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GTK# Beginners' Guide

, 5 Apr 2005
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Getting to know GTK#.

Gtk# Hello World

What is GTK#?

This question maybe better answered by the GTK# site or the GTK# page on Mono's website. Simply, it's a wrapper on The Gimp Toolkit, or GTK+, a cross platform GUI framework that got its fame for the GIMP image editor and the foundation of Gnome desktop popular on Linux and FreeBSD desktops.

Currently, it works natively for any X server, Direct Framebuffer system, or even using the native Windows UI. That means, it works on pretty much everything but will look the best on Linux, great on Windows, and be functional on MacOSX (it may look out of place with the Aqua look which is the biggest issue I've seen). GTK+ has been around for years, so it's very complete, heavily tested, and already come preinstalled on almost all desktop Linux machines.

One big misconception is that GTK# requires Mono to work. This is far from true. All that GTK# needs is a .NET compatible runtime. Currently, the only runtimes I know of are MS.NET, Mono, and DotGNU. GTK# is regularly tested on MS.NET, DotGNU, and Mono. This means if you write your applications in GTK# and decide you wish to run on Windows as well, you can choose to deploy with just GTK# and use Microsoft's runtime, or deploy with Mono's runtime for Windows and deploy that way as well.

Download/Install GTK#

First thing you will want to do is get your GTK# install up and running.

Linux, MacOSX, FreeBSD, and others:

See if your distribution has GTK# devel packages as well as any Mono packages first. If not, check out Downloads to find a package that works for you. In the worst case, you may be forced to build yourself from source.


If you are on Windows, pick yourself up a copy of the integrated installer from that download page. You also can grab a copy of the GTK# integration package for Visual Studio which will allow you to use GTK# without Mono.

I'm going to use GTK# 2.0 (v1.9.3 as of this writing) which is based on GTK+ 2.4. You may choose to use GTK# 1.0 (based on GTK+ 2.2) and most of what I'm going to go over should still apply. I highly recommend using GTK# 2.0.

Inside the GTK# libraries

GTK# is made up of several packages.

  • GTK# - The base of the windowing and control widget framework.
  • Pango# - the font rendering package of GTK#.
  • GDK# - primitive graphics framework abstract of the windowing framework.
  • GLib# - Full of a bunch of constants and helper functions. Most of this is not needed because most of the functionality can be done in the .NET framework.
  • GDA# - Generic data access libraries.
  • GConf# - Similar to the Windows registry, provides simple XML based settings storage. (No Win32 port.)
  • GtkHTML# - Simple HTML rendering widgets for GTK+ (no Win32 port).
  • GnomeVFS# - Provides access mimetype information, icons, icon lists and similar on Gnome (no Win32 port).
  • Glade# - XML based GUI layout engine for GTK+.
  • VTE# - Virtual Terminal Emulation (no Win32 port).
  • libart# - binding to libart for graphics loading, drawing, etc.
  • librsvg# - SVG graphics library.
  • ATK# - accessibility framework for GTK#.
  • Gnome# - Gnome access libraries (no Win32 port).
  • GnomeDB# - Gnome database access libraries (no Win32 port).
  • GtkDotNet - Library to convert GDK graphic contexts back and forth to System.Drawing contexts.

There are other libraries that we commonly associate as being part of the GTK# framework, pr., Gecko#, Gtksourceview#, GSF#, Guile#, and GST# which are not packaged with the GTK# releases but in most parts part of the same bout. They are very useful for doing the specific things they provide but we won't touch on them too much here.

Step 1 - Get ready

The first part we need to do is create a new folder for our little project. (Windows users: let's avoid spaces in the folder name just to take out any headaches.)

You will then want to open a shell (if you are on Windows, open the Start menu and go to "Programs->Mono 1.x.x->Mono Command Prompt" and will set up your paths so you don't have to do anything extra). You will want to cd to that directory we just created. We are going to be using this window a lot so leave it running in the background.

Now go ahead, open up your favorite editor (MonoDevelop, vi, Emacs, Notepad, etc.) and setup a new blank project (if applicable) and create a new blank file. Go ahead and save this file as "helloworld.cs".

Step 2 - Laying it out

I'm assuming that you are familiar with C# so most of this will look normal. We will need to create a new reference to GTK#, and create a new class and entry point for our application. It should look something like this:

using System;
using Gtk;

public class GtkHelloWorld {

  public static void Main() {


That should look pretty familiar to you. Just so we can get used to using the command compiler, let's go ahead and save this. Then switch back to our shell window and go ahead and run:

mcs -pkg:gtk-sharp-2.0 helloword.cs

Some of you that have used the CSC compiler on Windows may notice the "-pkg:" as a little odd. This doesn't exist in CSC because Mono comes from the world of Linux. What that does is lookup for a package config file under that name. In the package config folder exists a file named gtk-sharp-2.0.pc which contains (among other information) the location of the libraries for that package. That way we don't have to type out "-r:gtk-sharp-2.0.dll -r:atk-sharp-2.0.dll -r:pango-sharp-2.0.dll ...." all by hand.

Step 3 - The fun part

Now, let's jump back to our code. Go ahead and remove the Console.WriteLine statement. The first thing we are going to do is create a new window. We do this by adding a new Window statement and an application block (to start the main thread loop). Like so:

using System;
using Gtk;

public class GtkHelloWorld {

  public static void Main() {

    //Create the Window
    Window myWin = new Window("My first GTK# Application! ");

    //Create a label and put some text in it.
    Label myLabel = new Label();
    myLabel.Text = "Hello World!!!!";

    //Add the label to the form

    //Show Everything


Now just compile like we did before and run it using 'mono HelloWorld.exe' and you should get something like this:

GTK# Hello World

The first thing that you might notice, if you have used System.Windows.Forms, is that we didn't add any layout code for our label. For example, we didn't say 'myLabel.Left = 100' or 'myLabel.Width = 200' or anything to add the Label to the form, and just simply said 'myWin.Add(...)'. This is because a 'Gtk.Window' is a widget that inherits from a Bin, or single widget hosting Container.

Now you maybe asking yourself, "How do you then add more then one widget to a window if it can only contain one widget?" Well, we have other widgets that have the ability to contain multiple widgets at the same time. Some of those widgets will inherit from a Gtk.Box container widget or from the container widget directly in some cases. A Bin container widget inherits form the container widget directly as well, just like all other widget containers, but a Bin can only contain one control.

In order to have multiple widgets on our Window (since it's a Bin) we need to add one of those widgets that can contain multiple widgets. There are tons of controls that can do this but we really should concern ourselves at this point some of the basic ones like HBox, VBox, or even a Table.

The other part you may be interested in is what the Application.Init() and Application.Run() statements are for. If you have ever used System.Windows.Forms, it's similar to Application.Run() in many ways. Normally, when the application gets done processing any code on its main thread, the application will stop. Since ShowAll() doesn't block, the code would continue on and shut down. The Application.Init() command tells the runtime to listen for any Gtk.Windows launched, and when you run the Run command, it starts the main loop on those windows. That keeps the application running in basically a loop until all the windows are closed. For more information, check out the Monodoc information on the Application object.

It really doesn't get any easier than that. If you are used to System.Windows.Forms, that should be just enough to get you started. Now the documentation libraries for GTK# are all you need to continue on. Have fun. :-)

Points of Interest


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

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About the Author

Zaccariah Bowling
Web Developer
United States United States
Currently I'm an official developer on the Mono project.

I spend most my days hacking the Mono core as well as helping out in the open source Mono community. I'm also a contributor to many different projects focusing mostly on bring exsiting systems to new operating systems.

I currently contract my services out to anyone not doing anything open source. Contact me if you are looking for a contractor or you have interest in Mono support pacakge.

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Comments and Discussions

QuestionHow to Search all jpg file in a file system(ext3) using GTK+ 2.0 Pin
Briget_Gomes12-Jun-08 10:35
memberBriget_Gomes12-Jun-08 10:35 

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