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1 What is it?

LGtk is a lens-based API for Gtk. LGtk is built on Gtk2Hs.

Most Haskellers would like to use a mature FRP-based API for creating graphical user interfaces. FRP may not be the best tool for special user interfaces, like interfaces which consists of buttons, checkboxes, combo boxes, text entries and menus only. LGtk has a lens-based API which fits better these user interfaces.

2 Semantics overview

The semantics of LGtk is given by a reference implementation. The reference implementation is given in the following stages.

2.1 Lenses

LGtk use simple lenses defined in the data-lens package:

newtype Lens a b = Lens { runLens :: a -> Store b a }
This data type is isomorphic to
(a -> b, b -> a -> a)
, the well-know lens data type. The isomorphism is established by the following operations:
getL :: Lens a b -> a -> b
setL :: Lens a b -> b -> a -> a
lens :: (a -> b) -> (b -> a -> a) -> Lens a b

2.1.1 Lens laws

The three well-known laws for lenses:

  • get-set:
    set k (get k a) a
  • set-get:
    get k (set k b a)
  • set-set:
    set k b2 (set k b1 a)
    set k b2 a

Impure lenses, i.e. lenses which brake lens laws are allowed in certain places. Those places are explicitly marked and explained in this overview.

2.2 References

It is convenient to use lenses with the state monad (see this use case) and the reader monad.

Let's call a value with type
Lens s a
a reference of the state monad
State s
and the reader monad
Reader s
. References are distinguished from lenses, because we would like to make the program state
unaccessible to guarantee linear use of the state for example.

There are several ways to model references in Haskell. LGtk models them with type classes and associated types, but that is a technical detail here.

2.2.1 Types

Instead of giving a concrete implementation in Haskell, suppose that

  • s
    is a fixed type,
  • Ref
    , the type of references is isomorphic to
    Lens s
  • S
    is isomorphic to
    State s
  • R
    is isomorphic to
    Reader s

The isomorphisms are not exposed in the API.

2.2.2 Operations

Exposed operations of
  • The
    instance of
  • The monad morphism between
liftReadPart :: R a -> S a
liftReadPart = gets . runReader
  • Reference read
readRef :: Ref a -> R a
readRef = reader . getL
  • Reference write
writeRef :: Ref a -> a -> S ()
writeRef = modify . setL r
  • Lens application on a reference
lensMap :: Lens a b -> Ref a -> Ref b
lensMap = (.)
  • Reference join
joinRef :: R (Ref a) -> Ref a
joinRef = Lens . join . (runLens .) . runReader
  • The unit reference
unitRef :: r ()
unitRef = lens (const ()) (const id)
Note that the identity lens is not a reference because that would leak the program state

2.3 Lens-trees


2.4 Effects


3 Examples

3.1 Hello World

main = runWidget $ label $ return "Hello World!"
is neded because labels may be dynamic, see the next examples.

3.2 Copy

The following applications presents an entry and a label below of it. When a text is entered in the entry, the label is changed to the entered text.

main = runWidget $ action $ do
   r <- newRef "enter text here"
   return $ vcat
       [ entry r
       , label $ readRef r
gives acces to a monad in which new references can be made by

A crutial feature of LGtk is that you cannot change the value of references in this monad (you can read them though).

gives acces to a monad in which you can read references but no reference creation or write is possible.

3.3 Addition

Two entries of integers and a label which shows the sum:

main = runWidget $ action $ do
   r1 <- newRef (12 :: Integer)
   r2 <- newRef 4
   return $ vcat
       [ entryShow r1
       , entryShow r2
       , label $ liftM show $ liftM2 (+) (readRef r1) (readRef r2)

3.4 Complex examples

You can find more complex examples in the source code of LGtk. More examples will be presented here also.


4 Status

Features of lgtk-0.5

  • The API is closed, you can safely use any constructs as far as you obey the documented laws.
  • Support for asynchronous events. Using LGtk is a safe way for writing multithreaded Gtk applications.
  • The semantics is getting stable but it is not yet documented.

TODO list:

  • Add an efficient implementation for LGtk. LGtk has only a reference implementation currently.
  • Add support for styles (layout, colors, etc).
  • Support more Gtk constructs.

5 Demo application

You can try the demo application with the following commands:

cabal install gtk2hs-buildtools
cabal install lgtk

6 Changelog

6.1 lgtk-0.5.1

  • Documentation fixes and cleanup
  • Try to support Haskell Platform 2012.4.0.0

6.2 lgtk-0.5

  • Do not use monadic lenses any more.
  • Support for asynchronous events.
  • Lazily created tabs.
  • Unactive tabs are really unactive (event handlers are detached).
  • File references watch the files. When the file changes, the GUI is updated.
  • References with inherent identity (makes defining auto-sensitive buttons easier)
  • Experimental support for colored buttons.
  • More examples in the demo application.
  • Lots of inner changes.

7 External links

Related Stackoverflow questions:

Reddit comments: