++ standard roots. (And pre-Scott Meyers. And pre-Gang of Four Design Patterns.)
  • by j4im (133469)
    I cast a vote for SWT. That's the toolkit developed by IBM et. al. for the eclipse [eclipse.org] project. It allows you to write your GUI in Java, with native bindings on a variety of platforms for a conventional look and feel (GTK or Motif on Linux/Unix; Windows and Mac too). I've used it a bit and found it very functional and pleasant to code with. It's also very straightforward to yank the SWT out of the eclipse package, and the whole thing is under an LGPL-like license (CPL), as far as I can tell.
    • by AG (3175)
      Even easier.... Grab
      [redhat.com]
      ftp://sources.redhat.com/pub/rhug/swt-gcj-green- sn apshot.tar.gz

      and just configure/make to get lib-org-eclipse-swt.so with gcj.
    • SWT and the Eclipse polatform are very nice. However, he needs to work with 3d as well, and I'm pretty sure there hasn't been a port of OpenGL to SWT, yet, and SWT won't work with Java 3D. :( His best bet for Java and 3d are to use Java 3d and AWT, not SWT.
  • They use an all OpenGL widget set. I was amazed to see that you could scale the widgets like any OpenGL object.
  • I have used GLUI for my 3rd year computer science dissertation. I used it for a cross platform GUI interface. I found GLUI to be excellent for my needs. It looks very nice it is very easy to achieve what you need in very short c++ code.

    The fact that GLUI is built on top of glut means that it is as cross platform as glut itself. I have not used any of the other toolkits but I would definitely use this toolkit again.

    If you are intrested in what i used it for I have a short description of my dissertation (with screenshots) at :

    http://www.hamza.legend.org.uk/diss.html [legend.org.uk]

    Hope this helps.

  • ....you might as well use fresco since it's the only kit you mentioned that for once isn't something like ten years behind (and looking like someone shat on the screen) but more like 5 years ahead of time. When you're app is 1.0 stable and beyond both you're app and fresco will be finished and if all turns out well both projects will have something to brag about.
    Bottom line: Use fresco or join the Blender project - they've got their own kit fitted extra for the programm and therefore it runs on more or less everything that runs on electricity.
    • Yups, i too have looked down the 3d-toolkit lane, saw fresco and guessed i could spend my time on better things. What the poster is aiming at (or what i can comprehend from his words), fresco already has, or nearly is there.
      Blender otoh is a waste of time imo. I hope something useful comes out of the whole open-source thing they hyped the community with, but until they sort out their code and make it usable for other developers i for one am not going to look at it again.
  • by davechen (247143)
    I've used GLUI for a simple modeling program, and I like it. It's simple and easy to use. It's great for grad student/research applications.

    On the other hand, it's only really made for simple, toy-ish programs. You couldn't really use it for a complicated or professional program interface.

    Also I don't know how much Paul Rademacher (the author) is doing as far as updating/maintaining the code these days. Don't ask him about sliders! (There ain't none)

  • Being the lead programmer on a 3D monitor, I'd say that SDL is the way to go. It not only provdes widgets but also an excellent game controller interface.
    Check out the Python wrapping of SDL PyGame
  • We made the VGL as a skinnable OpenGL widget toolkit as part of the Pythian Project [pythianproject.org], and if you're OK with Delphi it's a fine piece of work (even if I do say so myself :p). Looks good, and very high performance (as it was built for a 3D game). It's been through quite a few generations too.

    Obviously if you're not coding in Delphi/Kylix, then it's not much use.

  • by BLAG-blast (302533) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @06:24PM (#4954605)
    Hey,

    You might want to take a look at Togl [sourceforge.net]

    It's a Tcl/Tk widget, it's pretty friendly and cross platform. There are a couple of 3D modellers using Togl. One of them is called Ayam3d [ayam3d.org] (it's kind of like Maya but not, it's also open source). AC3D [ac3d.org] is the other modeller I know using Togl, and it's shareware.

  • GTK+ with gtkglarea (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I've been doing exactly this and I've been happy using GTK+ and gtkglarea widgtets to create OpenGL Drawing areas.

    It works perfectly OK on any Unix System and also in Win32.

    I wrote several CAD/CAM applications for Linux [inocam.com] using this combination and the port to Windows took only two afternoons.

    It was just a question of downloading all the stuff for win32 and I only had to correct some syntax problemas and change some header files in VC++ (some IFDEFs).

    I also had one more problem with transient windows, because sometimes the dialog windows would move to the back of the main window and get invisible, but I solved that with a IFDEF _WIN32 and a call to a native WIN32 API function

    Even the internationalization stuff works in WIN32.

    In this process I always try to use only GTK+ widgets and avoid using Gnome stuff.

    On the other hand, the user interface builder glade generates perfectly portable code.

  • I'm confused. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NFW (560362) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @06:29PM (#4954629) Homepage
    Do you want a GUI toolkit that will let you put windows and dialog boxes and such inside your GL render context, or... Do you want a GUI toolkit that will draw windows and dialog boxes and such on the destop, and which includes support for windows that host GL render contexts?
  • U the same dude that a while ago asked for input on making a full 3d software suite? If so.. heh when u getting a website up? need somewhere I can go and follow updates.. i/o
  • Although I'm not sure if any cross-platform windowing package is going to be robust and stable enough for your needs, were I you I'd take a *serious* look at FLTK and FLUID.

    The main reason for this is that it sounds like your project will consist more or less of a UI wrapped around a rendering engine. It is really, really easy to use FLTK to create quick GUIs to work with an existing codebase. As an example, all of the skeleton code we've developed and distributed while teaching graphics courses to undergraduates uses this package; its easy for the students to build on, lots of documentation exists, it has a lot of prebuilt functionality, and its pretty flexible. Since the focus is on *graphics* instead of the *applications*, FLTK fit perfectly for what we needed windowing-wise. And yeah, those who want to work on their projects under linux or OS X can do so without a whole lot of fuss.

    Just $.02 from someone who's administered projects that are along the lines of what you're doing (on a much smaller scale). Good luck, looking forward to seeing your work! :)
  • most of my favorite 3D applications use TK/TCL.
    Ayam3d and AC3D are both fast and light. they run well even on older hardware(i've tested this time and time again.

    Also, someone else pointed out Coin3D. i've always hoped that someone would do something with it. it's just too cool.
  • QT? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by punkball (240859)
    I'm not an expert in gui programming, and certainly not an expert in any sort of modeling programming, but I was under the impression QT was cross-platform. Osx should have no problem given its unix roots (I can't confirm though), and windows and the various unix's already support it. Could QT work for this guy? It's certainly a very nice looking widget set too!
  • Use GTK+ 2.x (Score:3, Informative)

    by MrMeanie (145643) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @07:22PM (#4954878)
    I have done some OpenGL work with GTK+.
    GTK+ does not support OpenGL out of the box, so to speak, but you can get a package called gtkglarea which adds an OpenGL widget.
    If you use GTK+ v1.2, then gtkglarea v1.2.x packages are easy to find and come with many distros (e.g. Redhat).
    However, I would recommend that you use GTK+ 2.x, since you are coding a new application, and GTK+ 2.x is much improved. There is no *official* version of gtkglarea for GTK+ 2.0 though. HOWEVER, you can get gtkglarea v1.99.0. Look on developer.gnome.org. I think.

    Links:
    Gnome ftp site [gnome.org]
    Gnome ftp mirror [linux.org.uk]

    GTK+'s main advantages are its maturity, its solid design, and its comprehensive selection of widgets. If your application is going to reach an appreciable size, then you will want a good widget set like GTK+.

    As a C++ programmer, I find GTK+'s reliance on vanilla C to be a little irritating, however, you can gtk GTK-- which is a C++ wrapper for it. I prefer to use GTK+ directly though, so I interface my C++ code with GTK+ by using static member functions for callbacks.

    Hope that helps


    Mr. Meanie
  • by MrDog (307202) <thurston AT spock DOT wdtinc DOT com> on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @07:51PM (#4954991)
    For my scientific visualization project, I use Qt and its QGLWidget for OpenGL vis. It features nice communication to other widgets, easy mouse event interception, and you can share display lists across multiple views. If you intend your app to be free, then they cost you nothing. I have used wxWindows and GTK before, and Qt is vastly superior in my opinion.
  • Most people using Maya or any 3D modeling application for anything other than dabbling would rather not waste time clicking on buttons. 3D modeling workflow is such that the modeler needs to spend all his time focusing on the model, rather than stopping to hunt-and-peck through menus or to click on some icon that does nothing but waste screen space 99% of the time. Maya uses marking menus to speed up workflow, and all professional 3D apps use keyboard shortcuts for the same reason.

    If you really want to be innovative, you will do away with widgets entirely. Oh, wait, it's already been done [quelsolaar.com].
  • I've been down this road, with some frustration. The basic idea is sound - OpenGL with any 3D graphics board is fast enough today that you can do your 2D work through the 3D engine.

    GLOW is a nicely designed widget set, built on top of OpenGL. Written at Caltech. It uses GLUT, which has some problems with multiple windows.

    GLUI has some nice widgets, but is badly designed internally - you can't add new widgets without modifying existing code.

    GLUT is a big problem. It's widely used, but it's SGI abandonware, with a wierd license that doesn't let you distribute modified versions. So you're stuck with some annoying bugs. To get around this, some people wrote FreeGLUT, put it on SourceForge, and it's in good shape and maintained.

  • You've already read a ton of people telling how nice wxWindows is to use. It's all true.

    I've written a small Basic interpreter [sourceforge.net] that uses the wxWindows (unfortunately, too slow to do any real 3D stuff with) and found that it was dead easy to get OpenGL to work with wxWindows.

    Basically, you just have to declare a wxGLCanvas and you've got a nice canvas for drawing on. It's nicely integrated into the wx scheme of things - it generates and responds to the same events that a normal wxWindow does.

    As people pointed out, you end up with native widgets (use wxSizers to make the layout portable), and wxWindows supports just about every compiler under the sun, which is nice for those of us without infinite budgets.

    Plus, there's an excellent group of people on the mailing lists if you get stuck.

  • You may want to look in to first creating a giu-less app and then writing a separate gui for it (like mplayer and mldonkey among others). This may make porting adn keeping with interface guidelines easier, in addition others could write the gui (if you let them) which would make your product more enticing.
  • by captaineo (87164)
    I can give a good recommendation for FLTK. It is a solid, mature toolkit, and yet remains simple to understand and use. FLTK widgets are written in native 2D code (X11/GDI/etc) for speed, but it is very easy to add OpenGL where necessary. FLTK is good for graphics apps because it understands the special needs of programs where a GUI update is not computationally cheap. (unlike other toolkits, it gives you very detailed control over the event loop if you want it...)

    Although FLTK's default widget appearance looks dated, it resembles the SGI inteface that people have come to associate with high-end graphics programs. (virtually no high-end graphics software uses the native widgets on any platform, perhaps because native widgets tend not to offer the kinds of things you need - like good color pickers, configurable slider bars, etc)

    Just about the only drawback to FLTK is that the API is C++-only, and it's tied strongly into a C++ "one owner" memory management model, which makes it difficult to use from any other language. (however FLTK is simple and well-designed C++, not like the haphazard hodgepodge of classes and poor event systems in many lesser C++ APIs)...
  • by Randolpho (628485) on Tuesday December 24, 2002 @09:17PM (#4955269) Homepage Journal
    No mentions of this combination yet, so I thought I'd drop one. If you want cross-platform compatibility, Java is the best way to go. Java 3d has a really good OGL set up as a Scene Graph API. Mix in AWT or Swing, and you've essentially got yourself an entire cross-platform system already set up.
  • I do _lots_ of development for 30+ platforms and the time spent porting the GUI is at most about 1-2% of the development time.

    DO NOT use a cross platform GUI toolkit, they all end up looking like crap, and pissing users of all the platforms off because the look and feel is all wrong.

    "Oh but that's so much work, all my code is platform specific" you say? Well, guess what, someone tought you do code GUIs the wrong way. When someone hits a button you dont put the code in the button call, you call your do_XYZ() function, and you're done.

    In fact, Windows, OSX, and a few of the UNIX toolkits will even generate all the code for you when you're done drag/droping the GUI elements on screen! All you have to do is put in the function calls, and you're done.

    In fact in the time you've spent working up the post for /. and all the googling, you could have done the port to windows and OSX, giving you 99.5%++ of the _desktop_ systems on the planet. And your OpenGL is already portable except for the openWindow(), but that's not hard.

    OpenGL is not for widgets, that's what the windowing system is for.
    • DO NOT use a cross platform GUI toolkit, they all end up looking like crap, and pissing users of all the platforms off because the look and feel is all wrong.

      LOL.

      You've obviously never used wxWindows. It has the native look and feel of each platform. Period. wxWindows rocks. I highly recommend you go check it out before you comment further on GUI toolkits.

  • Ok, a plug for the Eiffel [eiffel.com] programming language. For cross-platform development of a GUI, you cannot really do better. Without a large development team, you will never get your software working on one system and then ported within a reasonable amount of time. Unless, your GUI development is cross-platform from the start. Eiffel is extremely quick and easy to learn (the goal of Bertrand Meyer is for every Eiffel programmer to be an expert Eiffel programmer). EiffelStudio is available for Solaris, Linux, and Windows. Same code compiles on all platforms. As for OpenGL, there of course exists EiffelOpenGL [sourceforge.net]. If you are concerned about whether there is success with this language, Eiffel is used to develop all sorts of large systems, including CAD/CAM programs. Look into it. The widgets are so simple it's hard to not give it serious consideration.
  • You might wish to check out some of the work at mozdev.org to evaluate Mozilla's potential. Also, the Phoenix project is intriguing for its demonstration of Mozilla customizations.
  • May I humbly suggest you check this app out:

    http://www.equinox3d.com
  • Did you look at Java3d [sun.com]? It is the most cross-platform environment you can think of and it works on top of OpenGL, what makes it faster than you can imagine.

    Furthermore, it has the possibility to use loaders, i.e. a kind of import filters. IIRC, blender is supported as a loader.

  • I recently went through the process of choosing a toolkit. The ones I tried were FLTK, FOX and wxWindows.

    FLTK had what seemed to be a bug in its scrolling - it could have been my code, of course, but I couldn't track it down. They have a mailing list but don't seem to have a helpful community.

    FOX had some major inconsistencies between its documentation and its functionality. Nothing one couldn't figure out ... but I'd prefer a package where I didn't have to lose time on that.

    Finally I settled on wxWindows. So far, it works as advertised. The documentation is quite good.

    I drew the following lessons from my experience

    1 - For a development tool, good documentation is a must. And it has to describe the way the tool is, not the way it was or the way it might be.

    2 - A tool with more users tends to be better debugged than a tool with fewer users. This isn't a general rule (if it were, Microsoft products would be terrific) but within the open-source community I've found it a useful guide.

    3 - Features, OO-purity, etc are much less important than (1) and (2) if you have a task to accomplish and limited time.

    wxWindows is a "fatter" toolkit than I'd consider ideal, but I could get the job done with it. It has an MFC-like "Application Framework" but you don't have to use it if it's not appropriate for you application.

    YMMV. I hope my comments help you.

  • Java3D.. GTK..etc..blablabal.. theyre all JUNK.. if u wanna do it at all then do it properly.. and not be stuck in the sort of jam that wings3d for xample is right now.. www wings.com it's used some really totally garbage ericssons ERLANG language.. and tho it may be easy to port.. and use.. its SLOW AND CRAPPY and WHO in their right minds thinks its OK to having to install 50mb (4000+ files) of Erlang Runtime libraries to use a 800kb application? C++/C ASM.. something like that.. thats what you need!
    • Java3D.. GTK..etc..blablabal.. theyre all JUNK..

      It would be more appropriate to say each of them has their advantages and disadvantages.

      if u wanna do it at all then do it properly.. and not be stuck in the sort of jam that wings3d for xample is right now.. www wings.com it's used some really totally garbage ericssons ERLANG language..

      Erlang is quite cool. However it is a high level language, and thus the programmer has to grasp some advanced concepts before he can reap the benefits.

      and tho it may be easy to port.. and use.. its SLOW AND CRAPPY

      Then improve it. I remember this being the work a few individuals only.

      and WHO in their right minds thinks its OK to having to install 50mb (4000+ files) of Erlang Runtime libraries to use a 800kb application?

      It is possible to create compact stand alone binaries form Erlang code. Besides the virtual machine, there is a native compiler (HIPE) which might improve speed.

      C++/C ASM.. something like that.. thats what you need!

      Each tool has its uses. Manual ASM coding should only be done for a few hot spots which can't be done in C or C++. From Erlangs's perspective, C and C++ are low level languages. :) So one should do the complex stuff as much as possible in Erlang.

      Regards,
      Marc

  • I know you're not reinventing the Blender wheel, but you are reinventing another one - Open Architect 3D, which will be a professional (it's been in full time, paid development for about a year now) open source 3D modeller. I urge you to have a look into it before you get too far into your project as it's been designed very, very well, and it'd be hard to beat something like this as it already has quite a substantial developer list lined up to support it when it's released. http://www.openarchitect3d.org

    The one issue with it is that for the first release it will not be cross platform (because it was basically a lot quicker for the guy to do it Windows-specific than cross platform), but I'm quite sure that will be fixed soon after its release by someone else. Perhaps it's something you could even do as you have been doing this research into cross-platform GUI's. :)

    -Nutter
    • What platforms does it run on and what widget set was used to develop it? The homepage really doesn't show anything...other than a couple of screenshots.

      From the plug in section, it seems to imply that it uses MFC. The Win platform needs another modeler like Gates needs another hole in his head. Hopefully, if it's worth a darn, it will be available of Linux and other Unix PDQ. I'm not holding my breath as it never seems to happen. Go figure....

  • There have been several 3D apps that have come and gone, and right now there are three or so real solid apps that can probably use some help to continue their development:

    Blender is a mature, relatively stable app, albeit with a rather funky inplementation of its UI. Implementation notwithstanding, the UI is based entirely on OpenGL. Blender not only supports the modeling, but has a game creation and runtime facilities built right in.

    K3D is a very innovative modeling app that has just experienced a resurgence of interest on the part of its original developer, and others. I can't remember if the engine and UI have already been separated to a degree that will allow you to develop your own UI with a K3D engine, but you might want to check that out.

    Wingz3d, a modeling app based on Nendo, is very capable, and its current UI is very clean. It's based on erlang, a runtime environment (like java), that seems well-suited to handle a 3D app.
    • > Wingz3d, a modeling app based on Nendo, is very
      > capable, and its current UI is very clean.
      > It's based on erlang, a runtime environment (like
      > java), that seems well-suited to handle a 3D app.

      Comparing Java and Erlang/OTP [erlang.org]?

      Both names are used to reference a programming language, a large library and a run-time system that is based on a virtual machine.

      Java is (depending on your view and mode) either a dumbed down version of C++ or a version of C++ adapted for use with a virtual machine.

      Erlang however is not an imperative language (where you state the control flow explictly) but a functional language (where the focus is on function evaluation) and a concurrent one too (which means the language system makes it easy for you to work with parallel processes on different CPU nodes).

      Both systems come with large libraries. However Erlangs focus is rather concurrency and high availibility while client side Java provides much GUI support.

      It is not unusual to do the high level programming in Erlang while interfacing to Java GUI code or to C++ performance intensive stuff.

      Regards,
      Marc

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