New notes plugin release 1.7.3

  • March 27, 2010
  • Mike Massonnet
Three months since the last release, and three months since it is available as a separate standalone application running in the notification area. This has made it a lot easier to test and debug, as before I had to build the plugin, install the plugin, restart the panel or remove/readd the plugin in the panel, now I just have to run ./xfce4-notes from the source directory.

This new release has seen some structural tree changes to save time during compilation. Now everything is in src/ and lib/, where lib/ contains code to build an XnpHypertextView, an XnpNote (a composite-widget that embeds a GtkScrolledWindow with an XnpHypertextView and sends “save” signals on changes), an XnpWindow with the custom made navigation and title bars and the right click menu on the title bar, and finally an XnpApplication class that is the heart of everything, it handles creations/deletions of notes, loads/saves the data, etc. The src/ directory contains the main files for the panel plugin, the status icon, the popup command and the settings dialogue.

The new stuff is mostly eye-candy as stated in the previous blog entry. The GTK+ RC style has been pimped up with custom made scrollbars and the source code contains a self-drawn close button. The stuff about GTK+ scrollbars theming is grossly explained on live.gnome.org but I opened the GTK+ Dust theme files which was, to me, more understandable :-) Also it was because of this particular theme I took a look at customizing the scrollbars, see below the before/after screenshots. The older article about writing a Widget with Cairo helped me getting started from scratch with an empty “close button” widget to replace the simple GtkButton with label. As I liked very much the time passed on these changes I contributed a tutorial “Monochrome icon” available only in PDF as of today which I hope to be useful for Vala beginners but also a nice update of the article about Cairo but with Vala language.

The fixes included in this release are the following: correctly restore sticky-window and keep-above states after some race conditions, and restore tab label orientation after renaming a note. And last but definitely not least the undo feature was not working because an internal timeout wasn't reset to zero which made the code think a snapshot was needed and thus the undo/redo buffers ended with the same content after the timeout elapsed. Thanks to Christian (the developer behind Midori) otherwise I would still not have taken a look around this!

The forthcoming features I have in mind would be a search dialogue and per-note options for activating a stripped down “markdown” syntax, an orthographic corrector and wrapping words which is the default for the moment.

The release is available at archive.xfce.org.

Thanks for the feedbacks and reports you sent and will send back.

Update: The tutorial is now also available on the Xfce wiki.

Include custom GTK+ RC style

  • March 8, 2010
  • Mike Massonnet
I've been using a custom GTK+ RC style for the notes plugin since the version 1.4.0, right now it is at version 1.7.2. I have been playing with GTK+ theming again these last two hours, and I've get custom scrollbars, a gradient for the custom-made “title bar”, and better colours for the notebook to get the current tab stand out from the crowd.

While experimenting on a test-case code I found out a better way to parse a gtkrc file in the program. The first time I was fighting with the existing gtk_rc related functions, I gave up on a solution I partially dislike that is to include a line to the custom gtkrc file within ~/.gtkrc-2.0.

Today I understood how gtk_rc_parse(filename) behaves. You have to call this function at the beginning of the program before building any widgets, it will work even if the file doesn't exist yet. Next, while the program is running, you can modify the file, create it, delete it, truncate it, whatever, and call gtk_rc_reparse_all() to get the style refreshed in the GUI. It's hard to believe that such easy things are sometimes a PITA :-)

Be prepared for a 1.7.3 notes plugin with nicer colours.

Show/hide functionality from notification area

  • March 1, 2010
  • Mike Massonnet
When using a status icon within the notification area it is common to use the left-click action to show/hide the main window. Obviously this is often done in different ways. So here is my tip on how to do it right :-)

What I believe to me the most sense-full way is to:
  1. Check if the application is invisible and show it,
  2. Otherwise check if the window is inactive and present it,
  3. Otherwise hide it.
In C language it looks like this:
/* Show the window */
if (!(GTK_WIDGET_VISIBLE(window))) {
/* Present the window */
else if (!gtk_window_is_active(GTK_WINDOW(window))) {
/* Hide the window */
else {
int winx, winy;
gtk_window_get_position(GTK_WINDOW(window), &winx, &winy);
gtk_window_move(GTK_WINDOW(window), winx, winy);
I have been doing this for quite a long time inside the Xfce Notes plugin, except a little different with multiple windows.

Some remarks, the PendingSealings proposes gtk_widget_get_visible instead of its analogous MACRO. And as you may also notice when the window is hidden it gets moved just after, this is important as otherwise the window would be repositioned by its initial value once shown again (e.g. centre of screen or dynamically by the window manager).

Messing up with Vala (again)

  • December 23, 2009
  • Mike Massonnet
First some good news. I didn't look close enough into the possibilities offered by Automake 1.11 when I first wrote the post about building Vala projects. Automake 1.11 is all about making releases without the end-users having to compile Vala! Just like it is written in the Automake documentation. From now on I will always apply this wherever it is possible.

I updated the Xfce4 Vala bindings with libraries from the 4.7 stack. In there I have updated the panel plugin example, and as you can see the Automake file is extremely short. When there is a SOURCES defined with a Vala file, Automake will create targets for each compiled program or library with Vala compilation, and generate one vala.stamp file per target. This has its pros and cons. In the case of the Notes plugin, this disallowed me to have a mix of only C written software and Vala inside the same directory. In reality I used to have a single main file for the panel plugin to compile to C either for the 4.7 version or prior. Automake makes the Vala specific targets visible outside the scope of the "if PANEL47 ... else ... end" block. I ended up with self-compiled Vala for each target in maintainer mode only, as previously, which is a small overhead for the specific targets.

Other nice thing about Vala is that bindings are just files. I compiled the Notes plugin for the Xfce 4.6 panel on my netbook just to verify everything is alright but unfortunately there were some problems. I bumped the required version of Vala to 0.7.8 which has GTK+ bindings for 2.18 already while I only have GTK+ 2.16 available. The simple thing to do was to download the GTK+ bindings from the version of Vala I used previously and copy them into a location of the project (or system wide).  As long as the Vala compiler knows where to pick them up (with "--vapidir=") it will choose them and not the ones provided by default. This makes it awesomely easy to provide customized bindings for example.

Vala can always be very time consuming, but I still like it! Just like git merge by the way.

Notes, notebook, tabs

  • July 12, 2009
  • Mike Massonnet
The notes plugin features a notebook since the port to Xfce 4.4 and in the last release I hide the tabs and gave a try to a new navigation bar. Seems you like the tabs so no worries it will be back in the next release.

Update: Revision 7717 has an option to show the tabs.

Vala Notes Plugin

  • March 11, 2009
  • Mike Massonnet
Or better, there is Vala in the Notes plugin. It's been a long time I thought about a hypertext view widget for the notes plugin, so it can highlight links and open them on click, and doing this in pure C/GObject is quite a PITA because there is a lot to take care about (more lines of code), and then you didn't start thinking about the whole functions of the object. Now this is retro with the presence of Vala. I played with Vala some time ago, doing some very rudimentary hello worlds, and I never had a chance to really write something in Vala, untill two days ago. I started to write a very dummy object on top of GtkTextView that implements the simple undo/redo feature I wrote inside notes.c and it was very fast and easy to backport from the C code to Vala, and this gave me a very good start with Vala (now that was one Vala too much, wasn't it? anyway...). Yesterday I added skel functions to support hyperlinks which I finished today. Finally I integrated the Vala object inside the notes plugin in a way that it compiles to C code when you are in MAINTAINER_MODE, which means for end-users they won't need Vala but only gcc.

Now for those interested into Vala, here is the file I played with: hypertext.vala. This source contains at the end of the HypertextView class, another class that contains a main function so it can be compiled to a binary. This proves how easy it is to test a class, and all you need to do is to run the following command: valac --pkg=gtk+-2.0 hypertextview.vala && ./hypertextview.
There are many samples available with the source of Vala and on Gnome Live. The tutorial covers important points, the FAQ too, but the documentation is a little less interesting if you already know GObject IMHO.
One important thing I learned about Vala was the difference between the out and ref arguments.

If you have a hard time at finding the right method definitions, look into /usr/share/vala/vapi/gtk+-2.0.vapi for instance for GTK+. There you can quickly find any function name you now from the C API, for instance if you want to have a look at gtk_text_view_get_iter_at_location search for get_iter_at_location. By scrolling up you will see that you are in the class Gtk.TextView. Vapis are very easy to read.

I am very interested into porting the objects of the Xfmpc project to Vala, and then start trying out the plugin sample (loading modules during runtime)... I hope my fellow will like that idea :-)

Now for the people interested to develop Vala classes with VIM I have some tips. First follow these instructions in order to get Vala syntax. Then I suggest you install the Tag List plugin, and to get it working with Vala you will need to add the following lines to your vimrc configuration:
" Work-around Tag List
let tlist_vala_settings='c#;d:macro;t:typedef;n:namespace;c:class;'.
\ 'E:event;g:enum;s:struct;i:interface;'.
\ 'p:properties;m:method'
If you don't know about folding then you miss a lot of VIM culture, in fact you can fold/unfold brackets by going over a bracket and typing zf% in command mode. And that's all folk, thanks for reading til here.

Colored Notes

  • February 19, 2009
  • Mike Massonnet
I passed the last night to hack on a gtkrc snippet for the Notes plugin, because I couldn't find my sleep well. So being borred I killed a little bit the time to have a colored notes window :-) I know it was possible since always, I just never carred to do it. Using colors showed one annoying problem which are the icons. They don't fit always once you go away from the default gtk theme colors. In consequence I switched them to bold text labels with minus, plus and times. One other thing I didn't succeed with was to theme the menu that is available on the top right corner or Ctrl+M.

Finally the result is nice.

The snippet is the following:
gtk_color_scheme = "notes_fg_color:#E8E58C\nnotes_bg_color:#77741D\nnotes_base_color:#EBE88C\nnotes_text_color:#6B6A4A\nnotes_selected_bg_color:#ACA94E\nnotes_selected_fg_color:#E8E58C"

style "notes-default"
xthickness = 2
ythickness = 2

fg[NORMAL] = @notes_fg_color
fg[ACTIVE] = @notes_fg_color
fg[PRELIGHT] = @notes_fg_color
fg[SELECTED] = @notes_selected_fg_color
fg[INSENSITIVE] = shade (3.0,@notes_fg_color)

bg[NORMAL] = @notes_bg_color
bg[ACTIVE] = shade (1.0233,@notes_bg_color)
bg[PRELIGHT] = mix(0.90, shade (1.1,@notes_bg_color), @notes_selected_bg_color)
bg[SELECTED] = @notes_selected_bg_color
bg[INSENSITIVE] = shade (1.03,@notes_bg_color)

base[NORMAL] = @notes_base_color
base[ACTIVE] = shade (0.65,@notes_base_color)
base[PRELIGHT] = @notes_base_color
base[SELECTED] = @notes_selected_bg_color
base[INSENSITIVE] = shade (1.025,@notes_bg_color)

text[NORMAL] = @notes_text_color
text[ACTIVE] = shade (0.95,@notes_base_color)
text[PRELIGHT] = @notes_text_color
text[SELECTED] = @notes_selected_fg_color
text[INSENSITIVE] = mix (0.675,shade (0.95,@notes_bg_color),@notes_fg_color)

widget "xfce4-notes-plugin*" style:highest "notes-default"
widget "xfce4-notes-plugin*.*GtkMenu*" style:highest "notes-default"
widget "xfce4-notes-plugin*.*GtkMenuItem*" style:highest "notes-default"
# TODO Set the colors for the menu
The shade() and mix() functions are specific to either Clearlooks or Aurora. But this can be fixed. Actually I didn't include a default rc style inside the notes plugin, in fact this snippet can be saved for instance as notesrc inside your current theme and you add include "notesrc" in the gtkrc file.

All for the sharing, please enjoy.

Update: The shade() and mix() functions are a feature from GTK+ 2.10 just like gtk_color_scheme.

Update: I released a new version 1.6.4 that has a configurable background color setting.

Prospective work on Xfce

  • November 13, 2008
  • Mike Massonnet
As Xfce 4.6 is coming it might be good to throw updates for the panel plugins I maintain at the same time.

The panel plugins I maintain are:
  • The notes plugin
  • The FS guard plugin
  • The clipman plugin (this one is prolly the most wanted)

For the notes plugin I got already most features I was thinking of in, except formatting (which I doubt that I will work on), so the release going on here will be minor.

For the FS guard plugin I was asked to reverse the progress bar so that it shows the capacity remaining and not the free space... well something like that :-) Now I'm confused and don't remember what it really displays.

The clipman plugin needs a rewrite. To my taste it features too many options, and I will split most none-obvious options to an "Advanced..." tab. The first release will most probably be the rewrite, than will follow another release for a long asked feature that is action on pattern matching — open a web page automatically, display a menu, and so forth.

Other than plugins I maintain applications.

The applications I maintain are:
  • Xfmpc
  • Eatmonkey

Sadly for Xfmpc — a client for MPD — I no longer run MPD to listen to my music, so this hacking is freezed at the moment. My current favorite player is Audacious.

Eatmonkey is a small application where I learn to use new frameworks. There won't be an official release before very long.

Hopefully I will get the clipman plugin out before end of December!