Appendix G. Wrapping C Libraries with gmmproc

Table of Contents

gtkmm uses the gmmproc tool to generate most of its source code, using .defs files that define the APIs of GObject-based libraries. So it's quite easy to create additional gtkmm-style wrappers of other glib/GObject-based libraries.

This involves a variety of tools, some of them crufty, but at least they work, and has been used successfully by several projects.

The build structure

Generation of the source code for a gtkmm-style wrapper API requires use of tools such as gmmproc and In theory you could write your own build files to use these appropriately, but a much better option is to make use of the build infrastructure provided by the mm-common module. To get started, it helps a lot to pick an existing binding module as an example to look at.

For instance, let's pretend that we are wrapping a C library called libsomething. It provides a GObject-based API with types named, for instance, SomeWidget and SomeStuff.

Copying the skeleton project

Typically our wrapper library would be called libsomethingmm. We can start by copying the skeleton source tree from the mm-common module.

  $ git clone
  $ cp -a mm-common/skeletonmm libsomethingmm

This provides a directory structure for the source .hg and .ccg files and the generated .h and .cc files, with Automake include files that can specify the various files in use, in terms of generic Automake variables. The directory structure usually looks like this, after we have renamed the directories appropriately:

  • libsomethingmm: The top-level directory.

    • libsomething: Contains the main include file and the pkg-config .pc file.

      • src: Contains .hg and .ccg source files.

      • libsomethingmm: Contains generated and hand-written .h and .cc files.

        • private: Contains generated *_p.h files.

As well as renaming the directories, we should rename some of the source files. For instance:

$ for f in $(find libsomethingmm -depth -name '*skeleton*'); do \
    d="${f%/*}"; b="${f##*/}"; mv "$f" "$d/${b//skeleton/libsomething}"; \

A number of the skeleton files must still be filled in with project-specific content later.

Note that files ending in .in will be used to generate files with the same name but without the .in suffix, by replacing some variables with actual values during the configure stage.

Modifying build files

Now we edit the files to adapt them to our needs. You might prefer to use a multiple-file search-replace utility for this, such as regexxer. Note that nearly all of the files provided with the skeleton source tree contain placeholder text. Thus, the substitutions should be performed globally, and not be limited to the Automake and Autoconf files.

All mentions of skeleton should be replaced by the correct name of the C library you are wrapping, such as "something" or "libsomething". In the same manner, all instances of SKELETON should be replaced by "SOMETHING" or "LIBSOMETHING", and all occurrences of Skeleton changed to "Something".

Likewise, replace all instances of Joe Hacker by the name of the intended copyright holder, which is probably you. Do the same for the email address.


  • The AC_CONFIG_SRCDIR() line must mention a file in our source tree. We can edit this later if we don't yet know the names of any of the files that we will create.

  • It is common for binding modules to track the version number of the library they are wrapping. So, for instance, if the C library is at version 1.23.4, then the initial version of the binding module would be 1.23.0. However, avoid starting with an even minor version number as that usually indicates a stable release.

  • The AC_CONFIG_HEADERS() line is used to generate two or more configuration header files. The first header file in the list contains all configuration macros which are set during the configure run. The remaining headers in the list contain only a subset of configuration macros and their corresponding file will not be autogenerated. The reason for this separation is that the namespaced configuration headers are installed with your library and define publically visible macros.

  • The AC_SUBST([SOMETHINGMM_MODULES], ['...']) line may need to be modified to check for the correct dependencies.

  • The AC_CONFIG_FILES() block must mention the correct directory names, as described above. files

Next we must adapt the various files:

  • In skeleton/src/ we must mention the correct values for the generic variables that are used elsewhere in the build system:


    The name of the library, such as libsomethingmm.


    Additional command-line flags passed to the script, such as the C++ namespace and the parent directory prefix of include files.

  • In skeleton/skeletonmm/ we must mention the correct values for the generic variables that are used elsewhere in the build system:


    This variable must mention the correct library name, and this library name must be used to form the _SOURCES, _LDFLAGS, and _LIBADD variable names. It is permissible to use variables substituted by configure like @SOMETHINGMM_API_VERSION@ as part of the variable names.


    The command line options passed to the C preprocessor.


    The command line options passed to the C++ compiler.

Creating .hg and .ccg files

We should now create our first .hg and .ccg files, to wrap one of the objects in the C library. One pair of example source files already exists: skeleton.ccg and skeleton.hg. Create copies of these files as necessary.

We must mention all of our .hg and .ccg files in the skeleton/src/ file, typically in the files_hg variable.

Any additional non-generated .h and .cc source files may be placed in skeleton/skeletonmm/ and listed in skeleton/skeletonmm/, typically in the files_extra_h and files_extra_cc variables.

In the .hg and .ccg files section you can learn about the syntax used in these files.