Creating your first Marble Online Services Plugin
Tutorial Series   Marble Tutorial
Previous   Tutorial 7 -Vehicle Tracking
What's Next   Tutorial 9 - Basic Routing
Further Reading   CMake


You will here learn to create your own online service plugins. If you don't know what is meant by online service, you will see these in the Marble menu at "View"->"Online Services". You'll need KDE 4.3 to build this tutorial. If you want to write plugins for Marble, it could be useful to do this in KDE's subversion. Please contact the Marble developers for this (IRC, E-Mail).


An online services plugin or data plugin consist of three classes at least. The class to display the information is the Data Item (the base class is AbstractDataPluginItem). It stores the information for single places on the map and displays them.

The Model (base class AbstractDataPluginModel) stores all items. Storing the items will be done by AbstractDataPluginModel itself. Your only job is to get information for new items when the displayed part of the earth changes. This can include downloading so called "Description files" from the servers of an online service and parsing them. These "Description files" contain lists of items in a specific part of the earth (specified by a LatLonAltBox).

The class based on AbstractDataPlugin is the representation class of our plugin. It provides the name and the idea of the plugin. You also have to set your model there.


We will write our item first as it depends on nothing else. As you should already know the item stores the data and paints it on the screen. One item has an exact position on the globe as longitude, latitude and altitude. The item we will write shows a text at the specific position.

We will now look at the header file to see what functions we have to implement. TutorialItem.h

#include "AbstractDataPluginItem.h"
class QFont;
namespace Marble
class TutorialItem : public AbstractDataPluginItem
    TutorialItem( QObject *parent );
    // Returns the item type of the item.
    QString itemType() const;
    // Returns true if the item is paintable
    bool initialized();
    // Here the item gets painted
    void paint( GeoPainter *painter, ViewportParams *viewport,
                const QString& renderPos, GeoSceneLayer * layer = 0 );
    bool operator<( const AbstractDataPluginItem *other ) const;
    // The text we want to show on the map
    QString text() const;
    void setText( const QString& text );
    QString m_text;
    static QFont s_font;

As you have probably seen, it will be very easy to implement this as we have only one function (paint()) besides some getters and setters.

Let's have a look at the implementation. TutorialItem.cpp

// Self
#include "TutorialItem.h"
// Marble
#include "GeoPainter.h"
#include "ViewportParams.h"
// Qt
#include <QtCore/QDebug>
#include <QtGui/QFontMetrics>
using namespace Marble;
// That's the font we will use to paint.
QFont TutorialItem::s_font = QFont( "Sans Serif", 8 );
TutorialItem::TutorialItem( QObject *parent )
    : AbstractDataPluginItem( parent )
    // The size of an item without a text is 0
    setSize( QSize( 0, 0 ) );
QString TutorialItem::itemType() const
    // Our itemType:
    return "tutorialItem";
bool TutorialItem::initialized()
    // The item is initialized if it has a text
    if ( m_text.isEmpty() ) 
        return false;
        return true;
bool TutorialItem::operator<( const AbstractDataPluginItem *other ) const
    // That's not a very nice priority estimation, you'll hopefully find
    // a better one for your plugin.
    return this->id() < other->id();
QString TutorialItem::text() const
    return m_text;
void TutorialItem::setText( const QString& text )
    // On a text change our size may also change, so we have to set the new
    // item size. Marble needs to know how large an item is to find the correct
    // bounding rect. The given position will always be in the middle of the 
    // item for now.
    QFontMetrics metrics( s_font );
    setSize( metrics.size( 0, text ) );
    m_text = text;
void TutorialItem::paint( GeoPainter *painter, ViewportParams *viewport,
                          const QString& renderPos, GeoSceneLayer * layer )
    Q_UNUSED( renderPos )
    Q_UNUSED( layer )
    // Save the old painter state.
    // We want to paint a black string.
    painter->setPen( QPen( QColor( Qt::black ) ) );
    // We will use our standard font.
    painter->setFont( s_font );
    // Draw the text into the given rect.
    painter->drawText( QRect( QPoint( 0, 0 ), size().toSize() ), 0, m_text );
    // Restore the old painter state.
// This is needed for all QObjects (see MOC)
#include "TutorialItem.moc"

Wasn't that easy? Continue with the next section.


We will continue developing the core component, the model. Let's first look at the header file: TutorialModel.h

#include "AbstractDataPluginModel.h"
namespace Marble {
class MarbleDataFacade;
// The maximum number of items we want to show on the screen.
const quint32 numberOfItemsOnScreen = 20;
class TutorialModel : public AbstractDataPluginModel
    TutorialModel( PluginManager *pluginManager,
                   QObject *parent = 0 );
     * Generates the download url for the description file from the web service depending on
     * the @p box surrounding the view and the @p number of files to show.
    void getAdditionalItems( const GeoDataLatLonAltBox& box,
                             MarbleDataFacade *facade,
                             qint32 number = 10 );

You see that we have to implement the function getAdditionalItems(). getAdditionalItems() is called when the viewport has been changed significantly, so new items have to be generated. For getAdditionalItems() we will go the easy way for now. We will simply add one item with a static position. That's a very simple method to test your painting code.


// Self
#include "TutorialModel.h"

// Plugin
#include "TutorialItem.h"

// Marble
#include "global.h"
#include "MarbleDataFacade.h"
#include "GeoDataCoordinates.h"

// Qt
#include <QtCore/QDebug>
#include <QtCore/QString>

using namespace Marble;

TutorialModel::TutorialModel( PluginManager *pluginManager,
                              QObject *parent  )
    : AbstractDataPluginModel( "tutorial", pluginManager, parent )

TutorialModel::~TutorialModel() {

void TutorialModel::getAdditionalItems( const GeoDataLatLonAltBox& box,
                                         MarbleDataFacade *facade,
                                         qint32 number )
    // This plugin only supports Tutorial items for earth
    if( facade->target() != "earth" ) {
    // We will only create one item in our first tutorial.
    // Every item has to get an id. We have to check if the item already exists.
    if ( !itemExists( "tutorial1" ) ) {
        // If it does not exists, create it
        GeoDataCoordinates coor( 10.22 * DEG2RAD, 54.4 * DEG2RAD );
        // The parent of the new item is this object
        TutorialItem *item = new TutorialItem( this );
        item->setCoordinate( coor );
        item->setTarget( "earth" );
        item->setId( "tutorial1" );
        // The text we want to show, of course "Hello World!"
        item->setText( "Hello Marble!" );
        // Add the item to the list of items, so it will be displayed.
        addItemToList( item );

#include "TutorialModel.moc"

If you want to download files from a web server to get lists of items, you will want to use void downloadDescriptionFile( const QUrl& url ) and you have to reimplement void parseFile( const QByteArray& file ), which parses the downloaded description file and adds new items to the list.

If you want to download files per item (for example if you want to display images), you can use void downloadItemData( const QUrl& url, const QString& type, AbstractDataPluginItem *item ). This will also add the items to the list of items. The type is something you have to invent yourself. It has to be unique in your plugin. The function void addDownloadedFile( const QString& url, const QString& type ) of our item is called when the download has been finished. This is what you need to implement.

To see examples of the usage of these functions, look at wikipedia-plugin and photo-plugin.

Main Plugin Class

Now to the boring part of the tutorial: The main class.


#include "AbstractDataPlugin.h"
#include "RenderPlugin.h"
#include "RenderPluginInterface.h"
#include <QtGui/QIcon>
namespace Marble {
class TutorialPlugin : public AbstractDataPlugin {
    Q_INTERFACES( Marble::RenderPluginInterface )
    MARBLE_PLUGIN( TutorialPlugin )
    virtual void initialize();

    virtual bool isInitialized() const;
    QString name() const;
    QString guiString() const;
    QString description() const;
    QIcon icon() const;

    bool m_isInitialized;


And the implementation: TutorialPlugin.cpp

// Self
#include "TutorialPlugin.h"
#include "TutorialModel.h"

// Qt
#include <QtCore/QDebug>
using namespace Marble;
    : m_isInitialized( false )
    setNameId( "tutorial" );
    // Plugin is enabled by default
    setEnabled( true );
    // Plugin is invisible by default
    setVisible( false );
void TutorialPlugin::initialize() {
    setModel( new TutorialModel( pluginManager(), this ) );
    // Setting the number of items on the screen.
    setNumberOfItems( numberOfItemsOnScreen );

    m_isInitialized = true;

bool TutorialPlugin::isInitialized() const {
    return m_isInitialized;
QString TutorialPlugin::name() const {
    return tr( "Tutorial Items" );
QString TutorialPlugin::guiString() const {
    return tr( "&Tutorial" );
QString TutorialPlugin::description() const {
    return tr( "Shows tutorial items on the map." );
QIcon TutorialPlugin::icon() const {
    return QIcon();
// Because we want to create a plugin, we have to do the following line.
Q_EXPORT_PLUGIN2(TutorialPlugin, Marble::TutorialPlugin)
#include "TutorialPlugin.moc"


You can build the plugin anywhere. This needs the following file: CMakeLists.txt

PROJECT( TutorialPlugin )

cmake_minimum_required( VERSION 2.4.8 )

find_package(Qt4 REQUIRED)
find_package(Marble REQUIRED)

set( tutorial_SRCS TutorialPlugin.cpp
                   TutorialItem.cpp )

qt4_automoc( ${tutorial_SRCS} )
add_library( Tutorial MODULE ${tutorial_SRCS} )
target_link_libraries( Tutorial ${QT_QTCORE_LIBRARY}
                                ${MARBLE_LIBRARIES} )
install( TARGETS Tutorial DESTINATION ${CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX}/lib${LIB_SUFFIX}/kde4/plugins/marble/ )

set_target_properties( ${_target_name} PROPERTIES
                       INSTALL_RPATH_USE_LINK_PATH TRUE
                       SKIP_BUILD_RPATH TRUE
                       BUILD_WITH_INSTALL_RPATH TRUE

The following commands will build the plugin then.

mkdir build
cd build
cmake ../
sudo make install

If you use the qt-only version, you'll probably need to change the install path. We are currently working on a solution for that problem.

This page was last edited on 10 March 2016, at 21:01. Content is available under Creative Commons License SA 4.0 unless otherwise noted.