November 24, 2020

GTK: At the Heart of GNOME

At GNOME, we’re celebrating the ways we are building the future of software and community by looking back at our 2020 accomplishments and forward to our 2021 plans. These accomplishments and plans are made possible by the support we recieve from donations and our Friends of GNOME. Learn more about how you can get involved.

GTK is at the heart of the GNOME application and software development kit. GTK is used to create graphical user interfaces (GUIs) for desktop environments, applications, and window managers. Since the GTK 4 development process began in 2016, we have about 250 individual contributors, with more than 100 active this year.

Thanks to the funding received by the GNOME Foundation in 2020, the GTK development team was able to run hackfests, including one we were lucky enough to have at FOSDEM. This funding also supported Emmanuele Bassi, Core GTK Developer at the GNOME Foundation, working on GTK full-time. For most of 2020, Emmanuele worked on implementing a new accessibility interface for GTK 4, to ensure that more people can use GNOME applications, including those with disabilities. We are building a diverse and sustainable free software computing ecosystem where everyone can be empowered by technology they trust. Since Emmanuele works directly for the Foundation he’s uniquely able to focus on the needs of the community, project, and users to support these goals.

GTK is a project with a long history, and throughout that history, it has gone through multiple iterations. A new major release is on the horizon. After four years of development that included a complete overhaul of the internals of the toolkit, GTK 4 promises to be faster through hardware acceleration; more efficient, in terms of performance and power consumption; and more ergonomic, for both application developers, and end users. Over the past four years, the GTK team has continued work on the existing stable versions of GTK and put out multiple releases.

In 2021, the GTK team plans to improve the project with features that have been long requested, such as:

  • an animation framework for application developers
  • accessibility support on non-Linux platforms, such as Windows and macOS
  • a new UI design tool, integrated with GNOME Builder
  • improved portability
  • simpler installation and out-of-the-box developer experience
  • better documentation

Even after more than 20 years, GTK is still a project run by volunteers, without any single corporation determining its direction; nevertheless, many companies have adopted it as part of their platforms and products, and contribute employees time to its development. Another thing that makes GTK special is that it does not require a Contributor License Agreement, meaning everyone who works on it keeps rights and ownership over their contributions. Your support and donations allow GTK to continue being run by volunteers.

GTK is made by the people who use and care about it and its development reflects the needs of its users. We’re excited about the role we play in the making of GTK and are looking forward to the upcoming release of GTK 4 and another year of GTK development.