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Yet Another GUI framework for Erlang - gtknode
DESIGN GOALS
* GUI separated from application by message passing
* distributed (application and GUI can run on different machines)
* centered around a GUI builder
* small volume of (hand-written) code
* pre-documented
ARCHITECTURE
a c-node (a daemon that implements the Erlang distribution protocol)
that instantiates the GUI from a configuration file. the c-node sends
messages to the Erlang node when the user interacts with the GUI; the
Erlang application changes the state of the GUI by sending messages to
widgets in the c-node. the widgets should look like Erlang processes
with registered names. the protocol should look something like this.
CnodePid ! {aWidget,dosomething,Args} % erlang->cNode
ApplicationPid ! {reply, Val} % cNode->Erlang
ApplicationPid ! {signal,aWidget,eventType} % cNode->erlang
in this example aWidget is the name given to a widget in the
configration file. it can also be thought of as the registered name of
the process implementing the widget in the c-node.
the c-node is responsible for garbage-collecting all temporary data.
IMPLEMENTATION
i chose GTK2 (www.gtk.org) as the framework. there were several reasons;
* it has an eminent GUI builder, Glade (glade.gnome.org)
* it has facilities for instantiating the GUI from the Glade (XML) files
* it has good documentation
* it supports run-time type checking
* its object orientation maps well to Erlang (Obj.meth(Arg) -> Obj!{meth,[Arg]})
* the Python binding provides useful tools for code generation
* seems to be the Future (tm) in the *nix world, and runs on Windows too.
there's three parts to the gtknode. a main loop, some support
functions for object storage and marshalling, and a whole bunch of
generated wrapper functions.
The main loop is a pretty generic c-node that simple-mindedly
receives lists of 2-tuples;
{atom('Func'), list(boolean()|integer()|float()|atom()|string())}
it checks that there exists a function Func and calls it, passing a
pointer to the argument list. the Func's are wrapper functions
generated from the GTK header files, and unmarshalls and type checks
the arguments before the actual GTK functions are called.
the return value of the GTK function is sent back to the Erlang node.
a different kind of message is sent if there is an interesting event
in the GUI (e.g. a button is pressed), where "interesting" means specified
in the Glade file.
REFERENCE
the c-node is started thus;
gtknode node host regname cookie cnode-name
when started, gtknode will connect to it's application by sending a
handshake message to {node@host, regname}.
the messsage looks like this;
{{GtkPid,handshake}, []}
the Erlang application sends messages to the gtknode using
GtkPid. messages look like this;
list({'Gtk_function', [Args]})
E.g., if we have a GtkButton widget, named b1, and we want to use
these functions;
const gchar* gtk_button_get_label (GtkButton *button);
void gtk_button_set_label (GtkButton *button, const gchar *label);
we could send this;
GtkPid ! [{'Gtk_button_set_label',[b1,"foo"]},{'Gtk_button_get_label',[b1]}].
and we would receive this;
{{GtkPid,reply}, [{ok,void},{ok,"foo"}]}
signals are sent from gtknode if the signal handler for a specified
signal-widget combination is set to gn_sighandler. the signals look
like this;
{{GtkPid, signal}, {atom(WidgetName),atom(SignalName)}}
E.g., if we delete the GtkWindow named window1 we'll get this signal
{{GtkPid, signal},{window1,'GDK_DELETE'}}
given that we've requested it, of course.
EXAMPLES
the file src/gtknode.erl implements a controller/middleman for the
gtknode, it's quite instructive. it is recommended to use this instead of working directly against the c-node.
the file examples/simple/simple.erl implements the Erlang side of a
GUI for a simple 'top' application. the GUI is specified in
examples/simple/simple.glade
GETTING IT
http://github.com/massemanet/gtknode/
BUILDING
i can't see why the should be any real problems to get this to work
on Windows (if it can be said that anything works on Windows); alas, i
have no real wish to try it myself...
look here for more info;
www.gimp.org/~tml/gimp/win32
www.mingw.org
i myself have it run on solaris 8 and linux (debian lenny,squeeze
and ubuntu 8,9 and 10).
aclocal ; autoconf ; automake ; ./configure ; make
should work, if;
* OTP_ROOT is sane
* there is a sane GTK environment
on a dev-based system, installing libglade2-dev should be enough.
otherwise, if this;
pkg-config --cflags libglade-2.0
works, i.e. returns a bunch of c-flags, you should be OK.
STATUS
stable since 2008
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