The GTK development team has just announced GTK 4.0; The latest stable version of the popular graphical user interfaces development toolkit. After 4 years of continuous work, the GTK 4.0 series brings tremendous changes over the GTK 3.X branch.
You can read more about these changes in details from the official GTK blog post, which we’ll not copy here since you’d need to see the detailed videos and screenshots by yourself.
However, there are some interesting remarks about GTK 4.0
Some API Stability At Last
GTK 4.0 is marked as API-stable; Meaning that if you were a software developer and you wanted to build a UI for your program using GTK 4.0, then you don’t need to be afraid of API-breaking changes in GTK 4.2, 4.4 or 4.6, as they will not exist at all.
The GTK development team is committed into making the API stable and backward compatible for all the minor versions in the stable 4.X branch:
Which means that as a software developer, you can start porting your GTK 3 application into GTK 4.0 right now.
GTK 4.2 and 4.4 may add some new features, but they will never screw up your software, as the developers promise.
Each major GTK version (E.g 5.X or 6.X) are expected to be released after 2-3 years.
Feels Bad For The Latest Arrivals
Xfce 4.14 took 4 and half years to port from GTK 2 to GTK 3, and barely finished around just one year ago.
It feels bad for these projects which now find their selves in need of porting to GTK 4.0, to enjoy its new features.
Of course, none of these projects have to start immediately porting to GTK 4.0. But GTK 5.0 should be released in around 2-3 years according to the current plans announced by the GTK team, and hence these projects should definitely speed up or they will miss GTK 4.X as well.
GIMP started working initially on the GTK 3 port in 2012, and didn’t finish until 2020. How many years will it take it to port to GTK 4? One can wonder.
These large projects seem to take more than 3 years to completely finish their ports, which means that in the future, they might need to skip some GTK releases in order to not keep repeating the porting process each few years.
It is for this reason, Blender, one of the most successful open source projects in history, chose to build its own UI toolkit and made it under its control rather than depending on another party to build it. (It is a custom UI built on OpenGL).
But should GIMP and Xfce and similar projects do the same? Only time will tell.
For now, you can download GTK 4.0 from its official website, or expect its arrival soon in your distribution’s official repositories.