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Archive for the ‘Planet KDE’ Category

LaKademy – The first KDE Latin America meeting

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Finally, I am ready. As you probably have read in various blog posts, the first KDE Latin America meeting, will take place in Porto Alegre, Brazil.  This will be a great opportunity to return my work on KDE coding.

It definitely would be awesome to meet all developers and contributors from other LA countries, I already met some KDE Brazilian developers in Latinoware 201o, which was my first KDE event outside Peru.

I’ll work on KDE-Games, on porting a game to the new graphics system available in the KDE Games and Qt Quick porting too. Another project that interest me a lot is KDE Telepathy, I follow the project development some time ago,  so if there is enough time will take a look on this.


I continue spreading the word about KDE in many FOSS events here in Peru, but I think we need more partcipation and contributions, so working in promo and learning from other KDE communities will be valuable. Thanks a million to the KDE e.V  for supporting this event.

See you in Porto Alegre.

Written by Ronny Yabar

April 25, 2012 at 10:00 am

Posted in KDE, Planet KDE

Tagged with , , ,

GSoC final report: MessageViewer ( Kmail ) and Akregator ported to Grantlee.

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It has been a long time without posting, but well GSoC finished and it’s time to share with the community the result of the project.

First, I want to thank you my mentors Thomas McGuire and Stephen Kelly for the support, the knowledge shared and of course coding tips.  I really learned a lot from them and one important thing:  How the Open Source development works.

The MessageViewer

Well, inside kdepim there is a library called MessageViewer which job is to provide a widget that can show a message. The first goal of the project was to port the MessageViewer to the Grantlee template system for both reasons: First, to have a clean, readable and more maintainable code and second to have a solid theming system to show/get those cool themes users and some developers like.

The MessageViewer had two classes  HeaderStyle and HeaderStrategy that had the job to show and manage the header data.  The header style is the class that generates those fancy, brief, enterprise… styles you see in kmail and the header strategy is the class that decides which data to show/hide.

When I started the GSoC project, both, the styles and the strategies were  hardcoded each one and the styles had a mix of QT + HTML code. So these classes were removed and a new one ( HeaderTheme ) was created to combine that style/strategy functionality:  So Actually HeaderTheme is a combination of those two classes, but with the static HTML removed, the code cleaned up and the Grantlee integration.

In general, the HeaderTheme class is the responsible to setup and make the connection to Grantlee so it can set/show the themes.  So now we have “themes” instead of “styles”.


Let’s stop for a moment and see some screenshots.

kmail Fancy Theme

Fancy Theme

kmail Air Theme

Air Theme

kmail Qt Theme

Qt Theme

kmail Nokia Theme

Nokia Theme

I created these themes just to show the theming capabilities. Of course, we can have some by default in Kmail like the fancy one for example. So a “Themes” menu replaced the old one “Styles”.

The default themes folder is inside the MessageViewer and has the following structure. Similar to wallpapers or themes from other KDE projects.

A theme consists of a folder with: An images directory (If the theme has images), a default.desktop file with the metadata information and the default.html that has the styles and the data variables need to be shown.

MessageViewer Themes Structure

MessageViewer Themes Structure

Note that the themes menu is created with the themes subdirectories that are in all the KDE data directories like kde, .kde and .kde4.

The ObjectTreeParser

The ObjectTreeParser is the class inside the MessageViewer that parses messages and generates the HTML code for the Viewer. The ObjectTreeParser is a very very complex class. Actually, this was my face the first time I looked at it:


But anyway, after some work, the ObjectTreeParser was partially ported to Grantlee. Partially, because there are some parts on it that generates HTML dynamically, so the static parts were ported to Grantlee and now that static part is divided in small pieces of HTML to identify them faster. There are no theming possibilities here, this port was to improve the code readability and make the maintenance tasks easier.

Inside the MessageViewer there is a htmlOTP folder with the HTML files that has the ObjectTreeParser data of static information:



The Akregator ported to Grantlee was really similar to the MessageViewer with the difference that Akregator has the concepts of views  ( Normal, combined and widescreen). In Akregator the situation was the same, Those views were hardcoded with identical Qt + HTML + CSS.

So, that presentation stuff was extracted to themes, and a new method renderTheme() was created in the ArticleFormatter  to setup up the Grantlee magic and call the themes. Now, no matter which view is chosen, the same theme will be always called and looks the same in the three different views while you still not choose another theme.

We had the problem that Akregator, as  based on KHTML,  doesn’t allow you to load images from the hard disk, no relative neither absolute paths work, my mentors told me it has to be with the KHTML internals for security.  ( The MessageViewer is based on WebKit. ) A web URL works, but I think this doesn’t solve our problem. So no images atm in Akregator themes. The logos and some backgrounds I created could not be shown. Just enjoy the theming.

But we really need to fix this. Maybe a KHTML hacker can provide some help. Some Akregator themes screenshots:

Planet KDE Theme

Linux Foundation Theme

Nokia Conversations Theme

Planet openSuse Theme

Planet Kubuntu Theme


No much to say here. Get Hot New Stuff was integrated in the MessageViewer and now you can start downloading themes from kde-look, our themes provider. There is just one theme to download for Kmail atm.  Thanks to Frank Karlitschek from for creating the Kmail and Akregator categories. Actually, we had a discussion to instead of having applications themes have a Kontact Theme. I think a Kontact theme could be hard to maintain, because it will be full of conditionals about the different kdepim applications based on Grantlee.

IMO, it would be better to have applications themes and share duplicated code with the Grantlee inheritance feature that is just a:  {% include “your_code_to_share.html” %}. Maybe we can have a central place with the code similar in all themes for all applications. It will give us more flexibility because although the styles could be similar, the data and the applications views are not always the same.  Trust me, I tried the fancy theme in both Kmail and Akregator and it looks a little bit deformed in Akregator for the views it has. But this is debatable of course, I would like to here your feedback here.

In my next post for users, I will talk about how to write a Kmail/Akregator theme, the variables you need, the styling, Grantlee cool features, etc.

GHNS in Kmail

GHNS in Kmail

Lessons learned from GSoC

1._ Stephen was really helpful and always gave me good comments in my Qt/KDE code and even sent me a couple of patches to improve my work and the same with Thomas, as the ex Kmail maintainer for a couple of years, usually gave me good and detailed explanations of how the code works inside Kmail and the MessageViewer. I learned from them that you just simple need to commit more often to get feedback faster about your code. I usually had the habit of waiting to complete some stuff or couple of tasks and then commit. As they told me: Even one line change that solves a minor issue count. So go ahead and commit that little change or improvement.

2._ Practice, practice and practice more C++/Qt/KDE code. The more you practice this stuff, the more you understand the code written in KDE. Also, have a copy of the KDE API in case you lose your internet connection and need to work offline.

3._ I remember on the first days of the project that I got an Akonadi problem that prevented me to start Kmail correctly. I was searching the problem in Google, I followed the Akonadi TroubleShooting page, kde forums and had no luck. Then on IRC Leo Franchi (lfranchi) told me about a couple of more “rm commands” inside my kde-devel home directory, stop/start Akonadi and the problem was gone( Thanks Leo).

To be honest, I usually try to solve problems myself, but I realized sometimes this is not the way to go. So whenever you have a problem like this don’t made this stupid mistake and ask the KDE community about it, you can save a lot of time.

4._ Related to point 3.  It was really funny how a simple thing to add as an “Action List” to the menu took me some time.  My KXMLGUIClient code was ok and I found the API documentation really clear.  I was really frustrated about my code not doing what I wanted to do, so I entered on #kde-devel and David Faure (dfaure) came to the rescue. Really thanks David for the KXMLGUIClient explanation. My themes action list code really needed to be in the MessageViewer, however this stuff had to be called in the Kmail side after createGUI(). So a Kmail->MessageViewer connection was made to make this action list working.

Don’t underestimate my knowledge, go and code the Kmail/MessageViewer stuff and you’ll see the complex thing. Really complicated for an initial KDE developer.

5._ Usually Stephen and Thomas asked me for my kdebug() outputs and sometimes the information I showed them wasn’t enough to debug a problem. Why? Maybe, because you don’t have the  right debug information enabled :). So beginner KDE developers, please run kdebugdialog, enable the information you need and make your mentors/KDE Developers happy.

6._ And finally GSoC was a real learning experience that motivates me to do more KDE work. Specially code and promo. So stay tuned.

Next steps

  • Fixed the current code minor issues to merge the kmail/MessageViewer/Akregator code to trunk. I really want all this theming stuff to be part of KDE SC 4.6.
  • As I told my mentors in our last GSoC meeting, I will stay on KDE to get more programming knowledge and to know better the community. My goal in short-medium term is to maintain all the theming code in kdepim and help on porting more KDE applications to Grantlee (If they need the port of course). I think with the experience gained and more practice I can do it.
  • Give more talks about KDE (I already gave two), more involvement with the community and continue spreading the work about KDE in South America and specially in Peru.

In unrelated KDE notes, After some months I returned to enjoy my other passion: Tae Kwon Do.  I will have real challenges in the next days and need to prepare well to get my Green Belt. This belt means “Power begins to develop” and the color green represents growth. The same color as the Qt one and exactly how I feel now on my KDE development experiences,  just a coincidence.

So wish me luck guys and I promise you some pictures of my Green Belt next to the Qt logo .

Then my  KDE work will be usually at nights.

Thanks to the KDE community, the KDE GSoC admin team, my mentors and Google for the opportunity to work in an Open Source Project I love.

Written by Ronny Yabar

August 26, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Posted in KDE, Planet KDE, Qt

First steps with Grantlee and KDE PIM GSoC

with 13 comments

Well, coding officially starts on May 24, now is time supposed to read documentation, know your mentor(s) and discuss the project ideas, needs, requirements, difficulties, etc. but as many other GSoCers I couldn’t resist to code something.

My goal for the last week was to write a very simple Qt application showing the power of Grantlee. The idea was to simulate that I am reading a message in Kmail and I want to change the theme again and again.

You can take a look at the code in the soc-pim branch or:

svn co svn://

Of course, you need to install Grantlee, before compiling the example:

git clone git://
cd grantlee
git checkout -b 0.1 origin/0.1
mkdir build && cd build
cmake ..
make && make install

Here some Kmail themes. I’m not an artist, so don’t expect too much, but I know some CSS and started creating the themes just for the example.

KDE theme for Kmail

KDE theme for Kmail

openSUSE theme for Kmail

openSUSE theme for Kmail

Nokia theme for Kmail

Nokia theme for Kmail

Konsole theme for Kmail

Konsole theme for Kmail

Don’t worry. Surely in the future there will be themes for everyone.

BTW, before continue, what is Grantlee?.
I talked about it in my GSoC proposal and Stephen has written a lot in his blog, but in case you haven’t read, here we go:

Grantlee is a Qt string template engine based on the Django template system. Django is a powerful Python framework that makes it easier to create web apps.

In general, what Grantlee does is that it allows an application separate logic from presentation. There are many benefits of doing this: Flexibility, clean code style (readability), consistency and beauty.

Developers concentrate on the technical aspects of the application (logic, performance,…) and artists work on the templates (HTML, CSS) and they both don’t need to touch each other’s code.

This separation allows the application to be built and tested independent of the visual presentation.

So, What would be the role of Grantlee in KDEPIM?

Let us see what is the job for the moment.
The MessageViewer is the library responsible for the header styling in some KDE PIM applications. If you browse the headerStyle class code, will see that there is HTML stuff everywhere. That makes hard, for both developer and artist, to change the way information is displayed.

That problem should be solved by integrating Grantlee with the MessageViewer and my task for now is to extract the presentation stuff, set up the Grantlee code and load the templates.

Of course the job is not only to load templates, I have in my mind all what can we achieve with this integration and believe me there is a lot to do. Grantlee has many cool features for theming, the API documentation is good and I will continue studying the capabilities during this community bounding period.

Well, it is very difficult to blog about all the Grantlee features in a post, but in case you are interested, you can have a quick overview of it here:

Grantlee for application developers.
Grantlee for theme artists.

Of course, I will be posting my grantlee adventures with KDEPIM week by week.

For example, this week I found a useful feature:
The ‘safe filter’. Imagine a mail message come with HTML content or special characters. We should render that message correctly in the template otherwise the content will look horrible.

The safe filter autoescapes a variable in case it has already been escaped. Just do:

{{ message|safe }}

That means, if a message comes with "Kmail & CO" ,that content will be rendered :

“Kmail & Co”

Filters affect the way variables are shown in a template. Grantlee comes with some default filters similar to Django like:

{{ variable|upper }} or {{ variable|cut:”something ” }} to cut a string from the variable. There are more filters and you can also create your own ones.

For the developer side, the fun thing is that you don’t need to rebuild your application if there is a change in the template.

For artists, the template syntax is really clear, very human readable.

I already started hacking a little on the headerStyle, but still I have nothing concrete so far to show you in a real world application. This is just the beginning. Althought, the MessageViewer code is huge, Thomas has given me good entry points to understand how it works.

The end result will be a MessageViewer without any presentation code and connected to a theme location.

The current default header styles are these:
Brief, Plain, Fancy, Enterprise and Mobile.

Please, if you are a KDE PIM user and want a change or feature on those styles, just tell me what to take into consideration before creating them. One feature we will provide is a user option to decide which header fields are displayed.

The second part of the GSoC project consists of GHNS integration in PIM applications that will use Grantlee, that way users can create and share their art-work. In the next weeks, we will be defining a standard package structure for those themes.

I consider theming an important part of the PIM module. On one side, users usually like to have their collection of beautiful themes, and on the other hand, it is also important for companies or educational institutions to show/export/print their identity (colors, logos, slogans).

In general, I’m happy understanding better and better how the project has to be carried on and my continuous Qt/KDE learning. If you have some feedback to provide, it will be well received.

I find the KDE community very friendly, that makes development, communication and the GSoC experience more enjoyable.

Hopefully, my mentors have passed the first week evaluation. I am really glad they are doing a great job and I am willing to help them with everything I can during the project.

Just kidding, they completely rock, their support and answers have helped me lot.

News about this integration coming soon.

Written by Ronny Yabar

May 8, 2010 at 3:47 am