I'm considering writing a new Windows GUI app, where one of the requirements is that the app must be very responsive, quick to load, and have a light memory footprint.
I've used WTL for previous apps I've built with this type of requirement, but as I use .NET all the time in my day job WTL is getting more and more painful to go back to. I'm not interested in using .NET for this app, as I still find the performance of larger .NET UIs lacking, but I am interested in using a better C++ framework for the UI - like Qt.
What I want to be sure of before starting is that I'm not going to regret this on the performance front.
So: Is Qt fast?
I'll try and qualify the question by examples of what I'd like to come close to matching: My current WTL app is Programmer's Notepad. The current version I'm working on weighs in at about 4mb of code for a 32-bit, release compiled version with a single language translation. On a modern fast PC it takes 1-3 seconds to load, which is important as people fire it up often to avoid IDEs etc. The memory footprint is usually 12-20 mb on 64-bit Win7 once you've been editing for a while. You can run the app non-stop, leave it minimized, whatever and it always jumps to attention instantly when you switch to it.
For the sake of argument let's say I want to port my WTL app to Qt for potential future cross-platform support and/or the much easier UI framework. I want to come close to if not match this level of performance with Qt.
Going native API is the most performant choice by definition - anything other than that is a wrapper around native API.
What exactly do you expect to be the performance bottleneck? Any strict numbers? Honestly, vague ,,very responsive, quick to load, and have a light memory footprint'' sounds like a requirement gathering bug to me. Performance is often overspecified.
To the point:
Qt's signal-slot mechanism is really fast. It's statically typed and translates with MOC to quite simple slot method calls.
Qt offers nice multithreading support, so that you can have responsive GUI in one thread and whatever else in other threads without much hassle. That might work.
Just chiming in with my experience in case you still haven't solved it or anyone else is looking for more experience. I've recently developed a pretty heavy (regular QGraphicsView, OpenGL QGraphicsView, QtSQL database access, ...) application with Qt 4.7 AND I'm also a stickler for performance. That includes startup performance of course, I like my applications to show up nearly instantly, so I spend quite a bit of time on that.
Speed: Fantastic, I have no complaints. My heavy app that needs to instantiate at least 100 widgets on startup alone (granted, a lot of those are QLabels) starts up in a split second (I don't notice any delay between doubleclicking and the window appearing).
Memory: This is the bad part, Qt with many subsystems in my experience does use a noticeable amount of memory. Then again this does count for the many subsystems usage, QtXML, QtOpenGL, QtSQL, QtSVG, you name it, I use it. My current application at startup manages to use about 50 MB but it starts up lightning fast and responds swiftly as well
Ease of programming / API: Qt is an absolute joy to use, from its containers to its widget classes to its modules. All the while making memory management easy (QObject) system and mantaining super performance. I've always written pure win32 before this and I wil never go back. For example, with the QtConcurrent classes I was able to change a method invocation from
QtConcurrent::run(this, MyClass::myMethod, arguments)and with one single line a non-GUI heavy processing method was threaded. With a
QFutureWatcher I could monitor when the thread had ended (either with signals or just method checking). What ease of use! Very elegant design all around.
So in retrospect: very good performance (including app startup), quite high memory usage if many submodules are used, fantastic API and possibilities, cross-platform