Development/Tutorials/D-Bus/Autostart Services

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Development/Tutorials/D-Bus/Autostart Services

Creating and Installing D-Bus Autostart Services
Tutorial Series   D-Bus
Previous   Introduction
Creating Interfaces
What's Next   n/a
Further Reading   n/a


The D-Bus systems provides a mechanism to autostart applications if they aren't already running when a D-Bus call is made to a service provided by that program. This tutorial demonstrates how to create a D-Bus autostart service and integrate it into your CMake build.

The Basic Mechanics

Whenever a D-Bus message arrives for the D-Bus server to deliver, it looks for the corresponding service that the message is addressed to on the bus it was sent on.

If no such service is currently registered, it then falls back to looking through files kept in the services directory in the D-Bus data path, e.g. /usr/share/dbus-1/services. It looks through each *.service file one by one for a matching service name. It then uses this file to determine what application to launch, waits for the application to finish launching and then (if all goes well) delivers the message.

All of this happens transparently to the application the message originated with.

Creating a Service File

The service files are simple ".ini style" configuration files, much like standard .desktop file.

A valid service file:

  • ends with the suffix .service
  • has a [D-BUS Service] group
  • has a Name and Exec key

The contents of an example service file for an application called MyApp might look like this:

[D-BUS Service] Name=org.kde.myapp Exec=/usr/bin/myapp

The Name and Exec keys will be familiar to anyone who has worked with .desktop files before. Unlike .desktop files, though, the Exec line must contain the full path to the application that is to be started.

In the above example, if a message was sent to the org.kde.myapp service but such a service had not yet been registered on the bus, then /usr/bin/myapp will be launched. It is then up to myapp to register the proper service on the bus.

Installing a Service File

Once you have created a service file for your application, place it somewhere in the source tree and add a suffix, such as .in to it. This will allow us to process the file during the build to customize the Exec entry without the risk of overwriting the source file.

We will be using a simple CMake directive to perform the customization and installation. Since the install prefix is not known until build time, we need to adjust our service file slightly. Using the myapp example again, we might create a file called org.kde.myapp.service that contains the following content:

[D-BUS Service] Name=org.kde.myapp Exec=@CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX@/bin/myapp

In the CMakeLists.txt file we will then add these two lines:

include(DBusMacros) dbus_add_activation_service(

As of CMake 2.6.1, this macro does not exist. However, you can put this CMake module file in the cmake/ directory of your application.

When make install is run, a properly formed service file will be generated and installed to the correct location on disk. Your application is now set to be automatically activated when needed.

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