Gtk+'s application development pipeline mess

Look at this normal flow of things, in a normal day of work, in a normal programmer's life:
  1. Design a great UI in a UI designer
  2. Roll all the UI resources into a binary blob and link it to your code so that you dont have runtime dependencies (read as: you dont know where you'll be installed for example)
  3. Ask the UI framework to instantiate the view, wire it up to a controller and get going with your awesome business logic.
Now, I thought, we had this sort of thing sorted out a decade ago. But apparently not with Gtk+. Glade works perfectly fine with external image resources. i.e. you can actually see how your UI will look with all the external images (non stock icons) loaded. And Gtk::Builder crunches that file perfectly fine too.

The problem comes when you want to roll them into a blob using GResource and link it to your binary. Glade does not understand GResources. Glade generates Gtk::Builder understandable xml files. This xml refers to your image files directly. But, GResource wants you to refer to every resource by its own 'resource:///' URI. Gtk::Builder can load an xml from a GResource URI. But the xml itself refers to other resources on the filesystem which sort of
defeats the purpose.

After that brick on my face, I started thinking about workarounds:
  1. Manually fetch the external images from the GResource bundle and link them to the UI built by the Gtk::Builder. This means I cannot see my awesome icons in Glade when I am designing the UI.
  2. Manually edit the xml and change the external resource references to GResource URI. I dont know whether this even works. Even if it works, I do know that the 'cannot see in Glade' problem exists.
This really sucks. Lets get the obvious things out of the way:
  1. Moving to another 'oh so awesome' UI toolkit is not a solution for me. Coz, in the end of the day, I love Gtk+.
  2. Design all your UI in code is not the way forward either. I know I can do it. I HAVE done it a dozen times before. And I know that its a productivity killer. You disagree? Imagine iterating through your UI design 20 times a day, and a build taking 15+ minutes each. That is the biggest deterrent to refactoring your UI.
So, what could be an ideal solution:
  1. Glade should generate the GResource xml definition also. Currently Glade is centered over a 'Gtk::Builder xml file'. Instead Glade should center on the 'GResource definition'. Glade should allow you to add multiple Gtk::Builder xml files into a 'GResource definition'.
  2. Gtk::Builder should understand GResource URI in the xml (if it does not already)
After all that frustration, I resorted back to teaching my build system to tell the executable where the resources were. Now we know why old tricks dont die easy. Arghh.


Nerd Progre said...

two years later, has the situation improved?


Joe Steeve said...

@FC: I am still sleeping with my build system tricks :) Havent checked the new girl yet. Will post once I meet her ;)