GNOME Break Timer: Week 6

It’s time to talk about my GSoC project again, where I’m making a new break timer app for GNOME. First, thank you, dear readers, for your feedback and support so far! It really helps to know other people are interested in this.

The last two weeks have been about tying up loose ends so I don’t get bogged down later on. First, I removed all traces of the old working title. This application is called GNOME Break Timer, now, instead of having several different names (and things that looked like names) strewn about. It probably only bothered me, but I’m really glad to have some logic on that front.

I got our cool introductory slideshow running. It appears if you launch Break Timer and breaks are not enabled. So, it will appear when you start Break Timer for the first time, and if you happen to turn it off at some point and want to start using it again. GtkStack was fantastic for this. It’s really nice to see GTK making animated transitions so easy, and apparently doing a pretty good job drawing them. I think it will be really exciting when applications are doing more of this in the future.

Incidentally, I updated the settings application to optionally support GTK 3.9+ with its very cool new gtk_window_set_titlebar function! I was a little disappointed to learn that I have to add the close button to the HeaderBar myself at the moment, which seems a little silly. So, I did some guessing about best practice (and borrowed some code from GNOME Clocks), then I made a little custom widget for the problem so I wouldn’t have to think about it any more.

#if HAS_GTK_3_10
using Gtk;
using Gd;

 * A Gtk.HeaderBar that expects to be set as the titlebar for a Gtk.Window.
 * If it is in titlebar mode, it adds a conventional close button and adjusts
 * its own titles accordingly.
public class WindowHeaderBar : HeaderBar { // Gtk.HeaderBar or Gd.HeaderBar
	private weak Gtk.Window owner_window;
	private Gtk.Button close_button;
	private Gtk.Separator close_separator;

	private bool is_titlebar;

	public WindowHeaderBar(Gtk.Window window) {
		this.owner_window = window;

		this.close_separator = new Gtk.Separator (Gtk.Orientation.VERTICAL);
		this.close_separator.valign = Gtk.Align.FILL;

		this.close_button = new Gtk.Button();
			new Gtk.Image.from_icon_name("window-close-symbolic", Gtk.IconSize.MENU)
		this.close_button.relief = Gtk.ReliefStyle.NONE;
		this.close_button.valign = Gtk.Align.CENTER;

		this.realize.connect(() => {

	public new void set_title(string? title) {
		if (this.is_titlebar && title == null) {
			title = this.owner_window.title;

	public void set_is_titlebar(bool is_titlebar) {
		this.is_titlebar = is_titlebar;

	private void on_close_button_clicked_cb() {
		var event = new Gdk.Event (Gdk.EventType.DESTROY);
		event.any.window = this.owner_window.get_window();
		event.any.send_event = 1;
		Gtk.main_do_event (event);

This widget belongs to a particular GtkWindow. When it is being used as a titlebar, it shows a Close button and borrows the title from that window when one is not set for the HeaderBar itself. You can see that happening in my video demo of the welcome slideshow. If it is not used as a titlebar, the widget behaves as usual – so, it looks like one of these:

Screenshot from 2013-07-26 19:20:37
Screenshot from 2013-07-26 19:20:19

Unfortunately, I can’t find a nice way for the widget to detect when it’s being used as a window’s titlebar, so it needs a set_is_titlebar method that gets called by the owner. Other than that, the ugliness is self-contained.

Another small change I’m very happy with is to how the break notifications appear. They are persistent, now, so as long as you need to take a break there will be a notification for it in the message tray. This makes them much tidier, and harder to miss. Now I just wish there was a way to have a notification banner stay open without needing to mark it as “critical” priority. I hate the idea that a “take a break” notification could take priority over a “low battery” notification…

How to install GNOME Break Timer

As always, I have been messing with my packages. If you want to try the latest test of GNOME Break Timer, there are two things you can do:

  • You can download this archive for the latest release and do the usual ./configure, make and make install thing. To build on Debian, it depends on libx11-dev, libxtst-dev, libxi-dev, as well as valac and libgtk3-dev (>= 3.7) and the other usual suspects.
  • Or, if you’re running Ubuntu 13.10 (or 13.04 with GNOME 3.8 installed), there’s a working PPA, so open a terminal and enter sudo add-apt-repository ppa:brainbreak/experimental && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install gnome-break-timer. Note that the package has a different name than before (even though the repository is the same), so if you installed the brainbreak-experimental package earlier (thank you very much, by the way!), you’ll need to install gnome-break-timer anyway.

Next week, I’m going to make a serious effort to gather feedback on how this is working. I’m thinking of hooking up Piwik for some rudimentary statistics-gathering within the app. I’m not sure how much trouble it would be, or if it would be worth doing. We’ll see, anyway. I will also be looking at things outside Break Timer that could be changed to enable certain features, such as better lock screen notifications out of the box. GUADEC would be a perfect venue for that sort of thing, but unfortunately I won’t be there. (Next year, maybe?). Still, even if it’s just on IRC and mailing lists, it will be nice to poke my head outside this little corner I’ve been working in.

2 Replies to “GNOME Break Timer: Week 6”

  1. Hey, nice work

    I would like to learn from you what have you used to record videos, and how have you integrate it into your blog, so it was also shown in planet gnome as such. thanks.

    is this “ready go to” step really needed?, seems to me like it could be skipped, what if you turn your done button into “ready to go”?

    1. Hi!

      I think the “Ready To Go” step is useful to illustrate that you can close that window and it will keep working, (and also to prompt people to close the window), but right now it’s missing some graphics that would help get the message across. Let’s see how it looks in a month :)

      GNOME Shell has a really great built in screen recorder. If you’re using it, just hit Ctrl+Alt+Shift+R and you’ll see a red dot at the corner of the screen. Press those keys again to stop recording. The video will appear in your ~/Videos folder, and don’t worry, the red dot doesn’t appear in the video.

      I edited the screencast with Blender to crop it and trim it. (It has a video editor, and you can switch to a screen layout for it with the dropdown at the top left). A little arcane, but if you take the time to learn it, it can be quite nice. It’s very fast, very stable, and it has lots of powerful features for when you need them.

      The post just uses a plain HTML5 video element, because I’m picky about presentation and I want it to show at the right size and scale gracefully to fit on small screens. Straight HTML video (not hidden behind an iframe) works a lot like a standard image element in that way.

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