Qt for WebAssembly
Qt for Webassembly lets you to run Qt applications on the web.
WebAssembly (abbreviated Wasm) is a binary instruction format intended to be executed in a virtual machine, for example in a web browser.
With Qt for WebAssembly, you can distribute your application as a web application that runs in a browser sandbox. This approach is suitable for web distributed applications that do not require full access to host device capabilities.
Note: Qt for WebAssembly is in Tech Preview.
Building Qt applications for WebAssembly is similar to building Qt for other platforms. You need to install an SDK (Emscripten), install Qt (or build Qt from source), and finally, build the application. Some differences exist, for example, Qt for WebAssambly supports fewer modules and less features than other Qt builds.
emscripten is a toolchain for compiling to WebAssembly. It lets you run Qt on the web at near-native speed without browser plugins.
Refer to the emscripten documentation for more information about installing the Emscripten SDK.
After installation, you should have the Emscripten compiler in your path. Check this with the following command:
Each minor version of Qt targets a specific minimum Emcsripten version, which will not change for the lifetime of that minor version. Qt's binary packages are built using this version of the Emscripten SDK. Install the minimum Emcsripten version that corresponds to the Qt version you use, especially if you use the binary packages.
Later versions of Emscripten may work (and often do), but may introduce behavior changes which require changes to Qt.
The minimum versions are:
- Qt 6.2: 2.0.14
- Qt 6.3: 3.1.6
emsdk to install specific
emscripten versions. For example, to install it for Qt 6.2 enter:
- ./emsdk install 2.0.14
- ./emsdk activate 2.0.14
On Windows, emscripten is in your path after installation. On macOS or Linux you need to add it to your path, like this:
Check this with the following command:
Download Qt from the Downloads section of your Qt account. We provide builds for Linux, macOS, and Windows as development platforms.
The binary builds are designed to run on as many browsers as possible, and do not enable features such as threads or SIMD support.
Building from source lets you set Qt configuration options such as thread support, OpenGL ES level, or SIMD support. Download the Qt sources from the Downloads section of your Qt account.
Configure Qt as a cross-compile build for the
wasm-emscripten platform. This sets the
-no-make examples configure options. You can enable thread support with the
-feature-thread, configure option. Shared library builds are not supported.
You need a host build of the same version of Qt and specify that path in the QT_HOST_PATH CMake variable or by using the
-qt-host-path configure argument.
Although it should be detected, you may optionally set the CMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE CMake variable to the Emscripten.cmake toolchain file that comes with Emscripten SDK. This can be done by setting the environment variable CMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE or by passing
CMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE=/path/to/Emscripten.cmake to configure.
./configure -qt-host-path /path/to/Qt -platform wasm-emscripten -prefix $PWD/qtbase
On Windows, make sure you have MinGW in your
PATH and configure with the following:
configure -qt-host-path C:\Path\to\Qt -no-warnings-are-errors -platform wasm-emscripten -prefix %CD%\qtbase
Then build the required modules:
cmake --build . -t qtbase -t qtdeclarative [-t another_module]
Qt for WebAssembly supports building applications using qmake and make, or CMake with ninja or make.
$ /path/to/qt-wasm/qtbase/bin/qt-cmake . $ cmake --build .
Building the application generates several output files, including a .wasm file that contains the application and Qt code (statically linked), a .html file that can be opened in the browser to run the application.
Note: Emscripten produces relatively large .wasm files at the "-g" debug level. Consider linking with "-g2" for debug builds.
Running the application requires a web server. The build output files are all static content, so any web server will do. Some use cases might require special server configuration, such as providing https certificates or setting http headers required to enable multithreading support.
/path/to/emscripten/emrun --browser=firefox appname.html
Another option is to start a development web server and then launch the web browser separately. One of the simplest options is http.server from Python:
python -m http.server
Qt provides a developer web server which uses mkcert to generate https certificates. This allows testing web features which require a secure context. Note that delivery over http://localhost is also considered secure, without requiring a certificate.
The qtwasmserver script starts one server which binds to localhost by default. You may add additional addresses using the -a command-line argument, or use --all to bind to all available addresses.
python /path/to/qtbase/util/wasm/qtwasmserver/qtwasmserver.py --all
Building an application generates several files (substitute "app" with the application name in the following table).
|Generated file||Brief Description|
|app.js||JS API for loading Qt apps|
We recommend compressing the wasm file using e.g. gzip or brotli before deployment, as this can provide a significant reductiton in file size.
Qt for WebAssembly is developed and tested on the following browsers:
Qt should run if the browser supports WebAssembly. Qt has a fixed WebGL requirement, even if the application itself does not use hardware accelerated graphics. Browsers that support WebAssembly often support WebGL, though some browsers blacklist older or unsupported GPUs. s/qtloader.js provides APIs to check if WebGL is available.
Qt does not make direct use of operating system features and it makes no difference if, for example, FireFox runs on Windows or macOS. Qt does use some operating system adaptations, for example for ctrl/cmd key handling on macOS.
Qt for WebAssembly applications runs on mobile browsers such as mobile Safari and Android Chrome. However, there is no support for text input using the native virtual keyboard.
Qt for WebAssembly supports a subset of the Qt modules and features. Tested modules are listed below, other modules may or may not work.
- Qt Core
- Qt GUI
- Qt Network
- Qt Widgets
- Qt QML
- Qt Quick
- Qt Quick Controls
- Qt Quick Layouts
- Qt 5 Core Compatibility APIs
- Qt Concurrent
- Qt Image Formats
- Qt OpenGL
- Qt SVG
- Qt WebSockets
In all cases, module support may not be complete and and there may be additional limitations, either due to the browser sandbox or due to incompleteness of the Qt platform port. See Developing with Qt for WebAssembly for further info.
Qt requires WebGL, also for applications which do not use OpenGL directly. All relevant browsers support WebGL, but note that some browsers blacklist certain older GPUs. The Qt loader will detect this and display an error message.
Qt detects WebGL as OpenGL ES, with the following version mapping:
|OpengL ES 2||WebGL 1|
|OpengL ES 3||WebGL 2|
OpengL ES 2 is selected by default, OpenGL ES 3 can be enabled by configuring Qt with the -feature-opengles3 option.
Qt for WebAssembly does support mixing raster and OpenGL content. Supported use cases are pure raster apps using QWigets, and pure OpenGL apps using Qt Quick or QOpenGLWindow. QOpenGLWidget is not supported at this point (QTBUG-66944).
Qt supports multithreading on WebAssembly, however this feature is experimental and is not enabled by default. Thread support can be enabled by building Qt from source and using the "-feature-thread" configure flag.
The Qt for WebAssembly binary packages do not support multithreading.
Emscripten implements support for pthreads using web workers, and this abstraction is not completely leak free. See Pthreads Support for further info.
Multithreading requires browser support for SharedArrayBuffer, see caniuse sharedarraybuffer for current supported status. If suppoerted, SharedArrayBuffer will be enabled provided the web server sets the COOP and and COEP headers:
- Cross-Origin-Opener-Policy: same-origin
- Cross-Origin-Embedder-Policy: require-corp
The LLVM compiler supports generating WebAssembly SIMD. Pass the -msimd128 flag at compile time to enable. This enables LLVM autovectorization, which makes it possible to benefit from SIMD without making source code modifications.
You can target WebAssembly SIMD directly using either GCC/Clang SIMD Vector Extensions or WASM SIMD128 intrinsics. For more information, see the Emscripten SIMD documentation .
In addition, Emscripten supports emulating/translating x86 SSE instructions to Wasm SIMD instructions. Enable by building Qt from source and configure with the "-sse2" option. This adds support for SSE1, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE4.1, SSE4.2, and 128-bit AVX instructions, and enables Qt's SSE code paths. Use of SSE SIMD instructions that have no native Wasm SIMD equivalent may cause reduced performance.
Note that SIMD-enabled binaries are incompatible with browsers that do not support WebAssembly SIMD, also if the SIMD code paths are not called at run-time. SIMD support may need to be enabled in the browsers advanced configurations, such as 'about:config' or 'chrome:flags'
Qt provides limited support for networking. In general, network protocols which are already in use on the web can be use also from Qt, while others are not directly available due to the web sandbox.
The following protocols are supported:
- QNetworkAccessManager http requests to the web page origin server, or to a server which supports CORS. This includes XMLHttpRequest from QML.
- QWebSocket connections to any host. Note that web pages served over the secure https protocol allows websockets connections over secure wss protocol only.
All other network protocols are not supported.
In addition Emscripten supports emulated POSIX TCP sockets over WebSockets. This is not currently supported by Qt's socket classes.
File system access is sandboxed on the web, and this has implications for how the application works with files. The Web platform provides APIs for accessing the local file system in a way which is under user control, as well as APIs for accessing persistent storage. Emscripten and Qt wraps these features and provides APIs which are easier to use from C++ and Qt-based applications.
The web platform provides features for accessing local files and persistent storage:
- <input type="file"> for showing a native open-file dialog where the user can pick a file.
- IndexedDB provides persistent local storage (not accessible outside the browser)
Emscripten provides several file systems with a POSIX like API. These include:
- the MEMFS ephemeral file system which stores files in-memory
- the IDBFS persistent file system which stores files using IndexedDB
Emscripten mounts a temporary MEMFS filesystem to "/" at app startup. This means that QFile can be used, and will read and write files to memory by default. Qt provides other API as well:
- QSettings has an IndexedDB-based backend; Note that QSettings is asynchronous on WebAssembly.
- QFileDialog::getOpenFileContent() opens a native file dialog where the user can pick a file
- QFileDialog::saveFileContent() saves a file to the local file system via file download}
Qt supports copying and pasting text to the system clipboard, with some differences due to the web sandbox. In general clipboard access require user permission, which can be obtained by handling an input event (e.g. CTRL+c), or by using the Clipboard API.
Browsers that support the Clipboard API are preferred. Note that a requirement for this API is that the web page is served over a secure connection (e.g. https), and that some browsers my require changing configuration flags.
At the time of writing the following browsers support the Clipboard API, see caniuse for the current support level.
- Chrome supports the Clipboard API
- Firefox supports the Clipboard API behind a flag: dom.events.asyncClipboard.dataTransfer
- Source maps for stepping through code, can be created by reconfiguring Qt with the --device-option QT_WASM_SOURCE_MAP=1, and building a debug build.
- Mobile browsers can use remote debugging
- To stop execution on a certain line and popup the browser debugger programmatically, you can add the function emscripten_debugger(); to the application source code.
- Nested event loops are not supported. Applications should not call API like QDialog::exec() and QEventLoop::exec()
- Drag and Drop is not supported
- Printing is not supported
- QDnsLookup lookups, QTcpSocket, QSsl do not work and are not supported due to the web sandbox
- Accessibility is not supported: Qt draws application content to a canvas element and does not use (other) native DOM elements.
- Fonts: Wasm sandbox does not allow access to system fonts. Font files must be distributed with the application, for example in Qt resources or downloading. Qt for WebAssembly itself embeds one such font.
- There may be artifacts of uninitialized graphics memory on some Qt Quick Controls 2 components, such as checkboxes. This can sometimes be seen on HighDPi displays.
- Native styles for Windows and macOS are not supported as Wasm as a platform is not providing that capability
The following configure options are relevant when building Qt for WebAssembly from source.
|Configure Argument||Brief Description|
|-sse2||Enables SIMD support.|
|-device-option QT_WASM_SOURCE_MAP=1||Debugging option for creating source maps|
|-feature-opengles3||Use opengles3 in addition to the default opengles2|
Expected footprint (download size): Wasm modules as produced by the compiler can be large, but compress well:
|helloglwindow (QtCore + QtGui)||2.8M||2.1M|
|wiggly widget (QtCore + QtGui + QtWidgets)||4.3M||3.2M|
|SensorTag (QtCore + QtGui + QtWidgets + QtQuick + QtCharts)||8.6M||6.3M|
Compression is typically handled on the web server side, using standard compression features: the server compresses automatically or picks up pre-compressed versions of the files. There's generally no need to have special handling of wasm files.
- Industrial Panel Demo
- QMainWindow app
- A gallery of available controls in Qt Quick Controls
- Web app for prdering pizzas
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