Qt Developer Days: New Qt IDE Called Greenhouse

Oct 15, 2008

Today at the Qt Developer Days, Matthias Ettrich of Qt Software, formerly Trolltech, announced a new development environment for Qt Software called Greenhouse. The Qt Developer Days are being held in Munich from October 14 through 15.

The alpha version of the Qt IDE should appear in a few weeks, having ripened over the last three or so years in the Trolltech labs in Oslo and Berlin. In his keynote at the conference, Matthias Ettrich, R&D head at QT Software in Germany, explains, "We might see a chance for emacs and vi users to see beyond the edges of their noses," meaning that the development environment is more like an editor to make purists feel more at home. The Qt idea wizards enhanced the editor interface with selected features and the entire package with debugger, compiler and, naturally, Qt.

The IDE is based on a window concept whereby the developer can mask out any undesirable view. He can also set the editor window as full screen. The purist design criteria was clearly a factor in the visual effects and functions. The editing window easily opens up the help documentation in a separate, neighboring frame marked with the class name. Text just edited is marked with red change bars that change to green when the changes are saved. Syntax errors are underlined in red and a mouseover shows the possible error sources.

In an interview with Linux Magazine Online, Greenhouse developers Thomas Strehl and Eike Ziller especially lauded the application's search function. Strehl is one of the two idea generators for the development environment. A search field that would, for example, be in the upper right corner of the Thunderbird mail client application, serves as a "quickopener" to bring code building blocks into the current project or offers access to concurrently opened data. Even in the code text itself, the Quickfinder can jump to specific text strings and show the line numbers as in vi. The IDE can be keyboard driven so that you define your own shortcuts: a tribute to keyboard control fans.

"We want to make the development environment as clear and simple as possible," says Thomas Strehl in the interview. The IDE should not in any way compete with environments such as Eclipse, and Greenhouse addresses certain Eclipse liabilities such as a five-minute load time or the complicated and unintuitive framework that often scares away users. Greenhouse rather is not as overladen and should simply be an editor "whose feature is that it has no features," as Eike Ziller points out. The Qt IDE should also not try to hide anything from developers, such as executing buildsteps without clarifying how to change them. The business model behind QT Greenhouse is the idea of a small, slim text editor under the developer's complete control.

The Greenhouse concept was born three years ago on a "creative Friday," as Thomas Strehl says, explaining that at Qt Software (at that time Trolltech) workers had a four-day work week, with Fridays reserved for new ideas and projects. It took three years of these creative Fridays to make the project a reality. In a few weeks the alpha version should be ready for downloading.

The Qt Greenhouse IDE runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows. If it is to become open source is yet to be determined, but developers indicate that it will likely come under GPL licensing. The Greenhouse webpage will have the latest news along with questions and discussions.

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