2. Getting started with GtkAda

This chapter describes how to start a new GtkAda application. It explains the basic features of the toolkit, and shows how to compile and run your application.

It also gives a brief overview of the extensive widget hierarchy available in GtkAda.

2.1. How to build and install GtkAda

This section explains how to build and install GtkAda on your machine.

On Windows systems, we provide an automatic installer that installs GtkAda along with dependent components like gtk+ libraries and Glade. If you are a Windows user, you can skip the rest of this section which will address installation on Unix systems.

On Unix systems, you first need to install the glib and gtk+ libraries. Download the compatible packages from the gtk+ web site (http://www.gtk.org), compile and install it. Alternatively, if your operating system vendor provides glib and gtk+ development packages, you can install the libraries they provide.

Change your PATH environment variable so that the script pkg-config, which indicates where gtk+ was installed and what libraries it needs is automatically found by GtkAda. You will no longer need this script once GtkAda is installed, unless you develop part of your application in C.

OpenGL support will not be activated in GtkAda unless you already have the OpenGL libraries on your systems. You can for instance look at Mesa, which is free implementation.

Optionally, you can also install the Glade interface builder. Get the compatible package from the Glade web site, compile and install it.

You can finally download the latest version of GtkAda from the web site. Untar and uncompress the package, then simply do the following steps:

$ ./configure
$ make
$ make tests     (this step is optional)
$ make install

As usual with the configure script, you can specify where you want to install the GtkAda libraries by using the –prefix switch.

You can specify the switch –disable-shared to prevent building shared libraries, even if your system supports them (by default, both shared and static libraries are installed). By default, your application will be linked statically with the GtkAda libraries. You can override this default by specifying –enable-shared as a switch to configure, although you can override it later through the LIBRARY_TYPE scenario variable.

If you have some OpenGL libraries installed on your system, you can make sure that configure finds them by specifying the –with-GL-prefix switch on the command line. configure should be able to automatically detect the libraries however.

You must then make sure that the system will be able to find the dynamic libraries at run time if your application uses them. Typically, you would do one of the following:

  • run ldconfig if you installed GtkAda in one of the standard location and you are super-user on your machine

  • edit /etc/ld.conf if you are super-user but did not install GtkAda in one of the standard location. Add the path that contains libgtkada.so (by default /usr/local/lib or $prefix/lib.

  • modify your LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable if you are not super-user. You should simply add the path to libgtkada.

In addition, if you are using precompiled Gtk+ binary packages, you will also need to set the FONTCONFIG_FILE environment variable to point to the prefix/etc/fonts/fonts.conf file of your binary installation.

For example, assuming you have installed Gtk+ under /opt/gtk and using bash:

$ export FONTCONFIG_FILE=/opt/gtk/etc/fonts/fonts.conf

If your application is using printing, on UNIX and Linux you will need to point your environment variable GTK_EXE_PREFIX to the root directory of your Gtk+ installation:

$ export GTK_EXE_PREFIX=/opt/gtk/

2.2. How to distribute a GtkAda application

Since GtkAda depends on Gtk+, you usually need to distribute some Gtk+ libraries along with your application.

Under some OSes such as Linux, Gtk+ comes preinstalled, so in this case, a simple solution is to rely on the preinstalled Gtk+ libraries. See below for more information on the gtkada library itself.

Under other unix systems, GtkAda usually comes with a precompiled set of Gtk+ libraries that have been specifically designed to be easily redistributed.

In order to use the precompiled Gtk+ binaries that we distribute with GtkAda, you need to distribute all the Gtk+ .so libraries along with your application, and use the LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variable to point to these libraries.

The list of libraries needed is <gtkada-prefix>/lib/lib*.so.? or <gtkada-prefix>/lib64/lib*.so.? along with your executable, and set LD_LIBRARY_PATH.

You may also need the libgtkada-xxx.so file. This dependency is optional since gtkada supports both static and dynamic linking, depending on how your project sets up the library type in gtkada.gpr. You might chose to link with the static library libgtkada.a for convenience.

Under Windows, you need to distribute the following files and directories along with your application, and respect the original directory set up:

  • bin/*.dll

  • etc/

  • lib/gtk-2.0

2.3. How to use GtkAda

On Unix systems, to use GtkAda, you need to have you PATH and LD_LIBRARY_PATH environment variables set, as explained above:


Set the following variables as well when using a custom gtk+ build (but not if you are using the system’s libraries):




2.4. Organization of the GtkAda package

In addition to the full sources, the GtkAda package contains a lot of heavily commented examples. If you haven’t been through those examples, we really recommend that you look at them and try to understand them, since they contain some examples of code that you might find interesting for your own application.

  • testgtk/ directory:

    This directory contains the application testgtk that tests all the widgets in GtkAda. It gives you a quick overview of what can be found in the toolkit, as well as some detailed information on the widgets and their parameters.

    Each demo is associated with contextual help pointing to aspects worth studying.

    It also contains an OpenGL demo, if GtkAda was compiled with support for OpenGL.

    This program is far more extensive that its C counterpart, and the GtkAda team has added a lot of new examples.

    This directory also contains the application testcairo which demonstrates the use of various Cairo functions in GtkAda.

  • docs/ directory:

    It contains the html, info, text and @TeX{} versions of the documentation you are currently reading. Note that the documentation is divided into two subdirectories, one containing the user guide, which you are currently reading, the other containing the reference manual, which gives detailed information on all the widgets found in GtkAda. The docs directory also contains a subdirectory with some slides that were used to present GtkAda at various shows.

2.5. How to compile an application with GtkAda

This section explains how you can compile your own applications.

A set of project files is installed along with GtkAda. If you have installed GtkAda in the same location as GNAT itself, nothing else needs to be done.

Otherwise, you need to make the directory that contains these project files visible to the compiler. This is done by adding the directory to the GPR_PROJECT_PATH environment variable. Assuming you have installed the library in prefix, the directory you need to add is prefix/lib/gnat.

On Unix, this is done with:

   setenv GPR_PROJECT_PATH $prefix/lib/gnat:$GPR_PROJECT_PATH

To build your own application, you should then setup a project file (see the GNAT documentation for more details on project files), which simply contains the statement:

with "gtkada";

This will automatically set the right compiler and linker options, so that your application is linked with GtkAda.

By default, the linker will use GtkAda’s shared library, if it was built. If you would prefer to link with the static library, you can set the environment variable:


before launching the compiler or linker, which will force it to use the static library instead.

2.6. Architecture of the toolkit

The gtk+ toolkit has been designed from the beginning to be portable. It is made of two libraries: gtk and gdk. In addition, GtkAda provides binding to three supporting libraries: pango, cairo and glib.

Glib is a non-graphical library that includes support for lists, h-tables, threads, and so on. It is a highly optimized, platform-independent library. Since most of its contents are already available in Ada (or in the GNAT.* hierarchy in the GNAT distribution), GtkAda does not include a complete binding to it. For the parts of Glib that we do depend on, we provide Glib.* packages in the GtkAda distribution.

Gdk is the platform-dependent part of gtk+, and so there are different implementations (for instance, for Win32 and X11 based systems) that implement a common API. Gdk provides basic graphical functionality to, for instance, draw lines, rectangles and pixmaps on the screen, as well as manipulate colors. The Gdk.* packages provide a full Ada interface to Gdk.

Pango is a modern font handling system. Bindings in GtkAda gives access to the API to manipulate font descriptions and text attributes.

Cairo is the low-level 2D drawing library used by Gdk to render widgets. Cairo provides a rich set of vector drawing features, supporting anti-aliasing, transparency, and 2D matrix transformations.The Cairo.* packages provide a complete Ada binding to Cairo.

Gtk is the top level library. It is platform independent, and does all its drawing through calls to Gdk and Cairo. This is where the high-level widgets are defined. It also includes support for callbacks. Its equivalent in the GtkAda libraries are the Gtk.* packages. It is made of a fully object-oriented hierarchy of widgets (see Widgets Hierarchy).

Since your application only calls GtkAda, it is fully portable, and can be recompiled as-is on other platforms:

+------------------------------- ----------+
|             Your Application             |
|                 GtkAda                   |
|              +-----------------+         |
|              |      GTK        |         |
|         +----+-----------------+----+    |
|         |           GDK             |    |
|    +----+------+         +----------+----+
|    |   Pango   |         |     Cairo     |
|        GLIB         |   X-Window / Win32  |

Although the packages have been evolving a lot since the first versions of GtkAda, the specs are stabilizing now. We will try as much as possible to provide backward compatibility whenever possible.

Since GtkAda is based on gtk+ we have tried to stay as close to it as possible while using high-level features of the Ada language. It is thus relatively easy to convert external examples from C to Ada.

We have tried to adopt a consistent naming scheme for Ada identifiers:

  • The widget names are the same as in C, except that an underscore sign (_) is used to separate words, e.g:

    Gtk_Button   Gtk_Color_Selection_Dialog
  • Because of a clash between Ada keywords and widget names, there are two exceptions to the above general rule:

    Gtk.GEntry.Gtk_Entry   Gtk.GRange.Gtk_Range
  • The function names are the same as in C, ignoring the leading gtk_ and the widget name, e.g:

    gtk_misc_set_padding        =>  Gtk.Misc.Set_Padding
    gtk_toggle_button_set_state =>  Gtk.Toggle_Button.Set_State
  • Most enum types have been grouped in the gtk-enums.ads file

  • Some features have been implemented as generic packages. These are the timeout functions (see Gtk.Main.Timeout), the idle functions (see Gtk.Main.Idle), and the data that can be attached to any object (see Gtk.Object.User_Data). Type safety is ensured through these generic packages.

  • Callbacks were the most difficult thing to interface with. These are extremely powerful and versatile, since the callbacks can have any number of arguments and may or may not return values. These are once again implemented as generic packages, that require more explanation (Signal handling).

WARNING: all the generic packages allocate some memory for internal structures, and call internal functions. This memory is freed by gtk itself, by calling some Ada functions. Therefore the generic packages have to be instantiated at library level, not inside a subprogram, so that the functions are still defined when gtk needs to free the memory.

WARNING Before any other call to the GtkAda library is performed, Gtk.Main.Init must be invoked first. Most of the time, this procedure is invoked from the main procedure of the application, in which case no use of GtkAda can be done during the application elaboration.

2.7. Widgets Hierarchy

All widgets in GtkAda are implemented as tagged types. They all have a common ancestor, called Gtk.Object.Gtk_Object. All visual objects have a common ancestor called Gtk.Widget.Gtk_Widget.

The following table describes the list of objects and their inheritance tree. As usual with tagged types, all the primitive subprograms defined for a type are also known for all of its children. This is a very powerful way to create new widgets, as will be explained in Creating new widgets in Ada.

Although gtk+ was written in C its design is object-oriented, and thus GtkAda has the same structure. The following rules have been applied to convert from C names to Ada names: a widget Gtk_XXX is defined in the Ada package Gtk.XXX, in the file gtk-xxx.ads. This follows the GNAT convention for file names. For instance, the Gtk_Text widget is defined in the package Gtk.Text, in the file gtk-text.ads.

Note also that most of the documentation for GtkAda is found in the spec files themselves.

It is important to be familiar with this hierarchy. It is then easier to know how to build and organize your windows. Most widgets are demonstrated in the testgtk/ directory in the GtkAda distribution.


Widgets Hierarchy