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Widgets Tutorial


Widgets are the basic building blocks of graphical user interface (GUI) applications made with Qt. Each GUI component, such as a button, label or text editor, is a widget and can be placed within an existing user interface or displayed as an independent window. Each type of component is provided by a particular subclass of QWidget, which is itself a subclass of QObject.

QWidget is not an abstract class; it can be used as a container for other widgets, and can be subclassed with minimal effort to create custom widgets. It is most often used to create windows in which other widgets are placed.

As with QObjects, widgets can be created with parent objects to indicate ownership, ensuring that objects are deleted when they are no longer used. With widgets, these parent-child relationships have an additional meaning: each child is displayed within the screen area occupied by its parent. This means that, when a window is deleted, all the widgets it contains are automatically deleted.

Writing a main Function

Many of the GUI examples in Qt follow the pattern of having a main.cpp file containing code to initialize the application, and a number of other source and header files containing the application logic and custom GUI components.

A typical main() function, written in main.cpp, looks like this:

 #include <QtGui>

 // Include header files for application components.
 // ...

 int main(int argc, char *argv[])
     QApplication app(argc, argv);

     // Set up and show widgets.
     // ...

     return app.exec();

We first construct a QApplication object which is configured using any arguments passed in from the command line. After any widgets have been created and shown, we call QApplication::exec() to start Qt's event loop. Control passes to Qt until this function returns, at which point we return the value we obtain from this function.

In each part of this tutorial, we provide an example that is written entirely within a main() function. In more sophisticated examples, the code to set up widgets and layouts is written in other parts of the example. For example, the GUI for a main window may be set up in the constructor of a QMainWindow subclass.

The Widgets examples are a good place to look for more complex and complete examples and applications.

Building Examples and Tutorials

If you obtained a binary package of Qt or compiled it yourself, the examples described in this tutorial should already be ready to run. However, if you may wish to modify them and recompile them, you need to perform the following steps:

  1. At the command line, enter the directory containing the example you wish to recompile.
  2. Type qmake and press Return. If this doesn't work, make sure that the executable is on your path, or enter its full location.
  3. On Linux/Unix and Mac OS X, type make and press Return; on Windows with Visual Studio, type nmake and press Return.

An executable file should have been created within the current directory. On Windows, this file may be located within a debug or release subdirectory. You can run this file to see the example code at work.

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Qt 4.6.3