Chrome for Linux To Use GTK

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 15, 2009

Via OSNews comes word that the developers bringing Chrome to Linux have opted to use GTK over Qt as the browser's framework.

The development team's decision wasn't an easy one. The questions they addressed about Chrome's appearance and behavior, what end-users need and expect, and how to make it work smoothly on the Linux desktop are highly subjective, and in some cases, emotionally charged. The FAQ on the Chromium developer's site states that while both toolkits are capable of doing the job (WebKit handles most rendering with the exception of some form controls and dialogs), the team opted for GTK due to their level of familiarity with it.

One of the true beauties of open source development is its transparency. The public discussion on the Chromium-dev list nicely illustrates the challenges faced in developing any piece of software. The thread dealing with Chrome's UI (supported by an internal library called "Views") and the idiosyncracies of how (and if) it should be used in the Linux version is interesting reading -- even for the non-developer.

The Chrome team has a unique challenge in developing for Linux. Windows and Mac platforms each have their generalized look and approach to desktop handling, and perhaps to a lesser extent, they each have certain sets of tasks they typically perform. Linux has a number of desktop environments and window managers, and users of all walks of life who are as apt to deploy the graphical server at boot as they are to work in a terminal until a graphical application is needed. The problem the developers face is that there isn't one true native toolkit in Linux. Fluxbox looks and behaves very differently than KDE, and getting Chrome to run so that it feels "natural" on any desktop, yet still feels like Chrome, is going to be the trick.

It seems as though the Chrome team realizes that balancing a "native to the desktop" feel with the look and functionality that makes Chrome what it is will be a difficult task, and one that won't make everyone completely happy. Of course, another beauty of open source software is the ability to change it to suit your needs. If a GTK based Chrome is unpalatable for some, will a Qt version be far behind?

Google hopes to release both the Linux and Mac versions of Chrome sometime in June.