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Advanced usage

Memory management

In most cases, memory management of native resources is automatically taken care of. Java-GI uses GObject toggle references to dispose the native object when the Java instance is garbage-collected, and manages all memory allocations for marshaling of string, array and struct parameters.

Allocating structs with an Arena

Struct definitions (in contrast to GObjects) in native code are mapped to Java classes.

Because structs don't necessarily have a constructor method, the Java classes offer two constructor to allocate a new struct: - A constructor without parameters, that will allocate an uninitialized structs - A constructor with parameters to set all struct members to an initial value

The constructors optionally take an Arena to allocate memory for the new instances in native memory. Users can choose between different arenas in OpenJDK, depending on the use case. All constructors generated by Java-GI for record (struct) and union types take an optional Arena parameter, defaulting to Arena.ofAuto(). Some examples:

try (var arena = Arena.ofConfined()) {
    var p1 = new Point(10, 10, arena);
    // memory is now allocated
// memory is now deallocated

var p2 = new Point(20, 10, Arena.ofAuto());
// memory will be deallocated when the variable is garbage collected

var p3 = new Point(30, 10);
// defaults to Arena.ofAuto()

var p4 = new Point(40, 10,;
// memory will be allocated during the entire application runtime


The Java garbage collector does not know about the native resources, and might wait an indefinite amount of time before the objects are effectively disposed. Therefore, the default Arena.ofAuto() can lead to excessive memory usage. When allocating and discarding many struct instances in a tight loop, use try-with-resources to explicitly manage the memory allocations. Read the OpenJDK Arena class documentation to learn how to use arenas to manage the lifecycle of native memory segments.

Builder pattern

You can construct an object with GObject properties using a Builder pattern. For example, to create a new ApplicationWindow:

var window = ApplicationWindow.builder()

With a Builder you can set the properties of the class, its parents, and all implemented interfaces. Behind the scenes, this will call g_object_new_with_properties().


GError** parameters are mapped to Java GErrorExceptions.

try {
    file.replaceContents(contents, null, false, FileCreateFlags.NONE, null, null);
} catch (GErrorException e) {

Use GErrorException.getCode(), getDomain() and getMessage() to get the GError code, domain and message. Java-GI does not generate separate Exception types for different GError domains, because the domain is only set at runtime.

Nullable/NotNull parameter annotations

Nullability of parameters (as defined in the GObject-introspection attributes) is indicated with @Nullable and @NotNull attributes, and checked at runtime. The nullability annotations are imported from Jetbrains Annotations.


Java-GI copies all array parameters into a newly allocated array in native memory. When an array is returned, the contents are copied back into a Java array. This impacts performance, so keep this in mind when working with arrays in a tight loop.

C functions that work with arrays, often expect the array length as an additional parameter. In the corresponding Java methods, that parameter is omitted, because Java-GI will set it automatically.


Out-parameters are mapped to a simple Out<T> container-type in Java, that offers typesafe get() and set() methods to retrieve or modify the value.

File file = ...
Out<byte[]> contents = new Out<byte[]>();
file.loadContents(null, contents, null);
System.out.printf("Read %d bytes%n", contents.get().length);

Enums and flags

Enumerations and flags (bitfields) are available as Java enums. To combine multiple flags, use Set.of():

entry.setInputHints(Set.of(InputHints.WORD_COMPLETION, InputHints.NO_SPELLCHECK));

When you just want to set a single flag, you can omit Set.of() and pass the flag directly. All methods with flag parameters are overloaded for this purpose:



The Java EnumSet class can be useful when working with flags. It is specialized for use with enum types and provides useful operations like allOf() and noneOf(). It can also be much faster, in comparison to other Set classes.


Variadic functions are available in Java using varargs:

Dialog d = Dialog.withButtons(
        "Test dialog",

Be aware that with most variadic functions in GLib, you are expected to add null as a final parameter.


Java-GI does not provide bindings for functions with a va_list parameter.

Signals and callbacks

Signals are mapped to type-safe methods and objects in Java. (Detailed signals like notify have an extra String parameter.) A signal can be connected to a lambda expression or method reference:

var button = Button.withLabel("Close");

For every signal, a method to connect (e.g. onClicked) and emit the signal (emitClicked) is included in the API. New signal connections return a SignalConnection object, that allows you to disconnect, block and unblock a signal, or check whether the signal is still connected. It is useful to disconnect signals after they are no longer used, because the signal callback keeps the source object alive. Disconnecting the signal allows the related resources to be released.

Functions with callback parameters are supported too. The generated Java bindings contain @FunctionalInterface definitions for all callback functions to ensure type safety.


Closures can be marshaled to Java methods. Similar to the CClosure type in C code, Java-GI offers a JavaClosure. You can create a JavaClosure for a lambda fuction, functional interface or java.lang.reflect.Method, and then pass it to native code (for example, the last two parameters of GObject.bindPropertyFull()).


Be aware that a Java lambda or method reference that is wrapped in a JavaClosure must have the correct type signature, or else the application will fail at runtime. Closures cannot be type-checked by the compiler!

Registering a new type

Registering a Java class as a new GType is documented here.

Creating a Gtk composite template class

To create a Gtk composite template class (coupled to a ui definition in XML or Blueprint format), read these instructions.

GNOME Builder

Screenshot of GNOME Builder with JDTLS

A great tool for developing GNOME applications is GNOME Builder. Builder primarily supports C, JavaScript, Rust, Python and Vala applications, but you can use it to develop Java applications as well, if you have the Eclipse JDT language server (JDTLS) installed.


In my limited experience this is still very unpolished and fragile. For any serieus work, by all means use a well-supported Java IDE.

  1. Install GNOME Builder. Preferably the newest release from Flathub, but at least version 44.
  2. Download JDTLS here. Pick the latest milestone version and download the file jdt-language-server-...-tar.gz.
  3. Extract the downloaded file into a local directory.
  4. Add the [jdtls folder]/jdtls/bin to your $PATH. The easiest way to do that, is with a symlink like this: ln -s ~/Downloads/jdt-language-server-1.35.0-202404251256/bin/jdtls ~/.local/bin/jdtls
  5. Start GNOME Builder and open a Java project.
  6. Open a .java file. Builder will spawn the JDT language server and will display "Initialize Workspace". This might take a few minutes.
  7. When the initialization has completed, you can develop and build your Java project with GNOME Builder.