Reviewed: Linux isn't short of a few integrated development environments, but if your chosen development arena happens to be Qt, and/or KDE, the only viable option for the last eleven years has been KDevelop. KDevelop is a powerful application that supports many more languages than just C++, but the bewildering array of icons, panels, tabs, menus and windows are likely to scare beginners back to Blitz Basic.
There's a new version of KDevelop on the horizon, but Nokia has beaten them to the punch with Qt Creator, which comes included in the latest release of Qt 4.5 - that's the one with the LGPL licence.
Qt Creator: nothing if not pretty.
In the beginning
Qt Creator has been designed to offer the programmer a smooth, integrated and powerful development environment. For the first time with Qt, you can create the GUI, write the code and debug your project from within the same application.
The killer feature is the embedded version of Qt Designer. Its inclusion means you can drag Qt widgets into the blank canvas of your application and switch to the source code immediately. To create a simple web browser, for instance, just drop the WebKit widget into your application, switch to the main window's source file and add the functionality you need.
As you would expect, Qt Creator comes with Qt Designer embedded and ready for action.
You don't have to worry about precompilers or adding the user-interface to the Makefile - Qt Creator does that for you. Just click on the large Play button to compile your code and run the app.
But it's the source code editor where you'll spend most of your time, and Qt Creator offers one of the nicest we've used. It looks and feels very similar to KDE's Kate, and includes syntax highlighting, function and bracket folding and code completion.
Qt Creator's ability to get inside your code and link to documentation is superb.
While you're typing, any obvious errors are highlighted in exactly the same way that spelling errors are highlighted in OpenOffice.org, and compilation errors switch you to the problematic chunk of code. This all happens instantly, and the whole application is snappy and responsive to use.
The search function has taken a hint from Firefox, helpfully highlighting every occurrence in the document. Unfortunately the Replace field to the right of Search is the closest Qt Creator gets to offering any kind of refactoring - this feature has been promised, but this is one area where the latest KDevelop alphas beat Qt Creator hands down.
There are plenty of small usability features. Hold the cursor over a section of folded code and a pop-up window displays its contents. All the methods in the current file are listed in the location bar above the editor, and you can quickly switch between a methods declaration in the header file and its definition in the .cpp file by pressing Shift+F2. Debugging is equally smooth, and Qt Creator makes better sense of the Qt API than gdb alone.
Set breakpoints then pause execution whenever you need to - Qt Creator brings everything together under one app.
Another aspect to this release that we really like is a side-effect of Qt's cross-platform compatibility. Simply 'make clean' a project, move it to either OS X or Windows, open it in a local Qt Creator and the app will compile. This cross-platform ability brings out the best in Qt, and the best in Qt Creator. It's an IDE that fits Qt development in a way way that only Qt developers could envisage, and we like it.
Verdict: Finally, Qt developers have an IDE that knows how to work with Qt without any further messing about. 9/10
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