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Wayland is an object oriented display protocol, which features request and events. Requests can be seen as method calls on certain objects, whereas events can be seen as signals of an object. This makes the Wayland protocol a perfect candidate for a C++ binding.

The goal of this library is to create such a C++ binding for Wayland using the most modern C++ technology currently available, providing an easy to use C++ API to Wayland.


To build this library, a recent version of cmake is required. Furthermore, a recent C++ Compiler with C++11 support, such as GCC or clang, is required. Also, pugixml is required to build the XML protocol scanner. Apart from the Wayland libraries, there are no further library dependencies.

The documentation is autogenerated using Doxygen, therefore doxygen as well as graphviz is required.



To build the library, cmake .. needs to executed in a newly created build directory in the root directory of the repository, followed by a make. After that, make install will install the library.

There are several CMake variables that can be set in order to customise the build and install process:

CMake Variable Effect
CMAKE_CXX_COMPILER C++ compiler to use
CMAKE_CXX_FLAGS Additional flags for the C++ compiler
CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX Prefix folder, under which everything is installed
CMAKE_INSTALL_LIBDIR Library folder relative to the prefix
CMAKE_INSTALL_INCLUDEDIR Header folder relative to the prefix
CMAKE_INSTALL_BINDIR Binary folder relative to the prefix
CMAKE_INSTALL_DATAROOTDIR Shared folder relative to the prefix
CMAKE_INSTALL_DOCDIR Documentation folder relative to the prefix
CMAKE_INSTALL_MANDIR Manpage folder relative to the prefix
BUILD_SCANNER Whether to build the scanner
BUILD_LIBRARIES Whether to build the libraries
BUILD_DOCUMENTATION Whether to build the documentation
BUILD_EXAMPLES Whether to build the examples
INSTALL_UNSTABLE_PROTOCOLS Whether to install the unstable protocols

The installation root can also be changed using the environment variable DESTDIR when using make install.


If the requirements are met, the documentation will normally be built automatically. HTML pages, LaTeX source files as well as manpages are generated.

To build the documentation manually, doxygen needs to be executed in the root directory of the repository. The resulting documentation can then be found in the doc directory. The required Doxyfile is available after the library has been built. The documentaion is also online availabe here.

Example programs

To build the example programs the BUILD_EXAMPLES option needs to be enabled during the build. The resulting binaries will be put under the example directory inside the build directory. They can be run directly without installing the library first.

To build the example programs manually, make can executed in the example directory after the library has been built and installed.


In the following, it is assumed that the reader is familiar with basic Wayland concepts and at least version 11 of the C++ programming language.

Each interface is represented by a class. E.g. the wl_registry interface is represented by the registry_t class.

An instance of a class is a wrapper for a Wayland object (a wl_proxy pointer). If a copy is made of a particualr instance, both instances refer to the same Wayland object. The underlying Wayland object is destroyed once there are no copies of this object left. Only a few classes are non-copyable, namely display_t and egl_window_t. There are also special rules for proxy wrappers and the use of foreigen objects. Refer to the documentation for more details.

A request to an object of a specific interface corresponds to a method in this class. E.g. to marshal the create_pool request on an wl_shm interface, the create_pool() method of an instance of shm_t has to be called:

shm_t shm;
int fd;
int32_t size;
// ... insert the initialisation of the above here ...
shm_pool_t shm_pool = shm.create_pool(fd, size);

Some methods return newly created instances of other classes. In this example an instance of the class shm_pool_t is returned.

Events are implemented using function objects. To react to an event, a function object with the correct signature has to be assigned to it. These can not only be static functions, but also member functions or closures. E.g. to react to global events from the registry using a lambda expression, one could write:

registry.on_global() = [] (uint32_t name, std::string interface,
                           uint32_t version)
  { std::cout << interface << " v" << version << std::endl; };

An example for using member functions can be found in example/opengles.cpp or example/shm.cpp.

The Wayland protocol uses arrays in some of its events and requests. Since these arrays can have arbitrary content, they are not directly mapped to a std::vector. Instead there is a new type array_t, which can converted to and from a std::vectory with an user specified type. For example:

keyboard.on_enter() = [] (uint32_t serial, surface_t surface,
                          array_t keys)
  { std::vector<uint32_t> vec = keys; };

To compile code that using this library, pkg-config can be used to take care of the compiler flags. Assuming the source file is called foo.cpp and the executable shall be called foo type:

$ c++ -c foo.cpp `pkg-config --cflags wayland-client++` -o foo.o
$ c++ foo.o `pkg-config --libs wayland-client++` -o foo

If the library and headers are installed in the default search paths of the compiler, the linker flag -lwayland-client++ can also directly be specified on the command line.

If the Wayland cursor classes and/or EGL is used, the corresponding libreries wayland-cursor++ and/or wayland-egl++ need to be linked in as well. If any extension protocols such as xdg-shell are used, the library wayland-client-extra++ should be linked in as well.

Further examples can be found in the examples/Makefile.