GNU/Linux Desktop Survival Guide
by Graham Williams
Building the GUI
We will use a simple application to illustrate Glade in action. Our sample GUI will be for a tool to count the number of lines, words and bytes in a file--nothing complex but suitable for demonstration.
Start Glade from the Programs-->Development menu of the Gnome desktop (or else use Ctl+F2 and then type in glade to start the application). You will see three new windows popup. These constitute the Glade interface.
The left most window above is the main Glade window which will list the windows and dialogs of your own project. Currently it is empty. The middle window is the Palette window from where you choose the user interface widgets to include in your interface. The right window is the Properties window where you can edit the properties of each widget such as it's size, behaviour, and signals it responds to. There are two other Glade windows not shown but which can be displayed by selecting them from the main window's View-->Show Widget Tree and View-->Show Clipboard menus. We will see them later.
The remaining options we won't change either. Again they are generally good choices. Note in particular though that we have the Enable Gnome Support option turned on. You can take a look at the other two option tabs, C Options and LibGlade Options, to get an idea of what else you can configure (see the Reference sections later for details). When satisfied simply click the OK button. The main Glade window's title will have changed to be `Gwords,' the name of our application, replacing the previous `untitled.'
Now we are ready to start building our Gnome interface. We first need to create our main Gnome Application Window which will be the window displayed when our application starts up. Select the Gnome button of the Palette window to display in the palette the Gnome widgets (which are extensions to the GTK+ Basic widgets which are displayed by default). Identify the Gnome Application Window widget by hovering the mouse over the various widgets to display their tool tips. It is the top left widget in the palette. Simply click on it with the left mouse button to create one.
There are many other widgets available on this Gnome palette. They include dialog boxes, message boxes, a standard Gnome About Dialog, file entry field with a browse button, a pixmap entry field with built-in preview, and a druid. We'll see some of these later and
all of them in the reference sections. For now we simply create the Gnome Application Window.
For now let's ignore the excess of decoration. Instead we will build the basic interface components. There's not much that we need in the interface. Certainly we need to identify the file to be word counted. Also we want to identify whether to just count the words or also the lines and bytes.
We go back to the GTK+ Basic palette for one of the layout widgets. These are towards the bottom of the palette--third row from the bottom in fact. Hover the mouse over each of them to find the Horizontal Box, Vertical Box, Table, and Fixed Positions. Click on the Vertical Box layout. Now on the central canvas area of your Gwords interface click the left mouse button. You will be asked for the number of rows for your box--the default of 3 will do for now so just click on the OK button. Your canvas will be divided into 3 rows. Each one of the 3 rows can now be constructed independently--each can contain a different widget, including further layout widgets.
We will use the first row to identify the name of the file whose contents we will be counting. We will use a file entry box to allow for the entry of the filename. We will also add a label so that we know what the file entry box is for. That means two widgets and all we have is a single row--so we need to add a Horizontal Box with two columns. Find the Horizontal Box on the GTK+ Basic palette, click it with the left mouse button and then click in the top row of the three rows of our canvas. When prompted select just 2 (rather than the default 3) columns for this Horizontal Box.
Now click in the top left box of our canvas (this is the left most of the two cells we have just created). A GtkLabel widget should now appear with the label label1 (and some resizing of the cell might occur). This is now our first “real” widget. Of course we don't want the label to read label1 (even though we might leave it's name--as distinct from it's label text--as label1 for now). We can change the label text through the Properties window where you will find the fields relevant to this widget (assuming it is still the selected widget). Change the Label field to be `File:' (replacing label1). For good measure set the X Pad field to be 10 (so that the widgets won't look so cramped). You will see the effect of these immediately.
You can remove widgets easily through the menu on the right mouse button. First click on a widget with the left mouse button to select it. The right mouse button will then list the actions you can perform on this widget, including cut and delete. Note also the list of “parent” widgets all the way up to the root widget which is called app1. Before proceeding let's explore this widget pathway in a little more detail.
We can see the Widget Tree window expanded above. Thus, app1 contains dock1 which is made up of three sub-components: dockitem1 contains the menu bar; dockitem2 contains the toolbar; and vbox1 is the Vertical Box that we added above. The Widget Tree window provides an alternative mechanism for selecting widgets.
Now we add the widget for entering the filename. The one we will use is the one provided by the Gnome palette.
We could use the text entry field of the GTK+ Basic palette and add a Browse button ourselves, but the Gnome palette Gnome File Entry widget does it all for us, and more. Click on this widget in the palette then click in the top right cell of your canvas. The browse button might look a bit strange (stretched out) but don't worry, it will sort itself out!
Where possible you should think about tooltips--those small popup frames that appear while you hover the mouse over some item and contain useful information about the item. Tooltips provide the basic reminders that help the user ignore the application's written documentation. Tooltips should be just a little verbose, perhaps taking up 3 or 4 lines of text. Aim to inform with the minimum number of words.
You add tooltips to widgets by first selecting the widget. Select the text area of your fileentry1 widget--this will select something called combo-entry1 which is contained within the Gnome File Entry widget. Then in the Properties window click on the Basic tab. On that page you will see the Tooltip text entry about halfway down. Simply type in the required text, such as:
Name of the file whose contents is to be counted.
Now hover the mouse over the file entry field on your canvas and the tooltip should pop up.
An interesting question is whether the tooltip should be associated with the file entry field as we have done or with the label of the field, or both? The answer is left as an exercise for the reader! We prefer to associate the tooltip with just the entry field itself since that is where the mouse will be hovering while you are thinking about it. On the other-hand Glade's own interface associates the tooltips with the labels.
We will now add a label and 3 check buttons to the next row of our canvas. This will be used to indicate what we want counted: words, lines, and bytes. So we need space for 4 widgets which we achieve with the Horizontal Box widget of the GTK+ Basic palette. When prompted change the default 3 columns to 4 columns.
Add a Label to the first cell of this row and change the text of the label to `What to count:.' This label is called label2 in our collection of widgets. You may like to set the X Pad field to 10.
Now add a check button for `Words' in the next cell of this row. The check button widget is the third widget of the third row of the GTK+ Basic palette--the third row contains 4 different types of buttons. Select the Check Button from the palette with the left mouse button then click the left mouse button in the second cell of the second row of your canvas. This creates a new widget called checkbutton1. Change the Label: text field in the Properties window for this new checkbutton to read `Words.' Similarly add check buttons for `Lines' and `Bytes.' That is, select the Check Button on the palette again then click in the next cell of your canvas. Note that after you place a widget on your canvas the selected widget button on the palette becomes in-active and the left mouse button reverts to being used for selection.
Also add tooltips for each check button, selecting each of the check buttons, in turn, and adding text to the Tooltips field of the Basic tab of the Properties window.
We now realise that we didn't really need 3 rows for vbox1. Two are sufficient. Select the third row. You may notice that the Properties window goes blank and from the right mouse button menu this row of our canvas is nothing more than a Placeholder. The right mouse button menu Delete will remove it for us. You could put it back anytime (or indeed place any row within vbox1) through the right mouse button menu. Select any widget within vbox1 (e.g., the Words check button checkbutton1) and then with the right mouse button traverse the menu to select vbox1-->Insert After.
The Run and Stop Buttons and the on_run_button_activate callback.
We will now tidy up the menus, removing those that don't apply, and adding a new one to perform the actual word count.
After the words, lines, and bytes have been counted we will write the results to the Status Message area of the Gnome Application Bar at the bottom of the window.
You can now run your interface, even though you have yet to write the code to perform the counting. Each of the following walkthroughs begins with the minimum required to run the interface without any actions behind it. You'll want to give this a try just to make sure you can!
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