15 Free Ada Bindings


  <--Last Chapter Table of Contents Next Chapter-->  


15.1 Using Florist the POSIX binding

Florist (Florida Statue University/Forest) is a GPL binding of the POSIX (IEEE Standard 1003.5b-1996) standard operating system functions. These include file operations date and time functions and multitasking—the same kinds of function provided by the standard C libraries and the Linux kernel.

If you are writing an application that will run on several different operating systems Florist provides a level of operating system independence. Once you install gnat and Florist on your new platform you should be able to recompile a Florist application without having to worry about variations in system calls.

Florist is designed for gnat and runs on Linux as well as Solaris OFS1 AIX IRIX and HP-UNIX. Florist works closely with the gnat run-time system: you must compile Florist against a particular gnat installation. If you change your gnat installation you will need to recompile Florist.

NoteOlder versions of Florist for Gnat 3.11 work best with a version of Gnat compiled for FSU threads. Native threads require some patching to work and not all Florist features are supported--see the Florist documentation for details. For more information on FSU threads read the multitasking section above.

Newer versions of Florist such as the ALT RPM works with the normal (native threads) version of Gnat.

Commercial support for Florist is available form ACT.

Because the Linux kernel largely adheres to the POSIX standard many of Florist functions have the same parameters as their Linux counterparts.

Florist divides the POSIX functions into a set of 73 Ada packages all prefixed with the name "posix". The main package is called "posix.ads" and contains the definition of data types and many of the basic POSIX functions.

To write Florist applications you'll need to link in the Florist library with "-lposix" (check?) and if necessary use "-I" to indicate where you've installed the package specifications.


15.2 Using Texttools

The Texttools packages are a GPL ncurses-based library for the Linux console. Texttools contain more than 600 procedures and functions to create windows draw scroll bars handle the mouse and keyboard events play sounds and much more. The Texttools package also provides a thick binding to Linux kernel calls. You can create a wide variety of application programs using Texttools alone.

This is the same package used to implement TIA.

[to be rewritten—KB]

15.2.1 Installation

1. In the C_code directory type "gcc -O -c *.c" to compile the C files.

2. The Ada files should compile when you build your project with Gnatmake. If TextTools are installed in a different directory than your project you will need to use the gnatmake -I switch.

When linking you'll need to include the "-lm" and "-lcurses" switches as well as the object files from C_code. TextTools uses the C math library and ncurses 4.0. For example

  gnatlink -lm -lncurses C_code/*.o ...

15.2.2 Introduction

Although there are over 600 procedures and functions in TextTools to open window is fairly uncomplicated.

Everything in TextTools is drawn in a window. Everything in a window is a control (sometimes called a "widget"). To display a window you must create a window fill in the window with controls to display and run the window manager's DoDialog command.

The following program opens a simple window.


with common os userio controls windows;

use common os userio controls windows;

procedure ttdemo is

-- Define Window Controls

  OKButton : aliased ASimpleButton;

  MessageLine : aliased AStaticLine;

-- The Dialog Record

  DT : ADialogTaskRecord;


  -- Start TextTools

  StartupCommon( "demo" demo );


  -- Create a new window. The window will not appear until the

  -- DoDialog procedure is used.

  OpenWindow( To255( "Demo Window" ) -- title at top of window

  0 0 78 23 -- the coordinates of the window
  Style => normal -- type of window usually "normal"
  HasInfoBar => true ); -- true if control information is
  -- displayed at the bottom of the
  -- window

  -- Setup the controls in the window

  -- OK Button located near bottom of window

  Init( OKButton

    36 20 44 20 -- coordinates in window
    'o' ); -- hot key for OK button
  SetText( OKButton OK ); -- button will have "OK"
  SetInfo( OKButton To255( "Select me to quit" ) );
  AddControl( SimpleButton OKButton'unchecked_access IsGlobal => false );

  -- Message at top of window in bright red

  Init( MessageLine

    1 1 78 1 );
  SetText( MessageLine Welcome to TextTools );
  SetStyle( MessageLine Bold );
  SetColour( MessageLine Red );
  AddControl( SimpleButton MessageLine'unchecked_access IsGlobal => false );

  -- Display the window and handle any input events. When dialog

  -- is finished return control which completed the dialog.


    DoDialog( DT );
  exit when DT.Control = 1; -- first control is the OK button
  end loop;

  -- close the window


  -- Shutdown TextTools



end ttdemo;


Package Overview

TextTools is broken into 5 main packages based on what they do.

Common - this package contains all the basic data types used by TextTools plus subprograms that work with those types. In particular two important types are defined:

Most TextTools calls do not return errors. There are some exceptions such in the OS package. Error numbers are returned in the LastError variable. LastError is 0 if there is no error.

OS - this package contains subprograms for working with the Linux operating system: that is for reading the current time deleting files and the like. Texttools pathnames are defined in this package. A path is a Str255 string. The OS package can define path prefixes beginning with a "$". For example $HOME is predefined as the user's home directory. To delete a file called "temp.txt" from the user's home directory you can use the OS erase command:

  Erase( To255( "$HOME/temp.txt" ) );


$SYS is another predefined prefix. This refers to a directory in the user's home directory named with the "short name" you specify in the StartupCommon procedure. Sounds keyboard macros and the session_log file are located here.

UserIO - this package contains all the input/output routines for TextTools: it handles mouse clicks draws text and so forth. Normally only people writing controls will need access to this package. However the pen colours beep sounds and text styles are also defined here.

Controls - this package contains all the window controls and related subprograms. Currently defined controls are:

Windows - this is the window manager. It creates and draws windows and DoDialog procedure lets a user interact with the window.  It also handles the "Accessories" window that appears when ESC is pressed. The maximum window size is 180 by 180.

Each package is started with a "Startup" procedure and shutdown with a "Shutdown" procedure. The only procedure to take parameters is StartupCommon: you need to specify a program name and a short name to use for temporary files.

15.2.4 Window Overview

The Window Manager draws all the windows on the screen. For simple programs you will need to use only four Window Manager procedures.

OpenWindow - this procedure creates a new window. Each window has a title coordinates on the screen a "style" and an optional info bar.

AddControl - adds a control to the current window. If IsGlobal is false the coordinates you specified in the control's Init call will be treated as relative to the top-left corner of the window as opposed to the top left corner of the screen.

CloseWindow - closes the last window you created

DoDialog - this procedure displays the window and handles all interaction between the user and the window. It has one parameter ADialogTaskRecord which lets you set up callbacks (if necessary) and returns the number of the control which terminated the dialog.

5.2.5 Other Useful Window Manager Subprograms

Windows can be saved using the SaveWindow command and loaded again using LoadWindow. When a window is loaded with LoadWindow you don't need to open the window or set up the controls--the Window Manager does this automatically for you.

ShellOut will close the windows run a shell command and reopen the windows.

RefreshDesktop will redraw all the windows on the screen.

SetWindowTimeout will set a default control to be selected if there is no response after a certain amount of time.

15.2.6 Alerts

Alerts are small windows that show a short message.

NoteAlert - displays a message with an "OK" button. The status sound is played if installed.

CautionAlert - displays a message with an "OK" button. The text is drawn to emphasize the message. The warning sound is played if installed.

StopAlert - displays a message with an "OK" button. The text is drawn to emphasize the message. The warning sound is played if installed.

YesAlert - display a message with "yes" (default) and "no" buttons. Plays an optional sound.

NoAlert - display a message with "yes" and "no" (default) buttons. Plays an optional sound.

CancelAlert - display a message with cancel button and a customized button (default). Plays an optional sound.

YesCancelAlert - display a message with "yes" no and "cancel" buttons and returns the number of the button selected. Plays an optional sound.


  NoteAlert( "The database has been updated" );

15.2.7 Other Predefined Windows

SelectOpenFile - displays a dialog for opening files. It has parameter ASelectOpenFileRec. You have to fill in certain before displaying this window.

SelectSaveFile - displays a dialog for saving files. It has one parameter ASelectSaveFileRec. You have to fill in certain details before displaying this window.

ShowListInfo - displays a Str255List list in a window

EditListInfo - displays a Str255List list in a window and let's the user edit the list.


  sof : ASelectOpenFileRec;

  sof.prompt := To255( "Select a file to open" );
  sof.direct := false; -- can't select directories
  SelectOpenFile( sof );
  if sof.replied then
    FilePath := sof.path & "/" & sof.fname;
    -- user cancelled
  end if;

Control Overview

Every control must be initialized with the Init procedure. Init positions the control in the window and assigns a "hot key" a short cut key for moving to the control.

You can turn a control off (make it unselectable) using SetStatus. Setting the control's status to Standby will make it selectable. Some controls are automatically turned off such as the static line control.

The following controls can be used in a TextTools window:


This is a thermometer bar graph. It shows the percentage between the maximum value and the current value and is filled based on the percentage


This is a scroll bar. A thumb is drawn at the relative location of the thumb value to the maximum value of the bar. The bar will be horizontal or vertical depending on the shape specified in the Init procedure.


This is an unchanging line of text.

EditLine (and family)

This is an editable line of text.

AdvanceMode - if set the cursor will move to the next control when the edit field is full. This is useful in business applications where fixed-length product numbers are typed in.

BlindMode - if set hides the characters typed. This is useful for typing in passwords.


This is a button that when selected terminates the dialog.

Instant - if set the button acts like a menu item. Pressing the hot key will immediately select the button and terminate the dialog. Otherwise pressing the hot key only moves the cursor to the button.


A check box is an option which may be turned on or off.


A radio button is one of a set of options which may be turned on or off. Every radio button has a family number defined in the Init procedure. When a radio button is turned on all other buttons in the family are turned off.


Loads a window from disk and displays it. The window must have been saved with the Window Manager's SaveWindow procedure.


A box which can be drawn around controls.



A line--what else would it be--drawn between two corners of the enclosing rectangle defined by the Init procedure.


A horizontal line often used to separate controls into groups.


A vertical line often used to separate controls into groups.


A scrollable box of unchanging text.


A scrollable box of check boxes.


A scrollable box of radio buttons.


A scrollable box of editable text.

SourceCodeList (used by PegaSoft's TIA)

A scrollable box containing source code.

OS Package

This package contains various calls for working with the operating system. All calls support path prefixes as described above. Here are some of the subprograms:

15.2.10 UserIO Overview

The UserIO package handles all the input and output for TextTools. Unless you are writing a game or new controls you'll probably won't need to use UserIO at all. However there are a few useful subprograms to be aware of:


  Beep( Startup ); -- play startup sound

Keyboard Macros

UserIO will load a set of keyboard macros at startup. These must be saved in the $SYS directory in a file called macro_file. The first letter of each line is the key for the macro and the rest of the line is the expanded macro. For example if a line in macro_file contained


then typing control-A followed by "p" would put the word "PegaSoft" in the input queue as if the person had typed "PegaSoft".

15.2.11 Appearance and Keys

Most of the objects on the screen should be easily understood the majority designed after their GUI counterparts. Here is a list:

Buttons with hyphens in them are not selectable.

Basic Keyboard Shortcuts:

Movement Keys

Up/Down Arrow - move up or down to the next menu item

* in lists - move up or down one line in the list
* in scroll bars - adjust up or down by 10%

Left/Right Arrows - move left or right to the next menu item

* in lists - move up or down one line in the list
* in scroll bars - adjust up or down by 1

Page Up (or Control-P) - move up one page in a list

* in scroll bars - same as up and down arrows

Page Down (or Control-N) - move down one page in a list

* in scroll bars - same as up and down arrows

Home Key (or Control-Y) - move to the top of a list

* in scroll bars - go to the top

End Key (or Control-E) - move to the bottom of a list

* in scroll bars - go to the bottom

Tab Key - move to the next item in the window

Control-T - move to the previous item in the window

Return Key (or Spacebar) - activate a button

When inside of a list box the movement keys move you around the list.  If you are on the Linux console pressing alt and the hilighted letter will always jump to the appropriate object even if you're inside a list box or the notepad.

Editing Keys

Control-6 - mark text

* only works in edit lists

Control-X - clear text

* in lists clear the current line (or lines if control-6 used)

Control-B - copy text

* in lists copy the current line (or lines if control-6 used)

Control-V - paste text

* in notepad paste the last line copied


Misc. Keys

ESC Key (or F1) - bring up the accessories menu

Control-L - redraw the screen
Control-A (or F2) - execute a keyboard macro


15.3 Using NCurses

Ncurses is a free toolset for drawing on text screens such as the Linux console.

[not finished]

15.4 Using GTK+ Widgets

GTK+ the Gimp ToolKit is a widget set (or sometimes called a control set). These are the same widgets used by the Gimp drawing program. Unlike Motif and QT widgets GTK+ uses an LGPL license making it very popular for new Linux software include the GNOME desktop project.

GTK+ also contains 2D drawing operations.

GTK+ is available for download from the GTK web site at http://www.gtk.org.

GtkAda can be downloaded from the ALT web site or from its home page at http://ada.eu.org/gtkada/.

GtkAda is an Ada95 binding of Gtk+ version 1.2.0. It allows you to develop graphical applications in Ada95 using Gtk+. General GTK+ documentation and a tutorial written with examples in C are available from the GTK web site.

[not finished]


15.5 Using Motif Widgets

Motif (pronounced "Moe-Teef") is an X Windows widget standard created by the Open Software Foundation (OSF) a group of several UNIX companies. Motif is built for the stanadard X Windows library Xt. With Motif you can create windows and dialog boxes menus buttons scrolling lists and the like. Motif is a registered trademark of OSF.

LessTif (pronounced "Less-Teef") is an open source compatible version of Motif 1.2 with some extensions licenced under LGPL. It is available for download from the LessTif web site at http://www.lesstif.org. This site also includes documentation on compiling and installing LessTif.

There are no Ada bindings for LessTif but there are Ada bindings for Motif which should work equally well for Lesstif. The bindings are available from the Home for Brave Ada Programmers http://www.adahome.com.

Motif (and LessTif) have not proven to be very popular. Motif programs tend to be very large with widgets layouts that are difficult to design and have a heavy reliance on Motif's cumbersome resource files. Even small Motif programs typically require contain several hundred lines of source code to set up their initial window. Toolsets such as Qt (used in KDE) and GTK+ (used in GNOME) have larger followings and Motif support is primarily for older applications being ported to Linux.

However Motif as a standard is continuing to evolve.


15.6 Using the TCL Binding

TASH (Tcl Ada SHell) is a binding to TCL/TK. It includes both a thin binding to the basic TCL/TK functions (as found in the C header file tcl.h) as well as versions of the functions made for easier calling from Ada. The binding supports TCL 8.0


TASH also comes with its own TCL shell interpreter which functions like tclsh but is written in Ada.


15.7 Using the OpenGL/Mesa Binding

Mesa is an OpenGL library for 3D graphics. It can create 3D objects transform them and supports accelerated drivers.

You can use Mesa under GTK+ by using a GTK+ "GL Area" widget and draw graphics inside using Mesa.


15.8 Engine_3D

Engine_3D is a real-time 3D drawing package written entirely in Ada. It includes a Physics child package for reactions between 3D objects. The Linux port is by Duncan Sands. The Engine_3D package is at http://www.mysunrise.ch/users/gdm/e3d.htm.


15.9 Using the APQ Postgres Binding

APQ is a comprehensive binding to the Postgres database libpq library. APQ is very easy to use and offers complete access to Postgres including full support for BLOB DATE and TIME data types. It is a thick binding that uses tagged records exceptions for errors and Ada streams for BLOB data.

APQ is open source and available for download at http://home.cogeco.ca/~ve3wwg.

15.9 GNU.PDF - a PDF package

PDF refers to the Portable Document Format. The PDF library enables one to generate PDF files or data streams on the fly. The binding is in the style of an OpenGL programming interface. If you know how to handle context scopes etc. you should feel at home using it. The binding is small but allows for fonts rotations skewing filling URL links and other features.

GNU.PDF is available at http://umn.edu/~puk.

This is a binding against the http://www.pdflib.com/pdflib library. The static library is named libpdf.a.

15.11 Gwindows (for Win32) - GUI DB ActiveX

Gwindows is a set of open source Ada packages for Microsoft Windows programming database integration and ActiveX control support. It is a thick binding which takes advantage of Ada's features ideal for developing Ada applications under Windows.

GWindows is available at http://www.adapower.com/gwindows.

15.12 GNATCOM and DirectX (for Win32)

DirectX (which as a COM library as are most new Win32 APIs) is availble using GNATCOM - http://www.adapower.com/gnatcom. It is compatible with GWindows.

15.13 15.13 Graph - plotting library

Graph is a os-independent package for drawing scientific graphs. It uses floating-point coordinates and vector fonts. The package is loosely based on Borland Pascal graph unit.

Graph is available at http://www.mysunrise.ch/users/gdm/graph.htm.  

  <--Last Chapter Table of Contents Next Chapter-->