Gio::Resource and glib-compile-resources

Applications and libraries often contain binary or textual data that is really part of the application, rather than user data. For instance Gtk::Builder .glade files, splashscreen images, Gio::Menu markup xml, CSS files, icons, etc. These are often shipped as files in $datadir/appname, or manually included as literal strings in the code.

The Gio::Resource API and the glib-compile-resources program provide a convenient and efficient alternative to this, which has some nice properties. You maintain the files as normal files, so it's easy to edit them, but during the build the files are combined into a binary bundle that is linked into the executable. This means that loading the resource files is efficient (as they are already in memory, shared with other instances) and simple (no need to check for things like I/O errors or locate the files in the filesystem). It also makes it easier to create relocatable applications.

Resource bundles are created by the glib-compile-resources program which takes an xml file that describes the bundle, and a set of files that the xml references. These are combined into a binary resource bundle.

Gio::Resource Reference

An example:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
  <gresource prefix="/toolbar">
    <file preprocess="xml-stripblanks"></file>
This will create a resource bundle with the files
  • /toolbar/
  • /toolbar/rain.png

You can then use glib-compile-resources to compile the xml to a binary bundle that you can load with Gio::Resource::create_from_file(). However, it's more common to use the --generate-source argument to create a C source file to link directly into your application. E.g.

$ glib-compile-resources --target=resources.c --generate-source toolbar.gresource.xml

Once a Gio::Resource has been created and registered all the data in it can be accessed globally in the process by using API calls like Gio::Resource::open_stream_from_global_resources() to stream the data or Gio::Resource::lookup_data_in_global_resources() to get a direct pointer to the data. You can also use URIs like resource:///toolbar/rain.png with Gio::File to access the resource data.

Often you don't need a Gio::Resource instance, because resource data can be loaded with methods such as Gdk::Pixbuf::create_from_resource(), Gtk::Builder::add_from_resource() and Gtk::Image::set_from_resource().