GObject Basics

GObject is the base upon which most of the GNOME platform is built. This is a gentle introduction to using GObject in GJS, including constructing object, using properties and connecting to signals.


GObject Construction

The most common way to create a new GObject is using the new keyword. When constructing a GObject this way, you can pass a dictionary of properties:

const Gtk = imports.gi.Gtk;

let myLabel = new Gtk.Label({
    label: 'Example',
    visible: true,

Many classes also have constructor methods you can use directly:

const Gtk = imports.gi.Gtk;

let myLabel = Gtk.Label.new('Example');


GObject supports a property system that is slightly more powerful than native JavaScript properties.

Accessing Properties

GObject properties may be retrieved and set using native property style access or GObject get/set methods.

const Gtk = imports.gi.Gtk;

let myLabel = Gtk.Label.new('Example');
let value;

// Three different ways to get or set properties
value = myLabel.visible;
value = myLabel['visible'];
value = myLabel.get_visible();

myLabel.visible = true;
myLabel['visible'] = true;

GObject property names have a canonical form that is kebab-cased, however they are accessed differently depending on the situation:

const Gtk = imports.gi.Gtk;

let myLabel = Gtk.Label.new('Example');
let value;

// If using native accessors, you can use `underscore_case` or `camelCase`
value = myLabel.use_markup;
value = myLabel.useMarkup;

// Anywhere the property name is a string, you must use `kebab-case`
myLabel['use-markup'] = true;
myLabel.connect('notify::use-markup', () => {});

// Getter and setter functions are always case sensitive
value = myLabel.get_use_markup();

Property Change Notification

Most GObject properties will emit the notify signal when they are changed (more on signals below). You can connect to this signal in the form of notify::property-name to invoke a callback when it changes:

const Gtk = imports.gi.Gtk;

let myLabel = Gtk.Label.new('Example');

let labelId = myLabel.connect('notify::label', (obj) => {
    log(`New label is "${obj.label}"`);

Property Bindings

GObject provides a simple way to bind a property between objects, which can be used to link the state of two objects. The direction and behaviour can be controlled by the GObject.BindingFlags passed when the binding is created.

const {GObject, Gtk} = imports.gi;

let myBox = new Gtk.Box();
let myLabel = Gtk.Label.new('Example');

// Bind the visibility of the box and label
myBox.bind_property('visible', myLabel, 'visible',
    GObject.BindingFlags.SYNC_CREATE | GObject.BindingFlags.BIDIRECTIONAL);

// Try to make the properties different
myBox.visible = !myLabel.visible;

if (myBox.visible === myLabel.visible)
    log('properties are equal!');


GObjects support a signaling system, similar to events and EventListeners in the JavaScript Web API. Here we will cover the basics of connecting and disconnection signals, as well as using callbacks.

Connecting Signals

Signals are connected by calling the connect() method, which returns a handler ID that is always truthy. Signals are disconnected by passing that ID to disconnect():

const Gtk = imports.gi.Gtk;

let myLabel = Gtk.Label.new('Example');

// Connecting a signal
let handlerId = myLabel.connect('copy-clipboard', (label) => {
    log('copy-clipboard emitted!');

// Disconnecting a signal
if (handlerId)

Callback Arguments

Signals often have multiple callback arguments, but the first is always the emitting object:

const Gtk = imports.gi.Gtk;

let myLabel = Gtk.Label.new('Example');

myLabel.connect('populate-popup', (label, menu) => {
    log('populate-popup emitted!);

    if (myLabel === label)
        log('myLabel emitted the signal!');

    if (menu instanceof Gtk.Menu)
        log('it emitted it with a GtkMenu argument!');

Callback Return Values

In some cases, signals expect a return value (usually a boolean). The effect of the return value will be described in the documentation for the signal.

const {Gdk, Gtk} = imports.gi;

let myLabel = new Gtk.Label({
    label: '<a href="https://www.gnome.org">GNOME</a>',
    use_markup: true,

// The `activate-link` signal expects a boolean return value: true if the link
// activation was handled by the callback or false if not
myLabel.connect('activate-link', (label, uri) => {
    log(`activate-link emitted for ${uri}`);

    // We'll return the success boolean returned by `Gtk.show_uri_on_window()`
    if (uri.includes('gnome.org')) {
        return Gtk.show_uri_on_window(label.get_toplevel(), uri,

    // If we're not trying handling this link at all, we'll just return `false`
    return false;