10. Object-oriented features

GtkAda has been designed from the beginning to provide a full object oriented layer over gtk+. This means that features such as type extension and dynamic dispatching are made available through the standard Ada language.

This section will describe how things work, how you can extend existing widgets, and even how to create your own widgets.

10.1. General description of the tagged types

10.1.1. Why should I use object-oriented programming ?

Every widget in the Gtk.* packages in GtkAda is a tagged type with a number of primitive subprograms that are inherited by all of its children. Tagged types in Ada make it possible to perform safe, automatic type conversions without using explicit casts (such as is necessary when coding in C). It is also possible for the compiler to verify whether or not these type conversions are valid. Most errors are found at compile time, which leads to a safer and more robust application.

As a further example, imagine a table that has been populated by some widgets. It is possible to query for this table’s children and operate on these widgets without knowing details about their type, their creator, and so on–the tagged objects that are returned contain all the information necessary. It becomes possible to use dynamic dispatching without ever having to cast to a known type.

Modifying a standard widget to draw itself differently or display different data is easy using tagged types. Simply create a new type that extends the current one (see the section Using tagged types to extend Gtk widgets below.

Creating a new reusable widget from scratch is also possible. Create a new tagged type and specify properties of the widget–such as how it is to draw itself and how it should react to events. See the section Creating new widgets in Ada below.

Object oriented programming through the use of Ada tagged types makes GtkAda a very powerful, flexible, and safe tool for designing graphical interfaces.

10.1.2. Type conversions from C to Ada widgets

There are three kinds of widgets that you can use with GtkAda:

  • Ada widgets: These are widgets that are written directly in Ada, using the object oriented features of GtkAda

  • Standard widgets: These are the widgets that are part of the standard gtk+ and GtkAda distributions. This include all the basic widgets you need to build advanced interfaces.

  • third party C widgets These are widgets that were created in C, and for which you (or someone else) created an Ada binding. This is most probably the kind of widgets you will have if you want to use third party widgets.

GtkAda will always be able to find and/or create a valid tagged type in the first two cases, no matter if you explicitly created the widget or if it was created automatically by gtk+. For instance, if you created a widget in Ada, put it in a table, and later on extracted it from the table, then you will still have the same widget.

In the third case (third party C widgets), GtkAda is not, by default, able to create the corresponding Ada type.

The case of third party C widgets is a little bit trickier. Since GtkAda does not know anything about them when it is built, it can’t magically convert the C widgets to Ada widgets. This is your job to teach GtkAda how to do the conversion.

We thus provide a ‘hook’ function which you need to modify. This function is defined in the package Glib.Type_Conversion. This function takes a string with the name of the C widget (ex/ “GtkButton”), and should return a newly allocated pointer. If you don’t know this type either, simply return null.

10.2. Using tagged types to extend Gtk widgets

With this toolkit, it’s possible to associate your own data with existing widgets simply by creating new types. This section will show you a simple example, but you should rather read the source code in the testgtk/ directory where we used this feature instead of using user_data as is used in the C version::

type My_Button_Record is new Gtk_Button_Record with record
    --  whatever data you want to associate with your button
end record;
type My_Button is access all My_Button_Record'Class;

With the above statements, your new type is defined. Every function available for Gtk_Button is also available for My_Button. Of course, as with every tagged type in Ada, you can create your own primitive functions with the following prototype:

procedure My_Primitive_Func (Myb : access My_Button_Record);

To instanciate an object of type My_Button in your application, do the following:

   Myb : My_Button;
   Myb := new My_Button_Record;
   Initialize (Myb);   --  from Gtk.Button

The first line creates the Ada type, whereas the Initialize call actually creates the C widget and associates it with the Ada type.

10.3. Creating new widgets in Ada

With GtkAda, you can create widgets directly in Ada. These new widgets can be used directly, as if they were part of gtk itself.

Creating new widgets is a way to create reuseable components. You can apply to them the same functions as you would for any other widget, such as Show, Hide, and so on.

This section will explain how to create two types of widgets: composite widgets and widgets created from scratch. Two examples are provided with GtkAda, in the directories examples/composite_widget and examples/base_widget. Please also refer to the gtk+ tutorial, which describes the basic mechanisms that you need to know to create a widget.

10.3.1. Creating composite widgets

A composite widget is a widget that does not do much by itself. Rather, this is a collection of subwidgets grouped into a more general entity. For instance, among the standard widgets, Gtk_File_Selection and Gtk_Font_Selection belong to this category.

The good news is that there is nothing special to know. Just create a new tagged type, extending one of the standard widgets (or even another of your own widgets), provide a Gtk_New function that allocates memory for this widget, and call the Initialize function that does the actual creation of the widget and the subwidgets. There is only one thing to do: Initialize should call the parent class’s Initialize function, to create the underlying C widget.

The example directory examples/composite_widget reimplements the Gtk_Dialog widget as written in C by the creators of gtk+.

10.3.2. Creating widgets from scratch

Creating a working widget from scratch requires a certain level of familiary with the GtkAda signal mechanism and entails much work with low level signals. This is therefore not an activity recommended for novice GtkAda programmers.

Creating a widget from scratch is what you want to do if your widget should be drawn in a special way, should create and emit new signals, or otherwise perform differently than pre-existing widgets. The example we give in examples/base_widget is a small target on which the user can click, and that sends one of two signals: “bullseye” or “missed”, depending on where the user has clicked.

See also the example in examples/tutorial/gtkdial for a more complex widget, that implements a gauge where the user can move the arrow to select a new value.

Since we are creating a totally new widget from scratch, with potentially its own signals, we need to do slightly more work. In particular, we need to provide a function Get_Type similar to what all the predefined widgets provide:

with Glib.Properties.Creation;   use Glib.Properties.Creation;
with Glib.Objects;               use Glib.Objects;
with Gtk.Scrollable;
with System;

package body My_Widgets is
   type My_Widget_Record is new Gtk_Button_Record with record
   end record;
   type My_Widget is access all My_Widget_Record'Class;

   Klass : aliased Ada_GObject_Class := Uninitialized_Class;

   PROP_H_ADJ : constant Property_Id := 1;
   PROP_V_ADJ : constant Property_Id := 2;
   --  internal identifier for our widget properties

   procedure Class_Init (Self : GObject_Class);
   pragma Convention (C, Class_Init);

   procedure Class_Init (Self : GObject_Class) is
      --  Set properties handler
      Set_Properties_Handlers (Self, Prop_Set'Access, Prop_Get'Access);

      --  Override inherited properties
      Override_Property  (Self, PROP_H_ADJ, "hadjustment");
      Override_Property  (Self, PROP_V_ADJ, "vadjustment");

      --  Install some custom style properties
      Install_Style_Property (Self, Gnew_Int (...));

      --  Override some the inherited methods (how to draw the widget)
      Set_Default_Draw_Handler (Self, On_Draw'Access);

      --  Override the primitives to compute the widget size
      Set_Default_Get_Preferred_Width (Self, ...);
   end Class_Init;

   function Get_Type return GType is
      Info : access GInterface_Info;
      if Initialize_Class_Record
         (Ancestor     => Gtk.Button.Get_Type,
          Class_Record => Klass'Access,
          Type_Name    => "My_Widget",
          Class_Init   => Class_Init)
         --  Add interfaces if needed
         Info := new GInterface_Info'(null, null, System.Address);
         Add_Interface (Klass, Gtk.Scrollable.Get_Type, Info);
      end if;
      return Klass.The_Type;
   end Get_Type;
end My_Widgets;

You should also create the usual functions Gtk_New and Initialize:

procedure Gtk_New (Self : out My_Widget) is
   Self := new My_Widget_Record;  --  create the Ada wrapper
   Initialize (Self);
end Gtk_New;

procedure Initialize (Self : not null access My_Widget_Record'Class) is
   G_New (Self, Get_Type); --  allocate the C widget, unless done

   --  Initialize parent fields.

   Gtk.Button.Initialize (Self);

   --  Initialization of the Ada types

   Self.Field1 := ...;
end Initialize;

In the above example, the new part is the Get_Type subprogram. It takes three or four arguments:

  • Ancestor This is the GType for the ancestor that is being extended.

  • Signals This is an array of string access containing the name of the signals you want to create. For instance, you could create Signals with:

    Signals : Gtkada.Types.Chars_Ptr_Array := "bullseye" + "missed";

    This will create two signals, named “bullseye” and “missed”, whose callbacks’ arguments can be specified with the fourth parameter.

  • Class_Record Every widget in C is associated with three records:

    • An instance of GType, which is a unique identifier (integer) for all the class of widgets defined in the framework. This description also contains the name of the class, its parent type, the list of interfaces it inherits, and all the signals is defines.

      These GType are often created early on when an application is launched, and provide the basic introspection capabilities in a gtk+ application.

      In Ada, this type is created by the function Get_Type in the example above (which is why we need to add the interface in that function).

    • An instance of GObject_Class, which contains implementation details for the class, defines the default signal handlers (how to draw a widget of the class, how to handle size negociation,…), and defines any number of properties that can be configured on the widget (properties are a generic interface to access the components of a composite widget, as well as some of its behavior – they can be modified through introspection for instance in a GUI builder).

      Such a type is created automatically by gtk+ just before it creates the first instance of that widget type. It will then immediately call the Class_Init function that might have been passed to Glib.Object.Initialize_Class_Record. At that point, you can add your own new properties, or override the default signal handlers to redirect them to your own implementation.

    • A class instance record; there is one such record for each widget of that type. In GtkAda, the ‘instance record’ is simply your tagged type and its fields. It is created when you call any of the Gtk_New functions.

  • Parameters This fourth argument is in fact optional, and is used to specify which kind of parameters each new signal is expecting. By default (ie if you don’t give any value for this parameter), all the signals won’t expect any argument, except of course a possible user_data. However, you can decide for instance that the first signal (“bullseye”) should in fact take a second argument (say a Gint), and that “missed” will take two parameters (two Gints).

    Parameters should thus contain a value of:

    (1 => (1 => Gtk_Type_Int, 2 => Gtk_Type_None),
     2 => (1 => Gtk_Type_Int, 2 => Gtk_Type_Int));

    Due to the way arrays are handled in Ada, each component must have the same number of signals. However, if you specify a type of Gtk_Type_None, this will in fact be considered as no argument. Thus, the first signal above has only one parameter.

    Note also that to be able to emit a signal such a the second one, ie with multiple arguments, you will have to extend the packages defined in Gtk.Handlers. By default, the provided packages can only emit up to one argument (and only for a few specific types). Creating your own Emit_By_Name subprograms should not be hard if you look at what is done in gtk-marshallers.adb. Basically, something like:

    procedure Emit_With_Two_Ints
      (Object : access Widget_Type'Class;
       Name   : String;
       Arg1   : Gint;
       Arg2   : Gint);
    pragma Import (C, Emit_With_Two_Ints,
    Emit_With_Two_Ints (Gtk.Get_Object (Your_Widget),
        "missed" & ASCII.NUL, 1, 2);

    will emit the “missed” signal with the two parameters 1 and 2.