wxWidgets was developed to provide a cheap and flexible way to maximize investment in GUI application development. While a number of commercial class libraries already existed for cross-platform development, none met all of the following criteria:
Since wxWidgets was started, several other free or almost-free GUI frameworks have emerged. However, none has the range of features, flexibility, documentation and the well-established development team that wxWidgets has.
As open source software, wxWidgets has benefited from comments, ideas, bug fixes, enhancements and the sheer enthusiasm of users. This gives wxWidgets a certain advantage over its commercial competitors (and over free libraries without an independent development team), plus a robustness against the transience of one individual or company. This openness and availability of source code is especially important when the future of thousands of lines of application code may depend upon the longevity of the underlying class library.
Version 2 goes much further than previous versions in terms of generality and features, allowing applications to be produced that are often indistinguishable from those produced using single-platform toolkits such as Motif, GTK+ and MFC.
The importance of using a platform-independent class library cannot be overstated, since GUI application development is very time-consuming, and sustained popularity of particular GUIs cannot be guaranteed. Code can very quickly become obsolete if it addresses the wrong platform or audience. wxWidgets helps to insulate the programmer from these winds of change. Although wxWidgets may not be suitable for every application (such as an OLE-intensive program), it provides access to most of the functionality a GUI program normally requires, plus many extras such as network programming, PostScript output, and HTML rendering; and it can of course be extended as needs dictate. As a bonus, it provides a far cleaner and easier programming interface than the native APIs. Programmers may find it worthwhile to use wxWidgets even if they are developing on only one platform.
It is impossible to sum up the functionality of wxWidgets in a few paragraphs, but here are some of the benefits: