Those who follow the wxHaskell developer or users lists will know that over the last few months there has been a flurry of activity on wxHaskell, spurred on by Dave Tapley. I wanted to summarise what has been happening, and what stands in the way of a release supporting wxWidgets 2.9
<blatent-plug>Dave is working on wxHaskell with the agreement of his employer, Mentics Inc. I encourage any readers who have the opportunity to place business in Mentics’ direction to do so in appreciation of this generous donation of time and talent to the Haskell community.</blatent-plug>
Why wxWidgets 2.9?
Most Linux distributions currently supply wxWidgets 2.8.x libraries from their packaging systems, and Windows has the pre-built and readily installable wxPack containing wxWidgets 2.8.12, so why are we moving to an unstable release of wxWidgets?
There are many reasons, but two stand out in particular:
- It is the future. wxWidgets 3.0 will be released from the 2.9 line, and provides major improvements. These include:
- Much improved Unicode support.
- Lots of new controls: ribbon bars, wxPropertyGrid, wxWebView, wxTreeListCtrl, wxRichToolTip, wxRichMessageDialog. Together, these simplify the creation of GUIs with a ‘modern’ look and feel.
- The stc library (used by StyledTextControl) is now part of the main library build (as is SVG, which I would like to wrap for wxHaskell in the near future).
- Support for 64bit OS X builds, which we have been unable to support on wxHaskell due to underlying lack of support in wxWidgets.
- We need to clean up some legacy ‘cruft’ in the code. Daan originally wrote wxHaskell for wxWidgets 2.4.x, and things have moved forward a long way since then. This is an opportunity to remove deprecated functions and offer cleaner APIs.
What is changing?
The changes listed exist today in Dave’s development repository at DarcsDen, and will be mainlined in our master repository at code.haskell.org starting the coming weekend.
- Newly wrapped classes
- PropertyGrid, related helper types and sample code (Dave Tapley)
- ListView (Dave Tapley)
- Reinstated features
- StyledTextCtrl (Dave Tapley)
- OpenGL (Me)
- Ability to use wxHaskell in GHCi (Dave Tapley)
- Build system improvements
- Some old Eiffel legacy code in the build system has been removed. Everything is now either C++ or Haskell (Eric Kow).
- The C wrapper for wxWidgets has been moved into a separate project, wxC and built as a shared library (Dave Tapley).
- Work to support OS X Lion (Eric and Alessandro Vermulen).
- A Haskell native implementation of wx-config for use on Windows platforms. We are not sure if we will use this as yet – it is experimental (Eric).
- Bugfixes and ‘build experience’ contributions from all of the above and several others , including Shelarcy, Maciek Makowski, Henning Thielemann, Peter Simons.
What is left to do before there is a release to Hackage?
Quite a bit!
The code in Dave’s repo is reasonably well tested on Linux (Ubuntu), but has currently received insufficient love on Windows or Mac. We will need it to work reliably on all three platforms before it can be released.
I think that the main blocker right now is probably determining the correct configuration for a Windows build. We have a couple of options here. We could develop Eric’s Haskell wx-config replacement so that it has been tested for a good subset of all possible wxWidgets build configurations, or we could fix wx-config-win to the same end. This has raised some philosophical questions on ‘Open Source and community’ which I am thinking of blogging on separately.
Most of all, when we have candidate builds ready, I hope that wxHaskell users will help out by trying to install the new version on as many machines as possible, so that we can be sure that we have everything working.