Handling Paths Guide

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Provide access to application’s path, this include configuration, data, executable and library paths.

Provide access to various path including:

  • executables, qi::path::findBin
  • libraries, qi::path::findLib
  • application data qi::path::findData and qi::path::listData
  • application configuration qi::path::findConf
  • writeable data and configuration paths qi::path::userWritableConfPath , qi::path::userWritableDataPath

Since this library is cross-platform we need to take care of different charsets and localizations (UTF-8, UTF-16).

  • Apple OS X always use UTF-8 locale and path. OS X provide a Posix API that do not care about locale.
  • Windows (including Cygwin and MinGW) have both 8 bits functions using various charsets depending on the Windows localization setup, and 16 bits functions using UTF-16. To support internationalization we need to always use UTF-16 functions. (_wfopen, _wopen, _wsystem, ...).
  • Linux distributions use UTF-8 locale and path by default. Linux provide a Posix API that do not care about locale.

To support internationalization we will always consider path to be encoded in UTF-8 under Windows. We will convert them to UTF-16 to pass them to the native windows API. On Posix platform we have nothing to do.

We recommend to use boost::filesystem::path with and imbued UTF-8 locale. you could use this code in your main to initialise boost::filesystem locale once:

            // create a locale with a unicode facet to convert between char(utf-8) and wchar(utf-16/utf-32)
std::locale loc(std::locale(), &qi::unicodeFacet());
// Make boost.filesystem always use the unicode facet

// it's although possible to set the locale as global.
// This will enable UTF8 support for iostream.



The SDK Layout

The main idea of the qibuild-based project is that you always end up with the same layout.

For instance, right after having built you project, you end up with a directory looking like this.

Here we assume you have a foo executable which:

  • depends on a bar dynamic library
  • need to read data from a file named foo.data and XML files in a models directory
  • need to read configuration from a file named foo.cfg

|__ foo
    |__ data
    |   |__ foo.data
    |   |__ models
    |       |__ nao.xml
    |       |__ romeo.xml
    |__ etc
        |__ foo.cfg

|__ sdk
    |__ lib
    |    |__ libbar.so
    |__ bin
         |__ foo


When everything is installed, you have something like:

|__ lib
|   |__ libbar.so
|__ bin
|   |__ foo
|__ share
|   |__ foo
|       |__ foo.data
|       |__ models
|           |__ nao.xml
|           |__ romeo.xml
|__ etc
    |__ foo
        |__ foo.cfg


The problem

Here is a list of common requirements:

  • Find the files foo/foo.cfg , foo/foo.data and foo/models/*.xml in a clean, simple way, while making sure the solution works whereas the project is run from the build directory or installed
  • The executable foo may need to write or update its configuration files or data but we need to make sure nothing will be written inside the installed directory
  • Since there will be several foo.cfg files, we need to be able to process then in a correct order.

The solution

Here is how it works:

  • First we introduce the concept of prefix . When something is built, the prefix is /path/to/build/sdk , when something is installed, the prefix is the DESTDIR plus the installation prefix.
  • Then we make sure the layout in the build prefix and in the install prefix is always the same. For instance, we will have CMake rules to be sure that whenever the foo project is configured, a copy of foo.cfg is placed in build/sdk/foo/foo.cfg (same thing for data)
  • At last, we provide an easy way to get the prefix anywhere from the c++ code. The idea is that it is easy to get the prefix from argv0 . For instance, if argv0 is /path/to/build/sdk/bin/foo , we can assume the prefix is /path/to/build/sdk .
  • The prefix can be overridden by the argument --qi-sdk-prefix or the variable QI_SDK_PREFIX .

Using Namespace path

Notes & Requirement

The qi::path always make sure that:

  • returned path are absolute, native paths. (with “/” on UNIX and “\” on windows)
  • path always MUST be in UTF-8 encoding (every methods who need UTF-8 charset is specified in qi::path ),
  • return path will be in UTF-8 charset.

For this to work, we must make sure that

  • qi::init has been called.

Have a look on the qi::path for more details.

Reading and writing configuration files

Writing a configuration file is very different from reading one.

Let’s assume the foo executable want to make sure that SPAM=42 in foo.cfg .

Here is how it works:

  • First, ask for a list of possible paths for foo.cfg
  • Iterate through this list and stop when the first possible foo.cfg is found
  • Read and update the foo.cfg file
  • Write the foo.cfg file.

You can see that we ask for a list of paths when reading, but that we always write to one file.

Let’s go through these steps again, assuming foo is installed in /usr/bin/foo , and foo.cfg in /usr/share/foo/foo.cfg , and that there is nothing else on the machine where foo is running.

  • First step: ask for a list of possible paths for foo.cfg using qi::path::getConfigurationPaths This gives a list looking like : [~/.config/foo/foo.cfg, /usr/share/foo/foo.cfg]
  • Since .config/foo/foo.cfg does not exist, we read /usr/share/foo/foo.cfg
  • Then we ask for a location to write: using qi::path::getConfigurationPaths In this case it’s ~/.config/foo/foo.cfg So we write SPAM=42 to ~/.config/foo/foo.cfg

Then each time a piece of code will ask for the foo.cfg path, it will get a list starting with ~/.config/foo/foo.cfg , so we are sure the setting SPAM=42 will be used.


 * Copyright (c) 2012 Aldebaran Robotics. All rights reserved.
 * Use of this source code is governed by a BSD-style license that can be
 * found in the COPYING file.
#include <iostream>
#include <boost/filesystem/fstream.hpp>
#include <vector>

#include <qi/os.hpp>
#include <qi/path.hpp>
#include <qi/application.hpp>
#include <qi/qi.hpp>

int main(int argc, char *argv[])
  // Get the prefix name from argv0
  // Performs various initializations.
  qi::Application app(argc, argv);

  // Get sdk prefix
  std::cout << "SDK prefix is: " << qi::path::sdkPrefix() << std::endl;

  // First argument is the name of the application, used
  // to build various paths later.
  const qi::Path fooCfgPath = qi::path::findConf("foo", "foo.cfg");
  if (fooCfgPath.empty())
    std::cerr << "Could not find foo.cfg" << std::endl;
    std::cerr << "Looked in: " << std::endl;
    std::vector<std::string> configPaths = qi::path::confPaths("foo");
    std::vector<std::string>::const_iterator it;
    for (it = configPaths.begin(); it != configPaths.end(); ++it)
      std::cerr << "\t" << *it << std::endl;
    std::cout << "Found foo.cfg: " << fooCfgPath << std::endl;
    std::cout << "Contents: " << std::endl;
    char buf[250];

    // Set stream to the right charset
    boost::filesystem::ifstream ifs(fooCfgPath, std::fstream::in);
    while (! ifs.eof())
      ifs.getline(buf, 250);
      std::cout << buf << std::endl;

  // ... Write back the configuration to userCfgPath
  const qi::Path userCfgPath = qi::path::userWritableConfPath("foo", "foo.cfg");
  std::cout << "Writing config file to: " << userCfgPath << std::endl;
  boost::filesystem::ofstream ofs(userCfgPath, std::fstream::out | std::fstream::trunc);
  ofs << "Hi, this is foo.cfg" << std::endl;

  return 0;