12 January 2015

Developing a cross-platform application would never be easy job, but I consider GTK# framework as one of the solid options to provide cross-platform UI, though the lack of documentation is embarassing sometimes. In this post I want to show an example of using Gtk.Clipboard object to get HTML markup from the clipboard.

Paste table from LibreOffice Writer to GTK# application as HTML


GTK# documentation and examples do not provide excessive information about using Gtk.Clipboard object to get various types of content. To get text from clipboard, the Gtk.Clipboard.WaitForText() method could be used, but how to get, by example, HTML table from LibreOffice Writer document or formatted text from webpage?


In this solution we:

  1. Create target using Gdk.Atom.Intern() method, passing MIME type string text/html to it.
  2. Get selection object by using Gtk.Clipboard.WaitForContents() method for created target.
  3. If the selection is not null, then it’s Data property generally contains UTF-8 encoded string with HTML markup.
// create clipboard object
var clipboard = Gtk.Clipboard.Get (Gdk.Atom.Intern ("CLIPBOARD", true));

// create target using MIME type
var target = Gdk.Atom.Intern ("text/html", true);

// trying to get HTML markup
var selection = clipboard.WaitForContents (target);

if (selection != null)
	// data is UTF-8 encoded string
	textview1.Buffer.Text = System.Text.Encoding.UTF8.GetString (selection.Data, 0, selection.Data.Length);
	textview1.Buffer.Text = "No selection";

The solution is currently tested only on Linux with Mono 3.10.

Note, that Gtk.Clipboard.WaitForTargets() method in the GTK# 2.12 seems to have broken interface. It defined as bool WaitForTargets (Gdk.Atom targets, out int n_targets), but should be something like bool WaitForTargets (Gdk.Atom [] targets, out int n_targets) to return array of available targets. As a result, we can’t see what targets are available in the clipboard, but only a number of them:

// create clipboard object
var clipboard = Gtk.Clipboard.Get (Gdk.Atom.Intern ("CLIPBOARD", true));

// create dummy target
var target = new Gdk.Atom (IntPtr.Zero);

int n_targets;
if (clipboard.WaitForTargets (target, out n_targets))
	// for me, returns about 12 or 13 targets
	textview1.Buffer.Text = n_targets.ToString (); 

More to Explore

We got the basic example to work, but many things are need to be explored:

  • Primary: the selection data encoding seems to not always UTF-8, so we need a way to determine the encoding.
  • Which other common MIME types are supported by Gtk.Clipboard?
  • How this code will behave on the different platforms?

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