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

Roman Hargrave roman at
Mon Mar 27 03:57:43 UTC 2017

On Mon, 27 Mar 2017 13:01:23 +1030
Simon Lees <sflees at> wrote:

> On 03/24/2017 08:00 AM, Roman Hargrave wrote:
> > 
> > 	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.
> >   
> There is a xdg-file-dialog, to go with xdg-terminal and friends but it
> seems to only support kde and zenity (gtk?) this seems close enough to
> what your looking for it would just be a matter of getting toolkits to
> use it rather then there own built in. Although you would probably want
> to extend some other areas as well for example there's currently no
> sensible option for enlightenment or lxqt.
> -- 
> Simon Lees (Simotek)                  
> Emergency Update Team                 
> SUSE Linux                           Adelaide Australia, UTC+10:30
> GPG Fingerprint: 5B87 DB9D 88DC F606 E489 CEC5 0922 C246 02F0 014B

xdg-file-dialog is the idea here, but it doesn't offer a native solution,
which I think would be more appreciated by some developers.

When I get some time I'll write a quick C example, provided I don't get

Roman Hargrave
roman at

$ fortune -s linuxcookie linux cookie
Imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism.

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