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Qt, Qtopia to gain lightweight HTML rendering engine

Oct 3, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

[Updated Oct. 6] — Trolltech will integrate the Webkit html rendering engine into forthcoming versions of its development frameworks for desktop and embedded applications. The lightweight engine — already used in Apple's iPhone and Nokia S60 phones — could help Qt and Qtopia users more easily web-enable a variety of applications and mobile devices.

In a keynote address today in Santa Clara, co-CEO Haavard Nord told Trolltech Developer Day conference attendees that Webkit integration will arrive with the release of Qt 4.4 early next year. Qt is Trolltech's desktop application development framework, aimed at enabling developers to build native look-and-feel binaries for multiple OSes from a single codebase. It is used in many high-profile projects and commercial products, including Skype and the Opera browser.

Naren Karattup, product director at Trolltech, told LinuxDevices that once Webkit has been integrated with Qtopia 4.4, “likely in late March, or early April,” support will arrive by default in Qtopia Core, the embedded version of Qt. “It uses the same APIs,” he explained.

Karattup said that Webkit integration with Qt and the embedded Qtopia products will allow application developers to more easily build web-enabled applications, as well as to build applications that have user interfaces based on Web standards. He explained, “We're opening up the Qt API to a new class of programmers — HTML or Web programmers, who program in HTML or Javascript or even using multimedia development tools from Macromedia.”

Karattup noted, however, that Trolltech has “not yet determined the level of integration,” presumably meaning that future versions of Qtopia could include some kind of browser abstraction layer to allow users to choose between Webkit and other available browser engines, like Gecko/Mozilla. Nokia's Maemo project recently implemented such an abstraction layer as part of its N800 Firefox port.

What is Webkit?

Webkit is an HTML rendering engine best known for its use in Apple software, including the Safari browser, Dashboard, Mail, and other applications integral to the Mac OS X desktop computing environment. Webkit also powers the browser and other applications on Apple's iPhone. Nokia, meanwhile, has used Webkit in its flagship Symbian S60 smartphones since 2005. Another high-profile Webkit user is Adobe, which bases its AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) web development suite on the open source rendering engine.

Webkit originally forked from the KHTML rendering engine used in the KDE project's Konqueror browser, but today supports “Web 2.0” features such as asynchronous Javascript (AJAX) better than KHTML. Compared to Gecko, the rendering engine used in Firefox and many GNOME applications, Webkit has a reputation for having a smaller footprint — the current “nightly build” Webkit download weighs in at just over 6MB for Mac and Linux, and about 10MB for Windows. The first complete open source browser based on Webkit, Pleyo's Origyn, launched last month.

In other browser news, Nokia recently added a Gecko-based browser to its Linux web tablet OS. At the same time, the Maemo Linux stack gained a browser abstraction layer that could enable it to easily adopt other embedded browsers in the future.

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