Development/Tutorials/Session Management

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Development/Tutorials/Session Management

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About KDE and X11 session management

KDE supports the legacy X11R4 and ICCCM session management protocols. Legacy applications that define the WM_COMMAND property or support the WM_SAVE_YOURSELF protocol will be restarted with the specified command. The window geometries will be restored on a best effort basis.

Since version 2.0, KDE also supports and uses the standard X11R6 session management protocol XSMP. The official documentation of the standard can be download from the X Consortium's FTP server Unlike these legacy protocols, the new X11R6 session management gives a chance to save application dependent settings when you log out. A text editor, for instance, would save the names of the loaded files and would reload them when you log in again. Another major advantage of the new protocol is the support for a clean and safe logout procedure even if the users decides not to restore the session next time. The protocol gives applications the possibility to interact with the user in case they are in danger to lose some data, and to cancel the shutdown process if necessary.

Further Reading

An introductive overview of session management functionality and the Qt API for it is available from

In KDE, the classes KApplication and KMainWindow hide all the ugly details from the programmer. Basically, a KApplication manages a KConfig configuration object sessionConfig() for you, that your application can utilize to store session specific data.

Please read the respective class documentation, especially the one of KMainWindow, for a detailed interface description. With the advanced functionality in KMainWindow, it's really just a matter of a few lines to get even a multi-window application to retains its state between different user sessions.

Implementing session management in your application

Here's just a brief overview how things are done. Again, see the respective class documentation for details.

Add session management support to your main() function

For one kind of toplevel widget

If your client has only one kind of toplevel widgets (which should be pretty usual) then you should use the RESTORE-macro.

Imagine you have an application with a main window MyWindow inherited from KMainWindow (or from KXmlGuiWindow, which inherits from KMainWindow). In your main() function, you would then create/restore the application windows with something like:

KApplication app; if ( kapp->isSessionRestored() ) {

 RESTORE( MyWindow )

} else {

 // create default application as usual
 // for example:
 MyWindow* window = new MyWindow();

} return app.exec();

RESTORE will create as many instances of MyWindow as have existed in the last session. Note that QWidget::show() is called.

With this you can easily restore all toplevel windows of your application.

For several kinds of toplevel widgets

It is also possible to restore different types of toplevel windows within one application. In that case, the RESTORE macro is too primitive. If you have more than one kind of toplevel widget (each derived from KMainWindow, of course), you can use the templated kRestoreMainWindows global functions:

KApplication app; if ( kapp->isSessionRestored() ) {

 kRestoreMainWindows< childMW1, childMW2, childMW3 >();

} else {

 // create default application as usual
 // for example:
 childMW1* window1 = new childMW1();
 childMW2* window2 = new childMW2();
 childMW3* window3 = new childMW3();

} return app.exec();

Currently, these functions are provided for up to three template arguments.

Reimplement some virtual functions of KMainWindow

KMainWindow will save its position, geometry and positions of toolbars and menubar on logout. To save additional data, reimplement saveProperties() and (to read them again on next login) readProperties(). (For a text editor, that would be the loaded files, for example.) To warn the user that the application or some windows have unsaved data on close or logout (and to give him the possibility to save them), reimplement queryClose(). Please read documentation of the respective functions before reimplementing them.

To save your application-wide properties (data that is only needed once per application, and not for each main window) reimplement saveGlobalProperties() and it's counterpart readGlobalProperties. Normally, you don't need these functions.

Appendix: Architecture of the KDE session manager

The session management server in KDE is called ksmserver and it is part of the kdebase package. The server interacts with the KDE window manager kwin to save and restore the window geometries and to perform legacy session management. To make session management work, ksmserver has to be started as last process of the X login procedure. This happens automatically at the end of the startkde script.

Initial Author: Matthias Ettrich

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