Jan Grulich

How to use libportal/libportal-qt

There was a blog post from Peter Hutterer about Flatpak portals posted few months back. Peter explained what are portals and how do they work. Portals are used mostly because of security and sandbox/Wayland restrictions. Many times your only way to get access outside (opening a file, sending a notification, sharing a screen, etc.) is to use a portal. For most use-cases applications or developers don’t need to care about them as their support is usually implemented in libraries they use. For example Qt and GTK use portals internally so apps can use still the same APIs as before and they don’t need to worry about their apps not working in sandboxed environments. BUT there are still scenarios where libraries have unsufficient or none portal support, or a different options are desired so what are the options in this case if you still need to use portals?

  1. Do everything yourself, which means you will implement all the DBus calls and handling yourself.
  2. Use a library. Most logic choice would be libportal, but there is also a project called ASHPD for Rust users.

What is libportal and libportal-qt?

The libportal library provides GIO-style async APIs for Flatpak portals. It hides all the DBus complexity users would face in case of using portals directly and provides a user-friendly library instead. You might think that the libportal-qt is the same thing, just with Qt-style APIs, but the idea behind it is that each toolkit (Gtk3, Gtk4, Qt5, Qt6) has a different way to get a window handle which is needed to associate portal dialogs with the app that invoked them. So libportal-qt just provides a way to get a XdpParent object from a QWindow. As a C++/Qt developer I don’t mind using C/Glib APIs and I used it many times, but there is still one speciality I fail to use everytime, my friend GVariant. Some of the portal APIs in libportal expects a GVariant for all the complex structures, for example to specify a filter option for OpenFile() call from the fillechooser portal, you have to build a very complex GVariant based on the DBus specification.

Remember I told you libportal-qt doesn’t offer Qt-style APIs? This is not necessarily true, because I implemented all the complex structures you will have to pass in most of the portals and implemented functions that will return them as GVariants so you don’t need to get in touch with GVariants at all.

How to use libportal-qt?

First of all, all libportal flavours have pkgconfig file installed so it’s easy to use them from any build system and you just need to search for libportal-qt5 (we don’t have -qt6 version yet).

And how does the code look like? For example let’s say you want to open an image:

// Creates a filter rule, this can be a Mimetype or Pattern.
XdpQt::FileChooserFilterRule rule;
rule.type = XdpQt::FileChooserFilterRuleType::Mimetype;
rule.rule = QStringLiteral("image/jpeg");

// Create a filter with our rules, we will then pass it to OpenFile() call as GVariant.
XdpQt::FileChooserFilter filter;
filter.label = QStringLiteral("Images");
filter.rules << rule;

// Create a GVariant from our filter. This will result into variant in form of:
// "[('Images', [(1, 'image/jpeg')])]"
g_autoptr(GVariant) filterVariant = XdpQt::filechooserFiltersToGVariant({filter});

// Get XdpParent to associate this call (portal dialog) with our window.
XdpParent *parent = xdp_parent_new_qt(m_mainWindow->windowHandle());

// Finally open a file. XdpQt::globalPortalObject() is another convenient function 
// that creates a global instance of XdpPortal object so you don't need to take care
// of creating it yourself. For some of the arguments we just pass a nullptr to don't 
// specify them.
xdp_portal_open_file(XdpQt::globalPortalObject() /*XdpPortal object*/,
                                  parent /*XdpParent object*/, "Title", filterVariant /*filters*/,
                                  nullptr /*current_filter*/, nullptr /*choices*/, 
                                  XDP_OPEN_FILE_FLAG_NONE /*flags*/, nullptr /*cancellable*/, 
                                  openedFile /*callback*/, this /*data*/);
xdp_parent_free(parent);

// Then the callback would look like this, eg.
static void openedFile(GObject *object, GAsyncResult *result, gpointer data) {
    g_autoptr(GError) error;
    g_autoptr(GVariant) ret = 
        xdp_portal_open_file_finish(XdpQt::globalPortalObject(), result, &error);

    if (ret) {
        // Another convenient function that will get you uris and choices from 
        // GVariant returned by xdp_portal_open_file() call.
        XdpQt::FileChooserResult result = filechooserResultFromGVariant(ret);
        
        // Do whatever you want to do with the result. Here we just print opened selected files.
        qDebug() << result.uris;
    }
}

As you can see, no GVariant got hurt and you can easily open a file without any GVariant knowledge. Besides FileChooser portal helpers, we also have Notification portal helpers, because serializing icons and buttons is also something that is not trivial. For the rest of the portals you either don’t need to use complex GVariants so you can use them easily without helper functions same way as shown above, or some portals like ScreenCast or RemoteDesktop are not used that often and we don’t have helper functions for those just yet.

I hope you can find this helpful in case you want to join this world. The libportal project is hosted on GitHub in case you want to try it just now, because this is still not part of any stable release (will be in libportal 0.6), or report a bug or just look at my GVariant helpers to see what I spare you of.

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