Why are snaps good for GTK4 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 Developers can ensure their application is delivered pre-packaged with libraries which will not be replaced or superseded by a distribution vendor.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 GTK4 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 GTK4 application in a snap. Once complete, you’ll understand how to package cutting edge GTK4 and GNOME 4 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.
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 GNOME Text Editor. Don’t worry, we’ll break this down.
Snaps are defined in a single yaml file placed in the root of your project. The Gnome-Text-Editor example shows the entire snapcraft.yaml for an existing project. We’ll break this down.
snapcraft.yaml for Text Editor
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 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.
You can also fill in
icon. However, Text Editor already has this metadata defined using an AppStream metadata file
org.gnome.TextEditor.appdata.xml, so we don’t want to duplicate this data. We instead use adopt-info to tell Snapcraft to get the metadata from the
gnome-text-editor part further on in the yaml. More on this later.
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.
We’re going to use strict confinement for Text Editor. Strictly confined snaps run in complete isolation, up to a minimal access level that’s deemed always safe.
Unconfined applications, specified with
devmode, are useful while you build a working snap. Devmode snaps cannot be released to the stable channel, do not appear in search results, and do not automatically refresh. But after you get the snap working in
devmode confinement, you can switch to strict mode and figure out which interfaces (plugs) the snap uses.
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
gnome-text-editor.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.
This application uses the gnome extension. This will make GTK4 and GNOME libraries available to the snap at runtime. It will also configure the runtime environment of the application so that all desktop functionality is correctly initialised.
common-id property is used to link this application to the AppStream metadata specified further down below. This will cause this
app to use the
.desktop launcher specified in the AppStream file.
Snaps use interfaces to access resources outside of their confinement and an interface consists of a connection between a slot and a plug. The slot is the provider of the interface while the plug is the consumer. With the
plugs: section, Text Editor is requesting access to the gsettings and cups interfaces to enable access to GNOME’s configuration and any configured printers.
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’re only using one to define the GitLab repository containing the GNOME Text Editor source code and how it’s to be built. In other cases these can point to local directories, local archives, other remote git repositories and other revision control systems.
The Meson plugin is used to run
ninja build and
ninja install to build the part, and we pass a couple of options to set the install location within the snap, and for which release we wish to build:
parse-info points to the AppStream metadata file. Since we used
adopt-info: gnome-text-editor in the top-level metadata, the AppStream file of the
gnome-text-editor part will be used to fill in the
icon of this snap. See Using AppStream metadata for more information.
Many GTK3 and GTK4 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.
Building the snap
To build the snap, create a new directory and run
snapcraft init inside it. This will create a template snapcraft.yaml inside a snap directory:
$ mkdir gnome-text-editor
$ cd gnome-text-editor
$ snapcraft init
Go to https://docs.snapcraft.io/the-snapcraft-format/8337 for more information about the snapcraft.yaml format.
Replace the contents of snap/snapcraft.yaml with our example above. You can now build the snap by running the snapcraft command:
Executed: pull gnome-text-editor
Executed: pull gnome/sdk
Executed: overlay gnome-text-editor
Executed: overlay gnome/sdk
Executed: build gnome-text-editor
Executed: build gnome/sdk
Executed: stage gnome-text-editor
Executed: stage gnome/sdk
Executed: prime gnome-text-editor
Executed: prime gnome/sdk
Executed parts lifecycle
Generated snap metadata
Created snap package gnome-text-editor_42.1_amd64.snap
The resulting snap can be installed locally. This requires the
--dangerous flag because the snap is not signed by the Snap Store. If we’d built the snap with devmode confinement, we’d also have to add the
$ sudo snap install ./gnome-text-editor*.snap --dangerous
gnome-text-editor 42.1 installed
You can then try it out:
Removing the snap is simple too:
$ sudo snap remove gnome-text-editor
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
Upload your snap
Use snapcraft to push the snap to the Snap Store.
$ snapcraft upload --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 GTK 4 snap. For a more in-depth overview of the snap building process, see Creating a snap.