The Build System

Understanding what GNOME builder does to run your application
GNOME builder created a project using the meson build system.
Meson has a concept of using files which end with .build as the build configuration for that directory. Let us go through the default build configuration.
Open the at the root of the project. Here is what it contains
version: '0.1.0',
meson_version: '>= 0.50.0',
default_options: [ 'warning_level=2',
i18n = import('i18n')
  • Line 1-5 : We are creating a new meson project with the name of the project as splash and the version to be 0.1.0.
  • Line 8 : i18n is used for internationalization. It will help us add translations for our desktop application.
  • Line 11, 12, 13 : Adding sub directories data , src,po, this in turn triggers meson build inside those directories
  • Line 15: Runs a python script at the end of the build

Meson configuration in data folder

Let us now open the file inside data directory, these are the contents of the file
desktop_file = i18n.merge_file(
input: '',
output: 'com.yourusername.splash.desktop',
type: 'desktop',
po_dir: '../po',
install: true,
install_dir: join_paths(get_option('datadir'), 'applications')
desktop_utils = find_program('desktop-file-validate', required: false)
if desktop_utils.found()
test('Validate desktop file', desktop_utils,
args: [desktop_file]
appstream_file = i18n.merge_file(
input: '',
output: 'com.yourusername.splash.appdata.xml',
po_dir: '../po',
install: true,
install_dir: join_paths(get_option('datadir'), 'appdata')
appstream_util = find_program('appstream-util', required: false)
if appstream_util.found()
test('Validate appstream file', appstream_util,
args: ['validate', appstream_file]
install_dir: join_paths(get_option('datadir'), 'glib-2.0/schemas')
compile_schemas = find_program('glib-compile-schemas', required: false)
if compile_schemas.found()
test('Validate schema file', compile_schemas,
args: ['--strict', '--dry-run', meson.current_source_dir()]

Desktop file (Line 1-8)

i18n is responsible for internationalization. It takes file as input and outputs the desktop file and installs it. Desktop files are responsible for the content you see on your launcher and task bar. Let us see what it contains. Open
[Desktop Entry]
The desktop file currently contains the Name, Exec(Executable to run), Terminal(Is it a terminal appplication?), Type, Categories and StartupNotify. This file decides what text should be shown in the launcher etc.. You can read more about the spec here. This file will be finally installed at /usr/share/applications.
the get_option function gets the appropriate folder path's for the input. Some common outputs for get option are as follows
get_option('prefix') -> /usr
get_option('bindir') -> bin
get_option('datadir') -> /usr/share
One concept prevalent here is the idea of .in files which are the input to a function. Which in turn generates files without the .in suffix and installs in a particular directory

Desktop file Validation (Line 10-15)

There is a program called desktop-file-validate which checks for errors in desktop files. Line 10 is trying to find the application. If it exists, then we use it to validate the generated desktop file and make sure there are no errors

AppStream (Line 17-23)

Appstream is a freedesktop specification which specifies metadata for applications. This is distro agnostic and a commonly agreed upon spec. The appstream file is what is used to display information about the application in software centers.
Appstream is stored in .xml format. The procedure is same as the desktop file. We take in the .infile and output the translated versions using i18n.

AppStream data validation (Line 25-30)

Again, a very similar piece of code to the desktop file validator. If the executable is found, meson runs the executable with the appstream file to make sure there are no errors.

GSchema file (Line 32-34)

.gschema.xml file is responsible for managing GSettings for your application. GSettings are the settings you can define for your application. This is useful for persistent state and settings. For example, an application's window size and position can be stored in GSettings and retrieved whenever a new window is opened.
This file is installed in /usr/share/glib-2.0/schemas

GSchema validation (Line 36-41)

Similar to above validations. glib-compile-schemas compiles the .gschema.xml to make sure there are no errors.
We have covered what is in the data/

Meson configuration in po directory

This directory contains the build file for the translations, we will look into it later.

Meson configuration in src directory

Here are the contents of this file
pkgdatadir = join_paths(get_option('prefix'), get_option('datadir'), meson.project_name())
moduledir = join_paths(pkgdatadir, 'splash')
gnome = import('gnome')
gresource_bundle: true,
install: true,
install_dir: pkgdatadir,
python = import('python')
conf = configuration_data()
conf.set('PYTHON', python.find_installation('python3').path())
conf.set('VERSION', meson.project_version())
conf.set('localedir', join_paths(get_option('prefix'), get_option('localedir')))
conf.set('pkgdatadir', pkgdatadir)
input: '',
output: 'splash',
configuration: conf,
install: true,
install_dir: get_option('bindir')
splash_sources = [
install_data(splash_sources, install_dir: moduledir)
Line1-3 : Imports and declaring some constants

GResource File (Line 5-10)

A Gresource file is responsible for listing out the resources required for your GTK Application. The file currently contains a pointer to one file as of now.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<gresource prefix="/com/yourusername/splash">
Two important things to note, this file specifies a prefix under which files are stored and a list of files which will be stored.

Creating the executable (Line 14-26)

The python file is given as an input to a function which meson will process and return back a processed splash file which will be installed as an executable file in the bin directory.

Storing the other source files (Line 28-34)

All the other python files which are used by the application are listed out in an array and then installed to the module directory.
That's it. Congratulations! With this knowledge it will be easier to understand how an application works.
Next up, let us look into widgets!