Graphical Toolkits for Linux Programs

A brief look at several popular toolkits available for Linux.
Motif, the Standard

Motif has been the standard graphical toolkit for years on UNIX and other platforms. It is a commercial standard and has its own look. Motif is the base for the popular CDE desktop environment, also a standard on many commercial UNIX systems.

On Linux and other open systems, developers have made a free Motif clone called LessTif. LessTif is source compatible with Motif and available under the L-GPL. Motif and LessTif offer cross-platform compatibility among UNIX systems. While Motif code will not work on most non-UNIX systems, many commercial UNIX systems come with Motif libraries. Also, Motif has the advantage of having passed the test of time.

LessTif is available from LessTif documentation is available from

While I have not covered all existing toolkits, I have briefly covered the most popular ones. Most programmers are concerned about two things: graphical look and portability. GTK and QT are probably used the most in the Linux world, mainly because of the GNOME and KDE desktop environments. Users want a desktop that will provide all utilities using the same graphical look. I use both GTK and GraphApp, but this is a personal choice which every programmer must make for himself.

The GNOME web page is at The KDE web page is at

Patrick Lambert is currently a student in Computer Science at the University of Montréal. He has been using various UNIX and Linux systems for 5 years, doing software development and systems administration. He can be reached at


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