GTK3 applications

Why are snaps good for GTK applications?

Snapcraft bundles necessary libraries required by the application, and can configure the environment for confinement of applications for end user peace of mind. Developers can ensure their application is delivered pre-packaged with libraries which will not be replaced or superseded by a distribution vendor.

Here are some snap advantages that will benefit many GTK applications:

  • Snaps are easy to discover and install
    Millions of users can browse and install snaps graphically in the Ubuntu Software Center, the Snap Store or from the command-line.
  • Snaps install and run the same across Linux
    They bundle the exact version of whatever is required, along with all of your app’s dependencies, be they binaries or system libraries.
  • You control the release schedule
    You decide when a new version of your application is released without having to wait for distributions to catch up.
  • Snaps automatically update to the latest version
    Four times a day, users’ systems will check for new versions and upgrade in the background.
  • Upgrades are not disruptive
    Because upgrades are not in-place, users can keep your app open as it’s upgraded in the background.
  • Upgrades are safe
    If your app fails to upgrade, users automatically roll back to the previous revision.

Build a snap in 20 minutes

Typically this guide will take around 20 minutes and will result in a working GTK application in a snap. Once complete, you’ll understand how to package GTK3 applications as snaps and deliver them to millions of Linux users. After making the snap available in the store, you’ll get access to installation metrics and tools to directly manage the delivery of updates to Linux users.

For a brief overview of the snap creation process, including how to install snapcraft and how it’s used, see Snapcraft overview. For a more comprehensive breakdown of the steps involved, take a look at Creating a snap.

Getting started

Snaps are defined in a single YAML file placed in the root folder of your project. The following example shows the entire snapcraft.yaml file for Foliate. Don’t worry, we’ll break this down.

Foliate Snap

Snaps are defined in a single yaml file placed in the root of your project. The Foliate example shows the entire snapcraft.yaml for an existing project. We’ll break this down.

snapcraft.yaml for Foliate
name: foliate
version: 'git'
grade: stable
adopt-info: foliate

base: core18
confinement: strict

apps:
  foliate:
    command: usr/bin/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate
    extensions: [gnome-3-28]
    plugs:
      - gsettings # For desktop theme detection under Wayland session
      - home
    slots:
      - dbus-daemon
    common-id: com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate
    desktop: usr/share/applications/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.desktop

parts:
  foliate:
    plugin: meson
    source: https://github.com/johnfactotum/foliate.git
    source-branch: 1.x
    meson-parameters: [--prefix=/snap/foliate/current/usr]
    build-packages:
      - libgjs-dev
      - gettext
    override-pull: |
      snapcraftctl pull
      # Point to the snapped version of gjs
      sed -i.bak -e 's|@GJS@|/snap/foliate/current/usr/bin/gjs|g' src/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.in

      # Point icon to the correct location
      sed -i.bak -e 's|Icon=com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate|Icon=/usr/share/icons/hicolor/scalable/apps/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.svg|g' data/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.desktop.in
    organize:
      snap/foliate/current/usr: usr
    parse-info: [usr/share/metainfo/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.appdata.xml]

  libraries:
    plugin: nil
    stage-packages:
      - gjs
      - gir1.2-webkit2-4.0

slots:
  dbus-daemon:
    interface: dbus
    bus: session
    name: com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate

Metadata

The snapcraft.yaml file starts with a small amount of human-readable metadata, which usually can be lifted from the GitHub description or project README.md. This data is used in the presentation of your app in the Snap Store.

name: foliate
version: 'git'
grade: stable
adopt-info: foliate

The name must be unique in the Snap Store. Valid snap names consist of lower-case alphanumeric characters and hyphens. They cannot be all numbers and they also cannot start or end with a hyphen.

The version is a “human readable” version string. It contains no semantic meaning, its purpose is to inform users of which version of the application they are installing. By specifying git for the version, the current git tag or commit will be used as the version string.

You can also fill in the summary, description and icon. However, Foliate already has this metadata defined using an AppStream metadata file com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.appdata.xml, so we don’t want to duplicate this data. We use adopt-info to tell Snapcraft to get the metadata from the foliate part. More on this later.

Base

The base keyword defines a special kind of snap that provides a run-time environment with a minimal set of libraries that are common to most applications. They’re transparent to users, but they need to be considered, and specified, when building a snap.

base: core18

core18 is the current standard base for snap building and is based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

Security model

To get started, we won’t confine this application. Unconfined applications, specified with devmode, can only be released to the hidden “edge” channel where you and other developers can install them. After you get the snap working in devmode confinement, you can switch to strict mode and figure out which interfaces (plugs) the snap uses.

confinement: devmode

Apps

Apps are the commands and services exposed to end users. If your command name matches the snap name, users will be able run the command directly. If the names differ, then apps are prefixed with the snap name (foliate.command-name, for example). This is to avoid conflicting with apps defined by other installed snaps.

If you don’t want your command prefixed you can request an alias for it on the Snapcraft forum. These are set up automatically when your snap is installed from the Snap Store.

apps:
  foliate:
    command: usr/bin/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate
    extensions: [gnome-3-28]
    plugs:
      - gsettings # For desktop theme detection under Wayland session
      - home
    slots:
      - dbus-daemon
    common-id: com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.desktop
    desktop: usr/share/applications/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.desktop

This application uses the gnome-3-28 extension. This will make GTK and Gnome libraries available to the snap at runtime and it will configure the runtime environment of the application so that all desktop functionality is correctly initialised.

Parts

Parts define how to build your app. Parts can be anything: programs, libraries, or other assets needed to create and run your application. In this case we have one: the Foliate source release tarball. In other cases these can point to local directories, remote git repositories or other revision control systems.

Before building the part, the dependencies listed as build-packages are installed. The Meson plugin then uses meson, ninja build and ninja install to build the part.

parts:
  foliate:
    plugin: meson
    source: https://github.com/johnfactotum/foliate.git
    source-branch: 1.x
    meson-parameters: [--prefix=/snap/foliate/current/usr]
    build-packages:
      - libgjs-dev
      - gettext
    override-pull: |
      snapcraftctl pull
      # Point to the snapped version of gjs
      sed -i.bak -e 's|@GJS@|/snap/foliate/current/usr/bin/gjs|g' src/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.in

      # Point icon to the correct location
      sed -i.bak -e 's|Icon=com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate|Icon=/usr/share/icons/hicolor/scalable/apps/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.svg|g' data/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.desktop.in
    organize:
      snap/foliate/current/usr: usr
    parse-info: [usr/share/metainfo/com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate.appdata.xml]

  libraries:
    plugin: nil
    stage-packages:
      - gjs
      - gir1.2-webkit2-4.0

stage-packages are the packages required by Foliate to run, and mirror the same packages required by the binary on a standard distribution installation. Note that we did not add GTK3 to the stage-packages. This is because the GTK3 runtime is already added by the gnome-3-28 extension extension.

parse-info points to the AppStream metadata file. Since we used adopt-info: foliate in the top-level metadata, the AppStream file of the foliate part will be used to fill in the summary, description and icon of this snap. See Using AppStream metadata for more information.

Slots

Many GTK3 applications require access to DBus in order to run correctly. However, snap blocks this access by default so you need to explicitly define that this application is allowed access to dbus.

slots:
  dbus-daemon:
    interface: dbus
    bus: session
    name: com.github.johnfactotum.Foliate

Building the snap

You can download the example repository with the following command:

$ git clone https://github.com/snapcrafters/foliate

After you’ve created the snapcraft.yaml, you can build the snap by simply executing the snapcraft command in the project directory:

$ snapcraft
Using 'snapcraft.yaml': Project assets will be searched for from the 'snap' directory.
Launching a VM.
[...]
Snapped foliate_amd64.snap

The resulting snap can be installed locally. This requires the --dangerous flag because the snap is not signed by the Snap Store. The --devmode flag acknowledges that you are installing an unconfined application:

$  sudo snap install foliate_amd64.snap --devmode --dangerous

You can then try it out:

$ foliate

Removing the snap is simple too:

$  sudo snap remove foliate

You can clean up the build environment with the following command:

$ snapcraft clean

By default, when you make a change to snapcraft.yaml, snapcraft only builds the parts that have changed. Cleaning a build, however, forces your snap to be rebuilt in a clean environment and will take longer.

Publishing your snap

To share your snaps you need to publish them in the Snap Store. First, create an account on the dashboard. Here you can customise how your snaps are presented, review your uploads and control publishing.

You’ll need to choose a unique “developer namespace” as part of the account creation process. This name will be visible by users and associated with your published snaps.

Make sure the snapcraft command is authenticated using the email address attached to your Snap Store account:

$ snapcraft login

Reserve a name for your snap

You can publish your own version of a snap, provided you do so under a name you have rights to. You can register a name on dashboard.snapcraft.io, or by running the following command:

$ snapcraft register mysnap

Be sure to update the name: in your snapcraft.yaml to match this registered name, then run snapcraft again.

Upload your snap

Use snapcraft to push the snap to the Snap Store.

$ snapcraft push --release=edge mysnap_*.snap

If you’re happy with the result, you can commit the snapcraft.yaml to your GitHub repo and turn on automatic builds so any further commits automatically get released to edge, without requiring you to manually build locally.

Congratulations! You’ve just built and published your first Go snap. For a more in-depth overview of the snap building process, see Creating a snap.

Last updated 28 days ago. Help improve this document in the forum.