Cameron Laird's personal notes on Motif

On-line resources

The Open Group answers the "What is Motif?" question in its introduction.

We wrote "Motif in the year 2000" as a state-of-the-toolkit report for SunWorld Online. The assertion there that Sjoerd Mullender's PyMotif is unmaintained was ... exaggerated; in fact, Sjoerd continues to make occasional changes.

Watch this page in July 2000 for more links ...

Kenton Lee's great FAQs are the definitive references for information about Motif and more. Of particular interest: his guide to getting Motif.

ICS generously sponsors the Motif Zone, and Interface Technologies, Inc. sponsors a tutorial on Introduction to Motif Application Development. For many years, SCO has made the invaluable User's, Style, and Programmer's Guides, along with the Programmer's Reference, available on-line.


As Tim O'Reilly wrote in a private conversation in July 2000, "I think Motif wounded itself by being unnecessarily complex."

I frequently compare the Motif and Tk toolkits. As much as I like some of the smart people around Motif, and what they've done with it, I can only echo Spencer Kimball when he says,

I can't adequately convey the pain suffered while programming with Motif. It's a bloated and inflexible toolkit. I'm sure that anyone who's familiar with it would agree that trying to make it conform to your idea of the perfect UI is an exercise in futility. Instead, your UI will simply conform to what you can actually manage to put together that doesn't seg fault when you breathe on it.

Antony Fountain passionately argues that Motif is far from dead.

I co-authored a programmer's introduction to Motif which included an extensive description of third-party tools, and a comparison of Motif and other toolkits.

Related software

One particularly easy way to start with Motif is through use of the dtksh (part of the Common Desktop Environment that ships with Solaris, HP-UX, ...) extension to ksh. Tksh is a similar extension that is close to Motif, and appeals to many of the same developers.

LessTif is a copylefted Motif work-alike.

Cameron Laird's personal notes on Motif/