Sparkling gems and new releases from the world of Free and Open Source Software

Qt Creator 7

Qt Creator is an integrated development environment for building Qt-based applications that also happens to be great at building all kinds of other applications and projects too. It started life in 2007 as a side project called Greenhouse and was worked on by a few developers at Trolltech just before it was acquired by Nokia. Back then, there were few open source IDEs that could compete with Microsoft's Visual Studio, especially for C++-based languages or for projects using CMake to maintain the build environment. KDevelop had come close but was on hiatus while the project reinvented itself. This made QT Creator genuinely revolutionary when it did arrive because it was one of the first open source IDEs to include code completion, object abstraction, and an open back end for other languages and frameworks.

This latest release of Qt Creator finds itself in a new era with a new set of challenges. Qt has itself undergone several significant management and licensing changes, with the project now being owned and run by the Qt Project as its official body. The licensing changes mean binaries can only be downloaded with an account, and LTS releases are only available to commercial licensees. This isn't against the terms of its open source license, but it's not in the spirit of open source. Fortunately, Linux distributions get around this by building their own binaries and maintaining their own patches, but it's still awkward. And of course, Qt Creator is now no longer the only IDE. Microsoft's Visual Studio Code, in particular, has done a brilliant job capturing developer attention, from Arduino programmers and JavaScript tinkerers all the way to collaborative online coding with colleagues and project management, ironically (for Microsoft), without any open source code license ambiguity or requiring logins to download binaries.

Qt Creator, however, continues to improve, and version 7 is a big update. For Qt and QML application development, it remains unparalleled, and there are still many good reasons for using Qt. It's obviously the base for KDE Plasma development, and it offers an incredible breadth of libraries for accessing hardware, MQTT, NFC, PDF rendering, accelerated graphics, and all kinds of string, number, and time manipulation. There are hundreds of GUI elements that can be incorporated dynamically into your application with the Designer tool, and it's all genuinely cross-platform, marshaled by Qt Creator to build native-looking applications for macOS, Windows, and Linux (and Android) from the same codebase. Qt Creator helps you do all this by integrating help, example projects, and dynamic links to Qt's extensive API reference from the main editors.

This new release is also an important nod to the future. The most important change is that clangd is now the default back end for all C-language based processing, including code completion and highlighting. This replaces the archaic library back end which was slow and CPU intensive. CMake will also default to using C++17, and there's even support for Wayland on Linux, although you'll probably have to manually enable it first. Android app builds have been improved, as has Qt Quick for rapid application development, but the fundamental layout and process haven't changed. If you've been tempted by Virtual Studio Code recently but still work within the C++ programming domain, regardless of whether that's with Qt or not, Qt Creator is definitely worth a revisit.

Project Website

Qt Creator hasn't changed a great amount since the early versions, but its syntax highlighting, integrated help, and code completion functions are still almost unequalled on Linux.
One of Qt Creator's best functions is to make and manage CMake files, in addition to auto-detecting toolchains for old projects you import.

Space trading, exploration, and adventure.

Vega Strike

The original version of Elite for home computers in the 1980s spawned several inferior clones. This was because no one had considered creating a game within a sandbox before, where you could choose whether to fight or trade, or simply lose yourself in the infinity of space. And it's been a similar story over the past 10 years, where Elite's modern sequel, Elite Dangerous, has dominated over the clones in the same way. But Elite Dangerous never officially ran on Linux, and recent updates have been disappointing. Leaving the community again looking for clones that could this time perhaps eclipse their inspiration. Vega Strike isn't quite that, but it's open source, runs on Linux, and gets close. The gameplay is similar to Elite where you fly your ship either into combat, adventure, or on trading missions, into beautiful space environments or against huge space stations and other shops. But most importantly, it's still being developed.

Vega Strike has been in development for 20 years and recently enjoyed a significant update with its 0.8.0 release. A lot of the work for this release has been to make Python 3 the default for the official build and to update the game engine to versioned APIs, which should make it easier for the game engine to be used with other games. The API is already being put into action with a split between the game engine and a story-mode package called Vega Strike: Upon the Coldest Sea, which features a fully dynamic universe that advances independent of the player's actions, much like Elite Dangerous. The core game now also features high-resolution background images and textures, and while graphics might still be considered austere, they don't affect the gameplay and have a charm of their own. This also means you can play Vega Strike on almost any hardware, including a Raspberry Pi, and it's definitely worth both the effort and the support for the future.

Project Website

Vega Strike freely runs on Linux, as well as Windows and even Android, if you want some portable deep-level distraction.

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