For the Google Summer of Code, Vytas Liuolia wrote the (very much needed) guniqueapp library; just a small recap: libguniqueapp allows the creation of single instance applications, that is applications that gets instanced once and each subsequent instance just quits – or send a command to the currently running instance.
Libguniqueapp has two available backends: D-Bus, as default, and bacon (a Un*x socket living in /tmp and used to send and receive commands). After reading about guniqueapp on desktop-devel-list, I began hacking on it in order to add a new backend, using X itself as an IPC mechanism.
Single instance applications are used on the desktop (Gedit, Mozilla, Epiphany, Evince – the list goes on), but are very interesting for an embedded device because of the the memory and/or screen real estate limitations. On the Maemo platform, for instance, this issue has been solved by having each application behave as a D-Bus service: each time an application is launched a new object on the bus is created and subsequent instances just abort. Not every embedded platform uses (or can use) D-Bus, though, hence the need for anothe IPC mechanism – like the Xlibs-based backend.
In the process of adding this new backend I’ve accidentally broken the whole guniqueapp codebase; I know, I’m really sloppy at the times. Reassembling the pieces together using GTK+ coding style (which, even though it uses the evil 2-spaces indentation from hell, I actually prefer using when programming using GObject/GTK-based stuff) and clearly hiding the backend stuff under the carpet, something else came out of it – GtkUnique.
GtkUnique is pretty much similar to guniqueapp, except that:
- the backend implementations have been more cleanly separated and hidden in helper libraries;
- there’s an Xlibs-based backend, which is preferred right after the D-Bus backend;
- the IPC channel is bidirectional; that is: the message sent from a second instance to the first instance of the application has a return code, in case the operation that has been requested failed;
- the D-Bus backend has been changed: the name of the application is used as the object on the bus, so you don’t have awkward stuff like
org.gnome.GUniqueApp.YourAppbut something a bit more friendly like
- also in the D-Bus backend, the
SendMessagemessage has been changed: it now accepts a stringified command, which is the “nick” value of the
GtkUniqueCommandenum object; this way you can send commands like
newinstead of integers on the wire;
GtkUniqueAppobject keeps track of the top-level windows of the application;
- I’ve added API documentation using gtk-doc;
- Perl and Python bindings are in the works;
You may think of GtkUnique as a fork of guniqueapp; really, it’s more of an experiment I wrote to get more aquainted with Xlibs (for instance: now I learned the hard way that you must remember to use
XSelectInput() on a window to get the
PropertyNotify events) and D-Bus programming. I intend to use GtkUnique inside the next release of the Dictionary and inside another project of mine, so I’ll keep on working on it.
If you want to play with it, just pull the bazaar repository from here:
main: bzr branch http://o-hand.com/~ebassi/bzr/gtkunique perl bindings: bzr branch http://o-hand.com/~ebassi/bzr/gtkunique-perl
and there’s a tarball available here
Note on the library: the libbacon-like backend is broken at the moment, as I’m still playing with it.
Note on the bindings: I’ll add the branch for the python bindings as soon as I have them in a buildable state. The Perl bindings are very rough at the moment – the
make test phase fails and while you can send a message from a Perl application to a C application sharing the same name, you can’t do the opposite.