Questions about a unified API for file choosers (and platform/toolkit integration)

Roman Hargrave roman at
Thu Mar 23 21:30:20 UTC 2017

	First off, I do hope this is the correct mailing list seeing as it's the 
one cited as being for general inquiries on

Having got that out of the way, I was curious as to whether there had been any
discussion on a manner of general-purpose interface for file selector dialogs,
as they are one of the more frequently interacted-with non-control aspects of
the toolkits (GTK2/3, Qt, Wx, Enlightenment, etc..) in use today in building
applications and desktop environments on Linux.

This question first came to mind when GTK3 replaced the type-ahead feature with
a recursive search, at which point it became apparent to me that I would not 
like to have to interact with that particular file chooser anymore.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of file choosers and their toolkits, the user
is at the mercy of the toolkit developer, and GTK has decided that any ability
to change this behavior shall not be considered for inclusion.
Also, unfortunately, many very useful applications using these toolkits really
have no alternative (Gimp, Inkscape), and working on an alternative would be
counterproductive, to boot.

Currently, some applications use DESKTOP_SESSION as a way to determine which 
utilities and IPC facilities, etc, to interact with. Currently, the burden of
selecting the "correct" toolkit features is upon the application, and I have 
encountered at least one application that seems to switch between the Qt or
GTK file picker based on the environment it runs in, so there is that.

Now, if there were a toolkit-agnostic set of interfaces for applications
to call in to in order to prompt the user with the native file picker
instead of that which the toolkits use would have the advantage of insuring
that any settings applied by their desktop environment follow through to the
application experience, thus allowing users to, for instance, not be subjected
to, for instance GTK file picker if they would prefer to use the Qt picker.

It would also allow for users to more efficiently use applications which have
an anemic file chooser by way of their toolkit (some older versions, i think, of 
fltk just present a listbox of files in PWD) - provided that the application
uses the interface rather than calling directly in to the toolkit.

I would be interesting in writing an RFP if one does not already exist for such
a thing, but was also primarily interested in fielding interest, as I know that
there would probably be interest in being able to use a "better" (in some folks
opinion) picker than say, the GTK picker, given what I've read in the rather
heated discussions on the GTK and Gnome bugzilla.

I don't intend to attract ire from more seasoned XDG/Freedesktop folks, as I know
Freedesktop isn't exactly a standards org, but it does seem like the most appropriate
venue, to me at least.

Feel free to point me elsewhere if you know of a better group for this.

Roman Hargrave
roman at

$ fortune -s linuxcookie linux cookie
"Spock, did you see the looks on their faces?"
"Yes, Captain, a sort of vacant contentment."

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