What's New in Qt 5.1: The Qt Quick Controls

Jeff Tranter

Jeff Tranter is a Qt Consulting Manager at ICS. Jeff oversees the architectural and high-level design of software systems for clients. Jeff’s leadership organizes global teams of developers on desktop and embedded applications.

By Jeff Tranter | Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Qt Quick and the QML language are ideal for developing touch screen user interfaces. However, the standard QML visual elements are quite low level, offering building blocks like rectangles, for example. For mobile and embedded applications you often have to build up your own components even for things as simple as a push button. This can mean reinventing the wheel on each project. Nokia developed the Qt Quick Components for Harmattan and MeeGo but these platforms are no longer being supported by Nokia. For desktop it is even more challenging as there are no QML elements corresponding to the desktop widgets.

The Qt 5.1 release contains a new module known as the Qt Quick Controls. These provide a set of reusable UI components similar to Qt's widgets that can be used from QML. This long awaited module makes it much easier to develop desktop type applications using QML, something that was hard to do using just the low level QML items provided up to now. Some of the advantages of the Qt Quick Components include:

  1. Using QML is now a viable option for desktop applications.
  2. You no longer need to develop your own high level QML components, like push buttons, from primitive QML items.
  3. You can easily mix the desktop components with the existing QML components, something that is harder to do with widgets.
  4. Your applications can now use standardized components with the possibility in the future of developing for both desktop and mobile/embedded platforms using the same source code.

In Qt 5.1 the controls target desktop platforms. Later releases (i.e. Qt 5.2) will include more features that will be useful on touch devices, possibly including theming support for other platforms such as Android, iOS and Tizen to make the components look like native widgets there.

Supported Controls

The provided components include those used to describe the basic window properties of an application, for supporting navigation and views and controls that are in most cases analogous to Qt's desktop widgets. The following table lists the available components.

Name Description
Action An abstract user interface action that can be bound to items
ApplicationWindow A top-level application window
Button A push button with a text label
CheckBox A checkbox with a text label
ColumnLayout Dynamically arrange items in a column
ComboBox A combined button and popup or drop-down list
ExclusiveGroup Provides a way to declare several checkable controls as mutually exclusive
GridLayout Dynamically arrange items in a grid
GroupBox Provides a group box frame with a title
Label A text label
Layout Provides attached properties for items pushed onto a GridLayout, RowLayout or ColumnLayout.
Menu Provides a menu component for use in menu bars, as context menu, and other popup menus
MenuBar Provides a horizontal menu bar
MenuItem Provides an item to add in a menu or a menu bar
MenuSeparator Provides a separator for items inside a menu
ProgressBar A progress indicator
RadioButton A radio button with a text label
RowLayout Dynamically arrange items in a row
ScrollView Provides a scrolling view onto another Item
Slider Provides a vertical or horizontal slider control
SpinBox Provides a spin box control
SplitView A component that lays out items horizontally or vertically with a draggable splitter between each item
Stack Provides attached properties for items pushed onto a StackView
StackView Provides a stack-based navigation model
StackViewDelegate A delegate used by StackView for loading transitions
StatusBar Contains status information in your app
Tab Represents the content of a tab in a TabView
TabView A control that allows the user to select one of multiple stacked items
TableView Provides a list view with scroll bars, styling and header sections
TableViewColumn Used to define columns in a TableView
TextArea Displays multiple lines of editable formatted text
TextField Displays a single line of editable plain text
ToolBar Contains ToolButton and related controls
ToolButton Provides a button type that is typically used within a ToolBar

There are also some controls that are still marked as experimental: a Dialog component and a Dial widget.

Basic Usage

To use the new controls you need to import QtQuickControls 1.0. These are part of the latest version of Qt Quick so you also need to import QtQuick 2.1.

The controls typically provide properties and signals. For example, the Button control supports about a dozen unique properties such as text and/or an icon, tool tip string, text color and the ability to be checkable. It emits the clicked() signal when clicked on.

The following simple example displays a window containing an OK button which will cause the application to exit when you click it:

import QtQuick 2.1
import QtQuick.Controls 1.0

Item {
    Button {
       text: "OK"
       anchors.centerIn: parent
       onClicked: Qt.quit()

Running this under the "qmlscene" program produces the output shown below:

There are also some new layout components: GridLayout, RowLayout and ColumnLayout. These provide a way to dynamically arrange components based on properties such as minimumWidth, preferredWidth and maximumWidth and are analogous to Qt's widget-based layout managers like QGridLayout. To use these components you need to import QtQuick.Layouts 1.0.

Below is a simple prototype I wrote of a QML GUI that uses some of the layouts as well as controls.

More Examples

The source code includes about a dozen Qt Quick Controls examples including a gallery of the available components and a template that can be used for desktop applications. A screen shot for the gallery example is shown below:

Below is a screen shot of the sample application template. The application is implemented with only about 40 lines of QML code.


The new Qt Quick Controls in Qt 5.1 offer widget-like QML components, something many Qt developers have been waiting to be included in Qt for some time.

There is a facility for styling the controls. See the documentation for the ButtonStyle component for an example of how to do this. The other style components are CheckBoxStyle, ComboBoxStyle, ProgressBarStyle, RadioButtonStyle, ScrollViewStyle, SliderStyle, TabViewStyle, TableViewStyle and TextFieldStyle.

Note that the above information was based on the Qt 5.1 beta release and is subject to change before Qt 5.1 final. As of the Qt 5.1 beta the API documentation is there but not all of the overview and examples sections are written yet.

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