General Design Notes on the Motif Toolkit Interface

Table of Contents

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1 Data Transport

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1.1 Packet format

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1.1.1 Data format

Each data entry in a message is represented as:@[2mm]

8 bitstype tag
24 bitsimmediate data
restother data (if necessary)

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2 Greeting Protocol

When a Lisp process first establishes a connection to the server, it sends a 16 bit quantity which represents "1" to it. The server using this to decide whether to byte swap words when sending them to Lisp. The general policy is that all data is presented to the Lisp process in the order that Lisp uses.

Following the byte swapping information, the Lisp process sends an initial message which contains:

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3 Request Protocol

3.1 Request format

16 bitsrequest opcode
8 bitsrequest flags (0=nothing, 1=require confirm)
8 bits& argument count (unused)

At the moment, the request flags field is used only to indicate whether the Lisp client desires a confirmation message when the request is finished processing. If the request returns any values, this counts as the confirmation. Otherwise, an empty confirmation message will be sent.

3.2 Server reply format

32 bitsresponse tag
restreturn data (if any)

The response tag can have the following values:@[2mm]

CONFIRM_REPLYconfirmation (for synchronization)
VALUES_REPLYreturn values from a request
CALLBACK_REPLYa widget callback has been invoked
EVENT_REPLYan X event handler has been invoked
ERROR_REPLYan error has occurred
WARNING_REPLYa non-fatal problem has occurred
PROTOCOL_REPLYa protocol callback has been invoked

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4 Object Representations

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4.1 Data format in message

Accelerators32 bitinteger ID
Atom32 bitAtom ID
Boolean24 bitimmediate data
Color24 bitimmediate data (Red value) followed by 2 16 bit words for Green and Blue@
Colormap32 bitColormap XID
Compound Strings32 bitaddress
Cursor32bitCursor XID
Enumeration24 bitimmediate integer
Font32 bitFont XID
Font List32 bitinteger ID
Function24 bitimmediate token
Int32 bitinteger
List24 bitimmediate data (length) followed by each element recorded in order
Pixmap32 bitPixmap XID
Short24 bitimmediate integer
(1) Strings24 bitimmediate data (length of string including '\0') followed by string data padded to end on a word boundary …or
(2) Strings24 bitimmediate token (for common strings)
Translations32 bitinteger ID
Widgets32 bitinteger ID
Window32 bitWindow XID

For objects such as translations, widgets, accelerators, font lists, and compound strings, the 32 bit ID is just the address of the object in the C server process. They are represented in Lisp by structures which encapsulate their ID’s and provide them with Lisp data types (other than simply INTEGER).

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5 Information in widget structure

The last three are for internal use in cleaning up Lisp state on widget destruction

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6 Callback handlers

A callback handler is defined as:

(defun handler (widget call-data &rest client-data) ....)

The WIDGET argument is the widget for which the callback is being invoked.@ The CLIENT-DATA &rest argument allows the programmer to pass an arbitrary number of Lisp objects to the callback procedure1.@ The CALL-DATA argument provides the information passed by Motif regarding the reason for the callback and any other relevant information.@ The XEvent which generated the event may be accessed by:

(with-callback-event (event call-data)

Action procedures are used in translation tables as:


Action procedures may access their event information by:

(with-action-event (event call-data)

Where callback data is passed in structures, XEvents are represented as aliens. This is because XEvents are rather large. This saves the consing of large structures for each event processed.

Actions to be taken after the callback handler terminates the server’s callback loop can be registered by:

(with-callback-deferred-actions <forms>)

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7 Structure of the Server

When the server process is started, it establishes standard sockets for clients to connect to it and waits for incoming connections. When a client connects to the server, the server will fork a new process (unless -nofork was specified on the command line) to deal with incoming requests from the client. The result of this is that each logical application has its own dedicated request server. This prevents event handling in one application from blocking event dispatching in another.

Each request server is essentially an event loop. It waits for an event to occur, and dispatches that event to the appropriate handlers. If the event represents input available on the client connection, it reads the message off the stream and executes the corresponding request. If the event is an X event or a Motif callback, relevant information about that event is packed into a message and sent to the Lisp client. After sending the event notification, the server will enter a callback event loop to allow processing of requests from the client’s callback procedure. However, during the callback event loop, only input events from the client will be processed; all other events will be deferred until the callback is terminated.

The server supports a standard means for reading and writing data objects into messages for communication with the Lisp client. For every available type of data which may be transported there are reader and writer functions. For instance, WIDGET is a valid type for argument data. Two functions are defined in the server: message_read_widget() and message_write_widget(). To allow for a more generalized interface to argument passing, the server defines the functions toolkit_write_value() and toolkit_read_value(). These functions are passed data and a type identifier; it is their job to look up the correct reader/writer function. Clearly, if the type of an argument is known at compile time then it is best to use the specific reader/writer functions. However, if such type information is not known at compile time, as is the case with arbitrary resource lists, the higher level toolkit_xxx_value() functions are the only available options.

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8 Structure of the Client

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9 Adding New Requests to the System

In order to add a new function to the toolkit interface, this new function must be declared in both C and Lisp.

Lisp provides a convenient macro interface for writing the necessary RPC stub. The form of this definition is:

(def-toolkit-request <C name> <Lisp name> <:confirm|:no-confirm>
  "Documentation string"
  <optional forms>)

Entries in the argument list should be of the form (<name> <type>). The return value list is simply a list of types of the return value(s). Any forms supplied at the end will be executed in a context where the arguments are bound to the given names and the return value is bound to RESULT (if there was only one) or FIRST, SECOND, …, FOURTH (for up to 4 return values). At the moment, the interface does not support any more than 4 return values. You must also specify a value for the confirmation option (:CONFIRM or :NO-CONFIRM). If you expect return values, you must specify :CONFIRM in order to receive them. Otherwise, you may specify :NO-CONFIRM. Use of :NO-CONFIRM allows for increased efficiency since the client will issue a request but not wait for any response. All function prototypes should be placed in the prototypes.lisp file. A few examples of request prototypes:

(def-toolkit-request "XtSetSensitive" set-sensitive :no-confirm
  "Sets the event sensitivity of the given widget."
  ;; Takes two arguments:  widget and sensitivep
  ((widget widget) (sensitivep (member t nil)))
  ;; No return values expected

(def-toolkit-request "XtIsManaged" is-managed :confirm
  "Returns a value indicating whether the specified widget is managed."
  ;; Takes one argument: widget
  ((widget widget))
  ;; Expects one return value (which is a boolean)
  ((member t nil)))

(def-toolkit-request "XmSelectionBoxGetChild" selection-box-get-child
  "Accesses a child component of a SelectionBox widget."
  ;; Takes two arguments: w and child
  ((w widget) (child keyword))
  ;; Expects a return value which is a widget
  ;; Now we execute some code to maintain the state of the world.
  ;; Given that this widget may be one we don't know about, we must
  ;; register it as the child of one we do know about.
  (widget-add-child w result)
  (setf (widget-type result) :unknown))

After adding a request prototype in Lisp, you must add the actual code to process the request to the C server code. The general form of the request function should be:

int R<name>(message_t message)
  int arg;

Where <name> is the C name given in the request prototype above. You must also add an entry for this function in the functions.h file. An example of a standard request function is:

int RXtCreateWidget(message_t message)
  String name;
  WidgetClass class;
  Widget w,parent;
  ResourceList resources;


  resources.class = class;
  resources.parent = parent;

  w = XtCreateWidget(name,class,parent,

Certain standard functions for returning arguments are provided in the file requests.c; reply_with_widget() is an example of these.

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10 Summary of differences with CLM

X objects (e.g. windows, fonts, pixmaps) are represented as CLX objects rather than the home-brewed representations of CLM. As a consequence, this requires that CLX be present in the core. If this were to cause unacceptable core bloat, a skeletal CLX could be built which only supported the required functionality.

Stricter naming conventions are used, in particular for enumerated types. A value named XmFOO_BAR in C will be called :foo-bar in Lisp, consistently. Abbreviations such as :form (for :attach-form) are not allowed since they are often ambiguous. Where CLM abbreviates callback names (e.g. XmNactivateCallback becomes :activate), we do not (e.g. :activate-callback).

Some differently named functions which can be resolved without undo hassle.

Passing of information to callbacks and event handlers. In CLM, callback handlers are defined as:

(defun handler (widget client-data &rest call-data) .... )

The CLIENT-DATA argument is some arbitrary data which was stashed with the callback when it was registered by the application. The call-data represents the call-data information provided by Motif to the callback handler. Each data item of the callback information is passed as a separate argument. In our world, callback handlers are defined as:

(defun handler (widget call-data &rest client-data) .... )

The call-data is packaged into a structure and passed as a single argument and the user is allowed to register any number of items to be passed to the callback as client-data. Being able to pass several items of client-data is more convenient for the programmer and the packaging of the call-data information is more appealing than splitting it apart into separate arguments. Also, CLM only transports a limited subset of the available callback information. We transport all information. Event handlers differ in the same way. The client-data is the &rest arg and the event info is packaged as a single object. Accessing the generating event in a callback handler is done in the following manner:

(defun handler (widget call-data &rest client-data)
  (with-callback-event (event call-data)
    ;; Access slots of event such as:
    ;;  (event-window event) or
    ;;  (button-event-x event)



Note: this deviates from CLM and Motif in C.