4 min read

Comparing the top embedded GUI solutions

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To achieve the best user experience and platform performance, look for the designer-developer workflow system, supported hardware and OS targets, and unique features that enhance the development and testing processes.

Are you a developer or designer looking for an embedded GUI solution that supports high performance and high-quality user experience (UX)? From trying to get the applications to run on different hardware, to working with designers that don’t understand code, to maintenance issues and time constraints, there are many aspects to consider with embedded GUI platforms today.

There are answers to these limitations through specialized embedded GUI solutions and frameworks that create a more user-friendly experience for developers and designers alike. The top two embedded GUI frameworks on the market – Crank Storyboard and Qt – are designed to solve some of the problems mentioned above but have very different functionalities and purposes. So, let’s dive deeper into what you should be looking for when deciding between one solution over the other and how these embedded GUI solutions compare.

What to look for in an embedded GUI solution

When it comes to deciding on what embedded GUI solution is best for your company, you’ll want to look specifically at the workflow system and whether a designer can easily collaborate with the developer to ensure no compromises in user experience or trade-offs in application performance. If your clients use a range of operating systems, hardware, and platform types, you’ll also want to ensure that the solution can port the application to other systems without significant rework or asset changes — including scaling to support screens of different sizes.

When reviewing each embedded GUI solution, ask yourself the following questions before deciding if it’s the right fit for you:

  • Will the embedded GUI application run on the operating system and hardware you are using?
  • Will it run on other platform types including resource-constrained microcontrollers?
  • Is the GUI framework extensible to support your own functions, libraries, and legacy code?
  • Can you easily import design files from applications like Adobe and Sketch without having to do any extra asset manipulation or coding?
  • Can a designer easily add animations and change elements without sending details to the developer to code them in?
  • Are the functions and workflows similar to applications that the designer is familiar with?
  • Is the application runtime (if available) optimized for CPU and GPU efficiency, and minimize power consumption?

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How do the top GUI solutions compare?

Qt has been an industry leader for over two decades and has solidly built a reputation around offering a faster and more intuitive user experience and responsive interface. That is until Crank Storyboard was released, offering a more simplified process for UX designers and developers to recreate the smartphone experience on cost-effective devices that customers expect today. Let’s take a look at why so many companies are switching to Crank Storyboard and how the platform stands out from the rest.

Storyboard vs. Qt

Crank Storyboard allows you to import design files directly from Sketch and Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, creating a more streamlined workflow for designers. This prevents issues when converting from design to code. With Storyboard, the visuals will look exactly the same as the design file when imported into the software, saving designers a lot of time and frustration.

Crank Storyboard uses an animation timeline that is similar to video editing applications. You can drag, drop, change the state of objects in a visual editor for playback. This provides better control and makes the entire process easier for adding animations and testing.

You also get a clean separation between the user interface layer and the backend, creating two self-contained components, allowing a designer and developer to work on an application at the same time to build, test, and optimize the app.

Another area where Storyboard shines is in speed and memory consumption. The runtime GUI application uses the least amount of resources to reduce memory consumption and maximize power efficiency. It also takes far less time to build an app on Storyboard because the original design assets and behavior are preserved, requiring less tweaking on the part of the developer.

With Qt, animations are still defined in code. It has pre-packaged UI elements and requires C++ code knowledge to operate. Even when simply testing the changes, it is done in code. This can take time and requires a developer’s expertise, leaving a designer in the developers’ hands to make changes and add new animations.

Qt also uses a lot of memory because it pulls in numerous framework libraries, causing it to struggle on low-end MCUs. This large library can also be a major pitfall if you plan to move the app to another platform and use it on different hardware, requiring major efforts to port code and scale assets.

When comparing Storyboard to Qt, you can quickly see why Storyboard is the technology of choice — here’s a more detailed look at the differences between the two frameworks.

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