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Clutter: Breathing Life into User Interfaces

Emerging Topics
Location: D136 Level: Novice
Average rating: ****.
(4.71, 7 ratings)

The Free Software stack, with its unrivalled flexibility, is quickly becoming the platform of choice for mobile consumer devices. This exciting trend comes with new challenges, including demand for more functional and interesting user interfaces: the days of rectangular menus, lines of text, and endless number of presses to navigate through them are well an truly gone. The users of today demand sleek, fast and visually rich interfaces with 3D effects and animations, and new, intuitive, touch-screen paradigms. Clutter is an OpenGL(ES)-based and LGPL-licensed toolkit from OpenedHand that meets this challenge head on.

The advanced graphical capabilities of contemporary hardware are typically exposed through the OpenGL API, but trying to meet the UI challenge using it directly is not easy: OpenGL’s power is balanced by its complexity and steep learning curve. By doing away with this complexity Clutter allows the application designer to concentrate on the UI: it offers a simple, object-oriented API, tailored toward manipulating 2D objects in 3D space and time. The out-of-the-box (yet easily extendible) functionality facilitates working with images and videos, fully internationalised text, frame-driven animations, common transformations such as scaling and rotation, movement along programmatically defined paths, and, of course, input event handling.

Although created with embedded hardware in view, Clutter is not intended merely for the mobile market. Its portable design (with backends for GLX, GLES, OSX and SDL), combined with bindings for every-growing number of programming languages (including Perl, Python and C#), makes Clutter the perfect choice for multimedia desktop applications, and facilitates the mobile developer with easy prototyping on a platform of her choice.

By providing an introduction to Clutter (explaining briefly the basic features of its design and the philosophy behind its API), and by demonstrating its capabilities and practical use on a number of simple and more complex applications, this talk will answer the question that many have asked: How do we implement iPhone-like user interfaces using Free Software?

Photo of Tomas Frydrych

Tomas Frydrych

Openedhand Ltd

Educated at VUT, Brno (MSc, 1992), Regent College, Vancouver (MCS, 1996) and University of Edinburgh (PhD, 2000), Tomas’ involvement with Free Software began in early 2000 with contributions to the AbiWord project. At present he is employed by OpenedHand, crafting software for embedded hardware, such as the Nokia Internet tablets and the Vernier LabQuest device. Most recently, he has been involved in work on the next generation of the Matchbox Window Manager and the Clutter toolkit.

Paul Cooper


Paul Cooper has worked as a developer and advocate for open source software for over 10 years. Currently he is working for Intel on Moblin, a open source project focused on building a Linux-based platform optimized for the next generation of mobile devices.

Prior to their acqusition by Intel, Paul was the Business Development Manager at OpenedHand, specialists at building amazing devices with open source software. Before joining OpenedHand Paul was the Assistant Director of OpenAdvantage which he and former colleague Scott Thompson founded in 2003 at the University of Central England (now Birmingham City University). OpenAdvantage was the first and only independently-funded vendor-neutral Open Source solutions centre in the UK. Previously he has worked as a web developer, programmer, database administrator, systems adminstrator, IT gofer, administration assistant, bouncer, box maker, sports coach, bicycle mechanic, musician, and paper boy.

OSCON 2008