Friday, April 7, 2017

GNOME Paint - simple drawing app for GNOME

I've started working on simple drawing application for GNOME. Current state - just started (see the current screenshot [1]), but progressing. Help needed (especially UX guys).

A couple of weeks ago I've needed to make a very simple modification of the image - some cutting, moving some part of the image from left to right, draw a few lines. Turns out, that I couldn't easily find a software, that I could use. I've tried following:
  • gnome-paint [2] - the name (GNOME-XXX) convinced me to try this tool as a first one. The first attempt of modifying the image (AFAIR I just wanted to resize the canvas) - crash. Ok, that happens. Fortunately, we live in the open source world so I can fix it. I've downloaded the sources, and... bang! The project was unmaintained for a while (last commit more than 6 years ago), GTK+2, etc - I gave up. I didn't have that much time, I just needed to do simple modifications of the image. So let's try another tool:
  • gpaint [3] - the same story - unmaintained, and crashed after few clicks. Keep searching, and I found:
  • GNU Paint [4] - this app looks awful (especially if you got used to beautiful GNOME apps) but at least it seems functional. Unfortunately, didn't work for me neither. After few minutes of using it, the app just didn't respond to the input (yes, it means that I couldn't save my work, I had to do the print-screen...). And finally, I've installed:
  • KolourPaint [5] with tons of KDE stuff... seriously, I couldn't believe that I can't easily find simple image editor for GNOME...
Hey, but what about GIMP?
Sorry to say that, but it's not a SIMPLE image editor. Every time when I tried to do something that would be simple in MS Paint, I had to search for a tutorial. Every single time. 

You didn't do the research good enough, I know tool XXX which is based on GTK+
That's true, I didn't spend that much time on doing the research. However, after a few failures, I was just tired of this. I just wanted to do a simple modification, so I finally ended up with an app that I used to use some time ago, which was stable, functional, and simple. Now I'm aware of a few more apps (Pinta, mtpaint etc).

I've decided to start a new project - GNOME Paint. You can find some of the reasons in the paragraph "Motivation", here are the others:
  1. There is no GNOME-look-like drawing editor. Would be nice to have one. If the app will be good enough, and people will like it, it might be a part of GNOME core apps (but that's very long way)
  2. I finally want to dive deep into the GTK+ framework. I used to use it for several projects (mostly GTKMM), but without deep understanding of the framework, and working on a real project is IMO a better way for learning the framework than just reading the manual.
  3. I'm going to use it a lot, and it's also fun using software that you made on your own.
Current state
See the screenshot below. I've high-level design and some basic data structures, but still missing minimal functionality, so it's not even close to the first release. Also, the UI needs to be re-done (but I didn't pay attention to the UI so far). Hopefully, I'll be able to do a simple demo of the first release during the lightning session at GUADEC, but no promises.

Help needed
Any help (most important - UX, GNOME HIG experts) very welcome!


Saturday, January 7, 2017

chromietabs - getting information about open tabs in Google Chrome browser

This blog post is about chromietabs [1] library, that provides information (URL) about currently open tabs in Google Chrome and Chromium web browsers.

I was always curious how do I spend time using my computer - what applications do I use, how much time do I spend using particular app etc. I know there is plenty of software that could track my activity on the market, however, none of them met my requirements, so couple of months ago I've started workertracker project [2], which does the job. I'll blog about the application in the future, since is not ready yet (there's a few pre-releases, so feel free to test it), however, the post is about quite important feature of the app - accessing current URL of the browser (in google-chrome, for now).

chromietabs library
Since I couldn't find any good solution on the internet, I've decided to implement a tiny library that will provide information about active tab in Google Chrome and Chromium web browsers.
An Interface of the chromietabs library is very simple, and it consists of few layers - depends on how detailed information you need, you should use another class. The example below demonstrates how can you access the URL of the current tab in google chrome:

ChromieTabs::SessionAnalyzer analyzer{
           ChromieTabs::SessionReader("Current Session")};
auto window_id = analyzer.get_current_window_id();
auto active_tab_id = analyzer.get_current_tab_id(window_id);
std::cout << analyzer.get_current_url(active_tab_id) << std::endl;

A full example can be found in the git repository [1].
You can also use the documentation [3].
Please note, that current release (0.1) is a pre-release, and the API might change a bit.

How does it work?
I've noticed, that when I kill (not close) google-chrome, it's able to restore my tabs after the crash. It means, that it has to constantly update some file saving information about the tabs. I was right - there is a binary file in your profile directory - Current Session - that stores that information.
Unfortunately, Current Session is a binary file, so I had to go through the chromium source code to figure out the file format.

Feedback is always appreciated! Feel free to comment, report issues[4], or create pull requests [5].