# How to deploy GTK based app on Mac OS X?

# Background

Many friends ask me to provide the official installer package(.dmg) for Mac OS X, I do want to implement it. But there is a big stone on the way, because I don't have physical machine and landed OS X just a short time, have many dark hole on it.

Face it, solve it, things will be done, I think.

Tried again and again, 8 days later, found the right way finally.

# Precondition and environment

Using the package manager toolHomebrew (opens new window) to install all app dependency libraries.

You need to install GTK、libgda、GtkSourceView4、Vala、GCC toolchain / etc.

# Solution

# Prepare app directory structure

To deploy GTK based app, the app must follow the structure of OS X bundle structure and Linux platform structure, and the final structure as follow:

        │  ├─launcher.sh
        │  └─<Real app>
            │  └─gtk-3.0
            │  ├─gdk-pixbuf-2.0
            │  │  └─2.10.0
            │  │      └─loaders
            │  ├─gio
            │  │  └─modules
            │  ├─girepository-1.0
            │  ├─gtk-3.0
            │  │  └─3.0.0
            │  │      ├─immodules
            │  │      └─printbackends
            │  ├─kangaroo
            │  │  └─plugins
            │  │      └─example
            │  ├─libgda-5.0
            │  │  └─providers
            │  ├─pkgconfig
            │  └─plugin
                │  └─conf.avail
                │  └─schemas
                │  ├─language-specs
                │  └─styles
                │  ├─Adwaita
                │  └─hicolor
                │  └─kangaroo
                │  ├─Default
                │  └─Mac
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# Key components of app bundler

There are some core components in the GTK app as follow:

Key components Comment
GTK GTK libraries like GTK / GDK / Pango / ...
launcher.sh app start point script, set environments for app like gdk-pixbuf plugins / GTK input modules and print backends / libgda's providers / ...
Real app your real app
Info.plist bundler package info list file, contain app entry point information, like GtkOSXLaunchScriptFile / CFBundleExecutable / CFBundleIconFiles
app.icns app's icons

# prepare app resource

Your should make app resources before start compiling and packing your app:

  1. App script: launcher.sh
  2. App icon(image or .icns)
  3. Info.plist

# deploy your app as linux app

First, compile and install app to the target dir:

meson --prefix=$TARGETDIR --buildtype=release build
ninja -C "${PROJECTDIR}/build" install

Then copy all dependency libraries and resources to the target dir, make a full and standalone linux app.

function lib_dependency_copy
  # This function use otool to analyze library dependency.
  # then copy the dependency libraries to destination path
  local target=$1
  local folder=$2
  libraries="$(otool -L $target | grep "/*.*dylib" -o | xargs)"
  for lib in $libraries; do
    if [[ '/usr/lib/' != ${lib:0:9} && '/System/Library/' != ${lib:0:16} ]]; then
      cp -n $lib $folder
function lib_dependency_analyze
  # This function use otool to analyze library directory.
  # then copy the dependency libraries to destination path
  local library_dir=$1
  local targets_dir=$2
  libraries="$(find $library_dir -name \*.dylib -o -name \*.so -type f)"
  for lib in $libraries; do
      lib_dependency_copy $lib $targets_dir
# copy app dependency library to target dir
echo -n "Copy app dependency library......"
cp -f "${PROJECTDIR}/build/src/kangaroo" "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
cp -f "${TARGETDIR}/lib/libkangaroo.dylib" "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
cp -f "${PROJECTDIR}/tools/mac_launcher.sh" "${TARGETDIR}/bin/launcher.sh"
lib_dependency_copy ${PROJECTDIR}/build/src/libkangaroo.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
lib_dependency_copy ${TARGETDIR}/bin/libglib-2.0.0.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
lib_dependency_copy ${TARGETDIR}/bin/libgtk-3.0.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
lib_dependency_copy ${TARGETDIR}/bin/libjson-glib-1.0.0.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
lib_dependency_copy ${TARGETDIR}/bin/libsoup-2.4.1.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
lib_dependency_copy ${TARGETDIR}/bin/libgtksourceview-4.0.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
cp -f /usr/local/lib/libgtkmacintegration-gtk3.2.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
cp -f /usr/local/lib/libgirepository-1.0.1.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
cp -f /usr/local/lib/librsvg-2.2.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
cp -f /usr/local/lib/libgthread-2.0.0.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
cp -f /usr/local/lib/libcroco-0.6.3.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
cp -f /usr/local/lib/p11-kit-proxy.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
cp -f /usr/local/lib/libgmpxx.4.dylib "${TARGETDIR}/bin"
lib_dependency_analyze ${TARGETDIR}/bin ${TARGETDIR}/bin
echo "[done]"

# Bundle your app as OS X app

Convert the full linux app to Mac OS X .app structure, just make the structure folder and copy files.

How to verify the app and dependency libraries are self-dependency?
Can't verify so far, We must entry next step to solve the library locating problem.

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On the Mac OS X platform, the most important problem is the app how to find the library while running, We can solve this problem by two ways:

  1. Using lib tool(otool and install_name_tool) to add or replace link path
# Gdk-pixbuf plugins
pixbuf_plugins="$(find $APP_LIB_DIR/gdk-pixbuf-2.0/2.10.0/loaders/ -name \*.dylib -o -name \*.so -type f)"
for pixbuf_plugin in $pixbuf_plugins; do
  lib_change_paths \
    @executable_path/../Resources/lib \
    $APP_LIB_DIR \
lib_change_paths \
  @executable_path/../Resources/lib \
lib_change_siblings $APP_LIB_DIR @loader_path
  1. Using environments to tell app or library to find its dependency libraries.
export DYLD_LIBRARY_PATH="$bundle_lib"
export XDG_CONFIG_DIRS="$bundle_etc"/xdg
export XDG_DATA_DIRS="$bundle_data"
export GTK_DATA_PREFIX="$bundle_res"
export GTK_EXE_PREFIX="$bundle_res"
export GTK_PATH="$bundle_res"
# PANGO_* is no longer needed for pango >= 1.38
export PANGO_RC_FILE="$bundle_etc/pango/pangorc"
export PANGO_SYSCONFDIR="$bundle_etc"
export PANGO_LIBDIR="$bundle_lib"
# Pixbuf plugins
export GDK_PIXBUF_MODULEDIR="$bundle_lib/gdk-pixbuf-2.0/2.10.0/loaders"
export GDK_PIXBUF_MODULE_FILE="$bundle_lib/gdk-pixbuf-2.0/2.10.0/loaders.cache"
# MySQL / MaridDB plugins
export LIBMYSQL_PLUGIN_DIR="$bundle_lib/plugin"

# Verify your app(.app)

There are two ways to verify the app:

  1. Start and debug your app
    GTK_DEBUG_LAUNCHER=yes MyApp.app/Contents/MacOS/MyApp
    This will print out the steps performed by the launcher script before the application executable is started.

    To run the application under gdb:
    GTK_DEBUG_GDB=yes MyApp.app/Contents/MacOS/MyApp

  2. Using lib tool to list its dependency libraries
    otool -L MyApp.app/Contents/MacOS/MyApp
    this command will list all dependency libraries with full link path

# Create app package(.dmg)

There are many tool support make dmg package, I choose node-appdmg (opens new window) to create app package, because it using JSON configuration file and output step detail into console.

    "title": "Kangaroo installer",
    "icon": "kangaroo.icns",
    "background": "kangaroo_dmg_background.png",
    "contents": [
      { "x": 448, "y": 170, "type": "link", "path": "/Applications" },
      { "x": 192, "y": 170, "type": "file", "path": "kangaroo.app" }
# make installer package
echo "make macos installer(.dmg)......"
cp "${PROJECTDIR}/tools/installers/dmg.json" kangaroo_dmg.json
cp "${PROJECTDIR}/data/assets/background.png" "${PROJECTDIR}/build/kangaroo_dmg_background.png"
appdmg kangaroo_dmg.json "kangaroo-${VERSION}-macos.dmg"
if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then
  echo "[done]"
  echo "[failed]"
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# Script source files

You can download the complete packaging tool script source files from here, welcome to use and share with your friends.


# Reference

There are many resources helped me to find the final solution, thank for you all, the major resources are:

node-appdmg (opens new window)
oubiwann's appify.sh (opens new window)
inkscape packaging: lib_.sh (opens new window)
gtk-mac-bundler gtk3-launcher.sh (opens new window)

Last Updated: 2023-10-17T03:57:42.000Z